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What is Push Email?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Push email utilizes an email delivery system that has the real-time capability to push email through to the client as soon as it arrives, rather than requiring the client to poll and collect — or pull — email manually. This technology is often used with smartphones. With a push email smartphone, the client’s mailbox is constantly updated with arriving email without his or her intervention. These smartphones announce the new mail's arrival with an alert.

This type of email delivery system differs from are pull-oriented systems. Usually, when email is sent, it arrives at the recipient’s Internet service provider’s (ISP’s) mail server, where it is held for collection, or it might instead arrive at a website server, if the email is Internet-based. Either way, the email remains on the mail server until the recipient uses an email program to poll the mail server by using an email polling protocol, such as Post Office Protocol (POP3). If new mail is present, the email client downloads the emails onto the client’s computer. The difference between this scheme and push email is that, with push email, the email is sent to the client without waiting for polling.

Push email can be somewhat simulated by setting an email client to frequently poll for new mail. This requires the email client to be open and running, however, so it is less efficient. Polling involves electronic handshaking between the client software and the mail server. If the server is busy, the delay in completing the handshake can lengthen, causing the client to time out.

Therefore, polling should not be set so frequently as to cause premature time out errors. To prevent this, a user should increase the delay between polling times. In many cases, a minute or two delay between pull and push schemes might not matter, but in some cases, a minute can a big difference. Push email can be especially crucial to field reporters, stock market businessmen and other professionals for whom emails can be urgent. A one-minute delay can make the difference when it comes to breaking a story, making money or completing a crucial sale.

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Discussion Comments
By anon990254 — On Apr 13, 2015

There are commonly three modes:

Push: instant notification from the server (usually with indication on existence of new emails but not their content).

Poll / Fetch: periodically get new mails from the server.

Manual: Fetch on demand but not otherwise.

Most email clients that support push email (Like Type Mail for Android) do not push the all email and let the client fetch from the push notification. This has both security, privacy, and data utilization / cost positive effects.

By anon173648 — On May 08, 2011

Push or Pull, nothing really matters as far as the email's concerned. The problem is battery power consumed by each service. Push email saves battery life and pull email takes lot of power since it has to be online with the server more frequently.

By anon135711 — On Dec 20, 2010

@anon95649: You either don't understand the term 'simulate' or have misunderstood the concept. In a black-box way of thinking, the end user sees similar results with constant pulls as with a push: when an email arrives it is soon received by the client either way.

By anon108498 — On Sep 03, 2010

will it cost the mobile user or is it a free service?

By anon96032 — On Jul 14, 2010

can i get comparison of different company mobiles with push mail options?

By anon95649 — On Jul 13, 2010

> Push email can be somewhat simulated using an

> email client set to frequently poll for new mail.

That does not "somewhat" (or in any way) "simulate push" just by "polling a lot".

"Push" and "pull can *never* "simulate" each other.

They are opposites.

By anon91797 — On Jun 24, 2010

i never used this feature but it is really good. Can anyone help me with how to activate it and is it the feature of the mobile or server?

By ajayutl — On Feb 16, 2010

is there any way to use PoP3 as a push mail?

By zoid — On Aug 14, 2009

Is there any way to stop push email? Or at least to set it so that email isn't pushed during certain times?

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