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Sunday, August 17, 2008, 01:20 am PT (04:20 am ET)

Fourth iPhone 2.1 beta takes out push notification feature

A new test version of Apple's next iPhone firmware update has disabled a key service that will allow background data for native apps, with no clear sign of when it will return.

While beta 4 of the iPhone 2.1 update comes with Apple's typically unspecific references to bug fixes, it explicitly withdraws support for the push notification service that will send Internet data to third-party apps even while they are shut down.

The feature has been present from beta 1 onwards and is still poised to supply directional GPS data as part of its upgrades.

Apple provides little explanation for the removal and says only that the notification code has been pulled for "further development" inside the company — with no mention of whether it will reappear in a future beta.

Taking the service out of the beta version puts non-Apple developers at a temporary loss, making it impractical for them to further development of new apps and updates that will depend on live, always-on data until the feature is returned to these handsets.

The final version of iPhone 2.1 is nonetheless planned for an appearance sometime in September.