Prowl Manages Your iPhone Push Notifications, But There’s a Catch…

Prowl for iPhone

In a recent post, I described how the LockInfo app lists recent push notifications on the lock screen of my jailbroken iPhone. LockInfo fixes one of the major flaws in the iPhone operating system: the lack of a notification handling system. In the default iOS operating system, if you get one push notification popup after another, the new notification will erase the previous one. And there is no way to view notifications you recently received. I have written before about the need for a notification handling system on the iPhone, something like the page on Facebook that lets you view all of your recent notifications.

Well, I’ve recently learned of another way to receive and manage notifications on the iPhone, without the need to jailbreak. With a $3 app called Prowl, you can get notifications similar to iPhone’s default push notifications, and you can view and manage them within the Prowl app. But there is a caveat…

Prowl Depends on Growl

The Prowl app only works if you have Growl, a free software (Mac and Windows) that receives push notifications from online services like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Growl to Prowl

What Prowl does is push your notifications from Growl on your computer to your iPhone. Prowl handles notifications well, but there’s a problem: your computer must be online all the time. So you can receive notifications for a bunch of things, but when your computer is asleep or your ISP is down, you miss out on the notifications because Growl does not receive them. This is Prowl’s Achilles’ Heel, in my opinion. In spite of its strengths, the Prowl app is hindered by its reliance on your home or office Internet connection.

I purchased Prowl hoping to use it for my notifications and simply turn off iPhone’s default push notifications, but apparently the computer will not send notifications to my iPhone when it’s asleep (since the WiFi adapter goes to sleep, and thus there is no Internet signal).

So Prowl might be useful if you leave your work or home computer on when you leave, but I generally like to put my computer to sleep whenever I’m not using it. Energy-conscious or budget-minded people who do not like to leave their computer on all day might find Prowl to be somewhat obsolete.

If you do leave your computer on when you’re away from your desk, then Prowl could be useful. But if you are transporting your laptop in a backpack or it is on standby, then you will miss out on most of the alerts, at least until your computer is back online, but by then it might be too late.

Prowl Notifications

Prowl Notifications for iPhone

Prowl will notify you of events on your computer, like a completed download, updates to Firefox or its add-ons, and updates from web services like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. As noted above, most of these notifications require your computer to be online in order for them to be sent from Growl to Prowl.

However, Prowl supports certain web services that will send you notifications when your computer is offline, but the list seems limited to Twitter, Google Voice and USPS updates.

Prowl notifications look just like iPhone’s default notifications, with the only difference being that you can see your recent notifications listed in the app. In the Prowl app, you’ll see a brief summary of your notifications. This might be sufficient, except that I would like to be able to touch my notifications and go directly to the relevant app, which you can’t do.

You can, however, set certain notifications to redirect to certain apps when you get a popup. So if you get a notification from Twitter, you can set it to open the Echofon app, for example.


If you’re looking for a notification handling solution, Prowl can be helpful in certain circumstances, like when you are taking a break at work and want to stay informed of events on your computer, such as completed downloads, incoming Skype or Google Voice calls, or warnings that your site is down.

Otherwise, it is generally unreliable as a notification handling solution since it requires your computer to be turned on in order to send important notifications. Although some web services will send notifications to Prowl without the need for an Internet connection, Prowl only supports a limited amount of these web services. Furthermore, push notifications from iPhone apps that are unsupported by Growl or Prowl cannot be sent to Prowl and listed in the app.

There is always the option to receive the default iPhone push notifications in conjunction with Prowl, but there is unfortunately little you can do to unify all of your notifications in one place consistently, unless you have a jailbroken iPhone. Prowl is a step in the right direction, but it does not quite resolve iPhone’s notification handling problem.

LockInfo for iPhone: Great Productivity App [iPhone Jailbreak]

iPhone Lock Screen

iPhone Lock Screen

I recently jailbroke my iPhone 4 with limera1n and have added a feature to my iPhone that helps me stay productive by making use of an otherwise poorly utilized space in the iPhone OS: the Lock Screen.


The app is called LockInfo and it’s available in Cydia.

What does it do? LockInfo grabs all your important data from your apps and syndicates it on the lock screen that you see when you turn on your iPhone’s screen. You can use LockInfo to display all kinds of data on your iPhone lock screen, including:

  • The weather
  • Recent text messages
  • Missed calls & voicemails
  • Mail
  • Push notifications from any app
  • Calendar items from iPhone’s default Calendar app
  • To-do list items pulled from one of three leading to-do apps in the App Store
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feeds

In my opinion, Apple should take a look at LockInfo and make this default functionality in the next iOS version. Currently, the iPhone lock screen is just wasted realty, and LockInfo makes it much more useful.

LockInfo Plugins

LockInfo Settings

LockInfo supports plugins that expand its functionality. By default, it will display mail, calendar items, text messages, phone calls and push notifications, but everything else is available as a plugin. I like that LockInfo runs on plugins because it gives you the ability to choose what features you want and leave the extra stuff off your iPhone harddrive.

You can customize each plugin individually within Settings, including the order that the information is displayed on your lock screen.

How I Use LockInfo

LockInfo is great because it places a summary of all of your important information just a button-click away. By simply pressing my home button, I can check the time of day, see my upcoming appointments, view and check-off my tasks for the day, and read my recent email messages… all without even unlocking my iPhone.

LockInfo Collapsed

You can customize the way your information is displayed, by adjusting the plugin order, setting the maximum amount of items for each plugin and expanding/collapsing sections on your lock screen.

The app also has a useful feature called InfoShade, which lets you pull up the LockInfo screen no matter what you are doing at the time. You can define how to activate it in Settings. I set it to appear when I pull down on the status bar at the top of my iPhone.

LockInfo also solves another problem with the iPhone, namely the lack of a notification handling system. I have lamented the fact that iPhone lacks a notification handling system before. LockInfo solves the problem by listing all your recent push notifications in their own section on the lock screen. Now, your important meeting alert won’t be erased by the notification about a Facebook message, for example. With LockInfo, all of your push notifications are listed on your lock screen until you clear them.

LockInfo makes checking email way faster, too, because it lets me read and Mark as Read (without reading) messages right from the lock screen. This saves me a lot of time because it prevents me from having to go to the Mail app just to check an email that I might never have read in the first place. For example, say you are busy and you get a buzz on your iPhone alerting you of a new email message. If you look at your LockInfo screen and see that it’s just a promotional email from an online store you once bought from but no longer care about, then you can simply mark it as read by tapping the X and go right back to work without being too distracted, and without ever unlocking your iPhone.

All in all, I am a big fan of LockInfo because it helps me reorient myself throughout the day. I can set my appointments and tasks at any time, and I can constantly update and view my workload right from the lock screen.

Is LockInfo Secure?

One concern I have about LockInfo is the fact that anyone who picks up your iPhone can see all your important data on your lock screen. I tried setting a Passcode Lock to see how much LockInfo would let me access without having to enter a passcode, and it was more than I would like.

Not only can anyone see my upcoming appointments, to-do items and text messages, but they can actually manipulate the data by marking emails as read (but not read the content of emails), marking to-do list items as complete, and sending out messages from Twitter, without even having to enter the passcode. (Update: David notes in the comments that you can make the Mail plugin more secure in the Settings.) If you are dealing with sensitive information or are very strict about your privacy, then LockInfo is probably not for you.

How to Install & Customize LockInfo

LockInfo Cydia

LockInfo is full of functionality and is highly customizable. Is there a catch? Yes. LockInfo is not free. In fact, it’s a little on the high end for an app at $7.99, however you do get a 14-day trial.

You can find the app and plugins in Cydia by searching for “LockInfo.” For detailed instructions on how to install and use LockInfo, check out this LockInfo how-to guide by iClarified.

For more info on jailbreaking any iPhone, see my Ultimate iPhone Jailbreak Guide.