Push notifications have turned into a major tool whenever you need to benefit from better users’ engagement with your app. Practically all startups are interested in implementing this feature in their products. We are going to have a closer look at how they can be useful. In addition, we will describe some possible mechanisms of push notification integration with iOS and Android applications.
The main mission of push feature is to keep users in touch with the most relevant data. It also informs them of available updates and modifications. Push notifications ensure on time delivery of relevant information even if the applications running on the background.
Push notification services
Developers can choose from several services to implement push notifications. They differ in accordance with a chosen mobile platform. If you develop an Android app, Google Cloud Messaging services will be the best bet. Based on Google Play, GCM services come with extended functionality. You can use them as an information and data transmitted from a server to the Android device and back.
GCM can be used to deliver different types of information. They may include:
- Light-weight or new messages that inform users about incoming data;
- Data payloads not more than 4KB.
- You can use GCM to set those messages by priority.
Another great thing about GCM services is the fact that they are 100% free. Moreover, you can benefit from an unlimited number of push notifications.
FCM (Firebase Cloud Massaging) makes it easy to exchange data with a single device or a few devices at the same time considering they are linked to only one user. FCM operates in the following manner:
- Once a user opens a push notification using a single device, it will automatically disappear from other devices. You will hardly appreciate reading the same notification several times on several devices.
- Several devices can exchange push notifications with each other using server. It lets users synchronize alerts and other messages on several devices at the same time.
CCS (Cloud Connection Server) is another pus notification service. Here is how it works:
- Every Android device is registered on GCM server with the help of an ID transmitted to sender;
- Once the registration is completed, an ID is sent to Android device;
- The device will send a registration ID back to server;
- It will be stored in the database.
Alternative push notification services
We have discussed some of the most popular services for Android devices. Developers may also opt for some alternative tools that can be a good choice for both Android and iOS platform. Developing your own solutions will be also a good idea in case you want to have efficient push notification features that do not rely on Google Play or other services. Some good options among major alternatives include:
- Carnival and Urban Airship – the service is a great option for cross-platform development, although some may find its functionality a bit too complex and extensive;
- Parse – is a great idea for some more basic cases. It provides a wide selection of tools to integrate various features. However, it is hardly a good idea if you have a limited budget. The service is extremely overpriced.
iOS services for push notifications
There is no difference between Android and iOS notifications. The work the same way on iPhone and let you handle the following:
- Transmit short notifications and messages;
- Play sound;
- Set badges on application icons.
You can decide whether to use all options at the same time or only some of them by priority. We have conducted a handy guide on how to integrate push notification feature in your iOS app:
- APNS gets a token request from iOS.
- A token is used as an address to receive push notification.
- A server receives tokens from the device.
- The server will send a push notification along with a token directly to APNS.
- APNS will transmit a push notification directly to the user.
Ways to handle badges
Every time an iOS user receives a push notification or any other new information, he or she will find red circles in the corner of the application icon. Those badges inform you about the latest updates, push notifications and other relevant information including missed calls, upcoming events, news and new messages.
The main problem many developers and users face is the fact that the number of news messages inside the app does not always coincide with the number of pages on the icon. This fact appears to be rather confusing and irritating for users. You will hardly like it to get a push notification about the message you do not actually have. For this reason, it is vital to bind the badge count with the number of new messages inside the application.
The server pays a vital role whenever it comes to an accurate badge count. It is actually responsible for the number of badges sent to the device. The process of reminding server about the reduction of badges as well as new messages is very simple. All you need is to:
- Regularly update the badge count;
- Make the server know that the information was received and read.
Sometimes, the problem of inaccurate badge count results in failed delivery to the server. Keep in mind that the badge count can be updated locally. This fact is great unless the server fails to receive the request. The failure can result in poor internet connectivity or any other technical issue. The only solution to this problem is to keep all the updates of the badge counter locally and resend them every time you detect a delivery failure.
Get users’ permission to send push notifications
Despite the fact, a push notification feature is a handy tool for both developers and mobile users, you need to get their permission to send them notifications. You need to send your user a request asking to allow push notifications on the given device. If he or she will press “Don’t allow” button, your push notification feature will be limited.
However, there is always a slight chance to cheat and outwit the system in order to avoid possible limitations for the push notification feature. All you need to do is to think of some other options in the request that would be more appealing to you. For example, the request may include the following options: “Allow”, “Later” and “Yes”. A user will have no other choice but to provide necessary permission.
It is great if a user presses “yes” or “allow”. On the other hand, a “later” button should not disappoint you. At least, the request was not 100% rejected. You still have a chance to make your feature work at its full swing with no limitations in the future.