The Push Notifications Evolution

Once upon a time, when developers wanted to connect with their user's device, they used background processes or a Poll Technique, which basically means that once every ‘X’ minutes the device connected to the server to check if there are any news. The problem started in case each user had dozens of apps polling around, drying the battery and killing the device CPU while doing it. And then came the Push...

2003 - Blackberry Push Email

If you wanted to read your emails on the train, you needed a Blackberry. RIM was the first OS to use the push notifications in their email app. Afterwards, usage expanded to free texting between Blackberry's devices.

2009 - Apple Push Notification Service (APNs)

Apple’s CTO, Scott Forstall, presented the APNs back at the iOS 3.0 preview. It was exciting, because it allowed 3rd party developers to use the technology easily and free of charge. I think it would be fair to say that once again, even though Apple wasn’t the first to invent the technology, they have initiated the revolution that we experience today.

2010 - Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM)
2012 - Google Cloud Messaging (GCM)

The GCM that we all use today has initially launched as the Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) service in Android 2.2 at 2010.

The transition to Google Cloud Messaging was first announced when the Android service was unveiled on June 27, 2012. Shortly after announcing the Google Cloud Messaging service, Google published documentation to guide application developers regarding migrating from the C2DM to the new service.(Wikipedia)

2011 - Android 4.2 ICS released with Rich Push

Push notifications have expanded and since the ICS, you can design and adjust your Android push notifications with almost no limits. While iOS refers to the push notifications as a texting platform between the user and developer, Android takes it a step forward by making the notifications center a personal “bulletin board” that each user carries around.

2013 - The Notification Ad Ban

Many ad networks saw the potential of push notifications as a “banner real-estate”.
It helps many small developers and one time apps (such as cool wallpapers) to monetize their app and fill the application stores with many great apps without worrying about the business model. The problem occurred, when many users became annoyed by anonymous advertising they kept receiving all the time.

In Nov 2013, Google released an update to their policy:

  • Apps and their ads must not add homescreen shortcuts, browser bookmarks, or icons on the user’s device as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes.
  • Apps and their ads must not display advertisements through system level notifications on the user’s device, unless the notifications derive from an integral feature provided by the installed app. (e.g., an airline app that notifies users of special deals, or a game that notifies users of in-game promotions). (Google cloud terms)

2013 - iOS 7 released with silent push notifications

Silent Push Notifications is a great feature released in iOS 7. When a silent push notification reaches a device, user does not know anything about the notification. However, your app is notified and it will be given some time to download new content and present it to the user.
Silent remote notifications can be useful for -

  • Episodic content – TV shows, podcasts
  • Read these stories later
  • Purchase syncing
  • File syncing
2014 - iOS 8 released with 2kb and action buttons

Before iOS 8, you were able to send only 256-byte messages and therefore, in order for your users to see the entire message, you had to summarize it to 100 characters more or less.
iOS 8 brought two great things -

  1. From now on, you can send push notifications of up to 2 kb, which is more than enough.
  2. You can add a few action buttons to your message. Those buttons will appear if the user will slide the notification to the left.
2016 +

I can’t predict what a different OS will have for us in the future. However, based on my experience in this industry, I believe that in the future, push notifications will be even more powerful, becoming an interaction tool, rather than a bulletin board, while the users would not have to enter your app in order to enjoy its features and everything would be managed directly from the notifications center.

I would be happy to discuss and share my insights. You are welcome to contact me at [email protected]

Eliran Lazar

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