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I'm fairly new to the iPhone, so apologies if this is an obvious question.

Are the default programs on the bottom bar (Phone, Mail, Safari + iPod) the only applications that can show 'new' event counts? Is it to do with them being on the bottom bar?

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No, the "default" apps on the bottom row aren't the only apps that can receive push notifications or display number badges.

There isn't necessarily a relationship between push notifications and number badges. Apps can have number badges without push notifications (Mint comes to mind) and can have push notifications without number badges (MLB At Bat, for example).

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Any app that has push notifications implemented can have the number badge on the icon. Messages is another Apple app with push notifications. Some 3rd party apps also have push notifications.

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Not exactly, the counts come from the app programming itself. Some have the count integrated, some don't.

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You can actually change which apps are on the Dock (bottom bar) to whatever you like. And various apps have the new event count. For instance, I use The AT&T MyWireless app, and when my bill is due, I get a push notification there as well. Also when your apps have updates, you'll get one from the App Store icon. Any application that supports notifications will get a badge.

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