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

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Last update: July 2019

4 mins to read

Push Notifications in iOS vs Android Smartphones

It’s the rivalry as old as time, up there with some of pop culture’s greatest feuds: Taylor vs Kanye. Stark vs Lannister. iOS vs Android?

While we don’t have the time here to determine which smartphone is ultimately better, we will be taking a look at how each operating system approaches notifications. You may think there can’t be too many differences in how a different phone receives notifications – but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that there are subtle differences between the two.

However, with new versions of both phones coming out – the Android 9.0 Pie is hitting the market, and the iOS 12.3 is currently out in beta – you can be sure that there will be changes to what you took for granted about push notifications.

iOS vs Android Users

First of all, it’s worthwhile from a marketing perspective to consider the differences between users of iOS and Android systems. A university study in the UK showed that iPhone users were more concerned with their phones as a status symbol, and twice as likely to be female and extroverts.

On the other hand, Android users tended to be more older males, introverts, and more concerned with their phone as a functional tool than a status symbol.

iOS users also tend to be more concerned with having the newest, hottest OS, as 83% of Apple users are using iOS 12 on their devices, with that trend reversed when it comes to Android: only 10.4% of Android users are using 9.0 Pie on their devices.

Push Notifications: Yea or Nay?

The main difference in the way both operating systems handle push notifications is whether they default to having to opt-in or opt-out.

With Android, push notifications are automatically enabled, and to disable them the user has to go into settings and select “opt out.”

With iOS, on the other hand, when a user first opens a new app, they are asked whether they want to allow notifications for that particular app. Simply press “no” when prompted is much easier than having to go into settings and hunt down the opt-out option, and as a result, Android users have a 74% opt-in rate to iOS users’ 40%.

However, iOS may be looking to switch over to a model more similar to Android’s, with v12 introducing provisional notifications to slowly get their users accustomed to the idea. The provisional notifications feature will allow apps to send iOS users messages that go directly to their notification center. This will, hopefully, give users an idea of what they’re missing out on before they decide to disable push notifications.

Where Do Notifications Go When Your Screen Is Locked?

On both operating systems, push notifications will appear directly on your lock screen. Users can then open their phone directly to a particular message by pressing on it.

If they unlock their phone conventionally, users of both Android and iOS can access their notification center by swiping down from the top of the screen. An added bonus with Android, if you long-press on an app’s desktop icon, you can see all of its latest notifications.

You’ve Received a Notification… What Now?

With iOS, the user has the following options of what to do with a notification: tap or swipe right to open it, swipe left to clear it from the screen, open the app it was sent from, or long-press to see application options such as snooze or reply.

With Android, the user has all these options, plus the ability to snooze the notification for a period of time.

What Changes Do Android and iOS Upgrades Offer?

With Android 9.0 Pie, users are for the first time given the option to block push notifications completely, by long-pressing on a notification and select “Stop notifications” from that particular app. If you want some notifications from a particular app, but not all, you can arrange that in “Notifications” under the i button. It also offers a “Do Not Disturb” mode in which you can disable all push notifications for a set period of time. Android’s “Smart reply” feature also provides you options of responses to send to your notifications, as well as the options to mark a notifications as read, or to delete it entirely.

iOS 12 is also offering more nuanced methods of viewing push notifications, offering a “Manage” option if you swipe left on a notification. You can opt for unobtrusive provisional notifications, or as in Android you can opt to disable all notifications for a particular app. And iOS 12 also offers a “Bedtime Mode” in which notifications bypass your lock screen and go directly to the Notification Center. A “Do Not Disturb” mode, similar to Android, can also turn on automatically, according to events in your Calendar that it assumes you wouldn’t want to receive notifications.

Over the past few years, it seems as though the two operating systems have seen a convergence of features with regards to push notifications. As iOS inches towards a more accepting policy towards push notifications, both OS have been introducing methods of customizing which notifications make it through, and how often users have to interact with them. With both OS now offering bundled notifications, “Do Not Disturb” modes, and sophisticated options for which apps to filter, it’s likely that soon there will be little difference between using iOS vs Android.

The Future for Push Notifications

In light of these changes to smartphone operating systems, which seem to be geared around giving users more control over when and how they receive push notifications, apps will have to be more diligent than ever in the quality and timeliness of the messages they send out.

With so many new tools for deflecting unwanted messages, it’s crucial that push notifications reassert themselves as meaningful communications between apps and users.

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