What's new in push - October 2014

This is our first newsletter on push notifications technologies and we hope to bring you high-value content. Do no hesitate to send us your feedback to let us know what topics you are interested in.

What’s new for push notifications with iOS 8

iOS 8 has been released in September 2014 and includes many new features and improvements that are making notifications cleaner and much more useful for both users and developers.

Larger data and metadata in push notifications

In a typical Apple push notification payload, you have two kinds of data embedded: A part of the notification is exposed to end-user: The text alert, the sound, the badge, the rest is for the application itself.

That’s where he power of push notifications lies: extra information you can embed, the metadata allow developer servers to pass date for direct processing in their application.

Prior to iOS 8 release, the total size of a notification payload was very limited (256 bytes). Thus, developers had to choose between using the power of metadata at the risk of truncating the alert or focus on the alert content, making the notification system much less useful for preloading content.

Since mid-september 2014, this is not the case anymore. Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) allows sending notifications with a 2048-bytes long payload. It opens a whole new way to architecture mobile - server interactions for developers and make push a key component in overall solution design.

Read more: iOS devices can enjoy larger push notifications now

Interactive notifications: adding user-triggered actions to your notifications

Apple now let you add custom actions to user displayed notifications.

In iOS 7, user only possible actions on notifications were open or dismiss.

With iOS 8, developers can now customize the action the user can perform on an action directly from the notification center. This means the notification center become a triage tool for your application events. Users can now very conveniently act easily upon receiving them, leading to more interactions and valuable engagement.

Read more on Interactive notifications on Apple iOS 8 website: iOS 8 design

From a developer perspective, you can use actions by:

  1. Registering “User Notification Actions” to define every action property, like identifier, title, destructive or not. See: UIMutableUserNotificationAction.
  2. Grouping actions into categories. The category identifier is what developers need to add to your notification metadata to trigger displaying the group of actions. See: UIMutableUserNotificationCategory
  3. Registering app delegate callback to process the notification action when user triggers it. See: callback handleActionWithIdentifier:forRemoteNotification:completionHandler:

For more technical details, you should watch Apple WWDC 2014 talk: What’s new in notification

Users get in control of all type of notifications

Push notifications had sometimes bad reputation due to the fact it was easy to abuse. You could prompt the user with an alert or pop-up even if they had not granted your application the right to display remote push notifications.

Indeed, many app developers (often for free to play games) were cheating. Instead of using push notifications, they would schedule a local notification, for which users could not opt-out. It gaves users the impression that credential access model for push notification was broken.

That’s the reason why Apple changed the behaviour and now the new credential is not for only for remote push notification, but for user notifications more largely. It means it now also cover local notifications and badge updates.

And the good added benefit is that even if user do not allow your app to use notifications, you will still be able to use silent notification to trigger background update for example. So, the new behaviour benefits to everyone, users and developers.

For more technical details, and what you need to change in your application on iOS 8, you should watch Apple WWDC talk: What’s new in notification

No quick reply ?

If you expected to be able to let user reply to a notification from the notification center, you are going to be disappointed. The “quick reply” feature shown by Apple is not available as a public iOS API. It means that it is restricted to Apple and their partners (Messages, Facebook, Twitter) for the moment.

As a developer, you can use actions to let user reply to a message. Actions can open your app and present a sheet letting the user reply input a reply to the notification.

We all hope that “quick reply” API will be opened to all developer at Apple WordWide Developer Conference in june 2015.

Android 5.0 Lollipop - What is coming

Android 5.0 Lollipop is coming soon with its share of improvements to the push and notification system (I make a specific distinction as push and notification are two different features on Android).

Android 5.0 adds the following features:

  • do not disturb time with priority support: Your phone will automatically switch to do not disturb mode, but high priority notifications will still be able to get through during those time.
  • privacy settings: Developer can define some notification as private: It means that only a placeholder text can be displayed on the lock screen when the phone is locked. The full notification will be displayed when you unlock the phone.

As a developer, you have new metadata to provide to the notification service: priority and privacy level.

Learn More: Android Lollipop changes on notifications

Report: How effective are push notifications ?

GigaOM released a report on the role of notifications and in-app communication in mobile user engagement.

You can download it from Boxcar Push Service website: Building brand engagement through in-app communication

What’s new in Boxcar Push Console

Boxcar team added many new features to the Developer Push Console recently:

Boxcar iOS SDK update

Boxcar iOS SDK 1.1 has been released, adding support for iOS 8.

For more details, please read: Boxcar iOS SDK 1.1.0 released with iOS 8 support

Boxcar Android SDK update

Boxcar Android team released a version 2 of Android SDK that includes major refinement of Boxcar Android SDK API.

We hope that you will find our mobile SDK more pleasant to use.

For more details please read: New Boxcar Android SDK 2

What’s Next ?

You’ve got a topic on push notifications you would like us to cover ? Please, get in touch to give us your feedback !

And meet us at SeaBeyond in Paris, on the 4th of December. Learn more from SeaBeyond page

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