OpenBack Whitepaper - Reliability in Push Notifications (Delivery & Metrics)

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Last update: August 2019

4 mins to read

Offline Notifications and How They Can Transform Mobile Engagement

With the prevalence of Wi-Fi hotspots and unlimited data plans, you may wonder what’s the point of offline notifications. The Internet of Things is already so prevalent that wily teens are able to send Tweets through their smart refrigerators.

However, we are not fully assimilated to the Borg yet, and internet blind spots are still common enough. OpenBack mobile engagement platform offers a unique offline notification function. This can be a powerful tool for communicating with users, even when they think they’re off the grid. Here are a few key use cases.

For When Phones Are on Airplane Mode

For many of us, the only time we turn off our mobile data are those minutes when we’re sitting on a plane during take-off or landing, with our phones on airplane mode. However, as frequent flyers know, anything that can go wrong with connecting flights and itineraries often does. Travel plans and flight schedules can change at the drop of a hat, and travelers often have subsequent transportation to catch, or appointments scheduled in their destination.

Offline notifications mean that airlines and travel apps can keep their customers up-to-date on any unexpected changes that arise, by continuing to send them real-time information. Especially if they’re on a short-haul flight, the sooner they receive any delays, cancelations, updates, adverse weather warnings, etc., the more time they’ll have to improvise a new plan of action.

For No-Coverage Zones or Times of Crisis

Have you ever been catching the subway on your way to work, looking at a long commute ahead of you and with no bars on your smartphone? The world is a big place, and there are still some connectivity dark patches, such as rural areas or underground. Similarly, it’s common for the internet to go down during such events as natural disasters, such as storms or earthquakes. Arguably, this is when people have greatest need of connectivity.

Offline notifications can be integral for helping people through these times of internet blackout, whether that’s due to a long, underground commute or a hurricane. They can help you communicate emergency information, inclement weather warnings, or other urgent alerts.

For When a Device Has Low Battery

Keeping your data on 24/7 is one of the main drains on battery power. Sometimes, if a user is away from home and forgot to bring their phone charger, turning off data or Wi-Fi will be their first move to conserve battery power. Some phones can even automatically switch into low-battery mode once it goes below a certain percentage, and this too can impede reliable notification delivery.

Demonstrating the value of your app by providing a top-notch experience that doesn’t contribute to battery drain can be a great way to distinguish yourself from the competition.

For Big Events Where Huge Crowds Are Connected

We’ve all been in this situation, where you’re at a super-crowded venue – say a festival or a popular tourist attraction. The crowd is so large that the Wi-Fi – and even your 4G data – is spread so thin it barely works at all. The molasses-slow connectivity can be so frustrating that lots of users might just prefer to switch off altogether and save themselves the hassle. This can offer a whole new set of problems, especially with regards to getting in touch with friends, or checking out the lineup of events the festival has to offer.

When it comes to attractions that see high-volume visitor levels daily, being able to send offline notifications to devices that have downloaded your app is a must. They are a sure sign to users that you value their custom as more than just one face in a crowd of thousands. Offline notifications can ensure that your app’s functions don’t shut down just because the internet is off. Let your users know that, whether they’re online or not, there’s always an open avenue for them to engage with your app.

What Happens When a Notification Is Sent to an Offline Device?

When a traditional push notification token is sent, it is routed to a cloud server – APNS for iOS and FCM for Android. In the case of APNS, the server stores the notification until the device comes online again. However, APNS can only store one notification per device and per app – that is, the most recent one. So if a notification is being stored in APNS and another one comes down the line, it bumps out the older notification. And if the device remains offline for a long time, APNS discards all stored notifications.

In the case of Android OS, FCM can deliberately delay sending notifications for various reasons on the device’s side, such as being offline or having low battery life. In this case, FCM will store the message and deliver it at the next possible opportunity. However, for many time-sensitive notifications, or apps that deal with real-time information, even a small delay can render their notifications obsolete.

OpenBack offers an entirely different notification experience to what the industry is accustomed to. This is due to our use of edge computing and direct-to-device notifications. This means the push notification doesn’t have to wait in the cloud server before being sent off to the device. Thus resulting in less of a latency period. OpenBack is the only push notification SDK on the market that facilitates offline notifications. We enable 100% deliverability and an assurance that your notification will reach its destination at the right moment.

Check out our documentation section for more information, or get in touch with one of our experts. We’ll be happy to talk with you!

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