iOS 12 Brings New Power to Push Notifications

Push notifications are unquestionably one of the most effective mobile marketing channels. However, the effectiveness of push on iOS apps has always been handicapped by the fact that Apple uses an opt-in approach for push permissions (meaning an app has to ask a user for permission before it can start sending push notifications to that user). In contrast, Android uses an opt out approach. As a result, Android apps average a 74% push opt-in rate while iOS apps average a mere 40%.

All of that is poised to change with iOS 12 thanks to the addition of a feature Apple is calling Provisional Authorization. With Provisional Authorization, you can start sending push notifications to users as soon as they open your app for the first time, no opt-in required. Let’s take a look at Provisional Authorization, along with the other push enhancements that are coming in iOS 12.

What Is Provisional Authorization?

Provisional Authorization takes advantage of another new feature in iOS 12: the ability for messages to be “delivered quietly.” When a notification is delivered quietly, it can only be seen in the iOS Notification Center, which the user accesses by swiping down from the top of their phone. They don’t appear as banners or show up on the lock screen. As you might have guessed, quiet notifications also don’t make a sound.
Provisional Authorization Push Notification

As you can see above, all notifications that are sent under Provisional Authorization include a built-in prompt that asks the user if they want to keep receiving notifications.
Provisional Push Keep ConfirmationIf a user taps the “Keep” button, they can decide whether they want your app’s notifications to start getting delivered prominently (i.e. fully opt-in to push notifications) or continue to receive them quietly (i.e. pushes continue to get sent directly to the Notification Center).
Provisional Push Turn Off ConfirmationIf a user taps the “Turn Off…” button, they are shown a confirmation screen at which point they can disable notifications from your app.

Making the Most of a Good Thing

The intent of Provisional Authorization is to give users a trial run with your app’s notifications. Apple created Provisional Authorization because it realized that it’s impossible for users to make an informed choice about whether or not they want to receive push notifications from an app until they’ve seen what kinds of messages the app is going to send them.

With this in mind, it has now become more important than ever to send valuable, highly relevant notifications to your users. Provisional Authorization represents an opportunity to dramatically increase the opt-in rate for push on iOS apps, but that will only happen if users see a benefit in continuing to receive your messages. Taking advantage of all the targeting and personalization capabilities at your disposal will help ensure that customers see value in continuing to receive notifications from your app.

Another thing to realize is that Provisional Authorization does not necessarily remove the need for you to actively drive users to fully opt-in to push. Notifications that get delivered quietly are far better than no notifications at all, but they are still not the same as prominent notifications. Especially if your app sends notifications that are time sensitive or involve user interaction, you should continue to encourage users to fully opt into push through the use of soft asks.

Adding Provisional Authorization to Your App

We expect that enabling Provisional Authorization will be straightforward, requiring your developers to make one or two small tweaks to your app’s code. Once iOS 12 has been finalized, we’ll update this post with a link to instructions.

(UPDATE: Instructions for adding Provisional Authorization have been added to our Dev Docs here)

In the meantime, we recommend that you make sure your apps are running Localytics SDK Version 5.1+, which will allow you to distinguish between users who have provisional authorization and those who are fully opted into push. If your apps aren’t on SDK 5.1+, work with your developers to upgrade now. That way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when iOS 12 is released.

Other Enhancements to Push

Although Provisional Authorization is by far the biggest enhancement that’s coming to push notifications in iOS 12, it’s by no means the only one. Here’s a quick rundown:

Notification Grouping
Grouping is something that has existed on Android for a while and it’s finally coming to iOS. By default, all notifications from the same app will be grouped, with the newest notification on top. If you want, your developers can create more granular groupings (e.g. group all updates on the same news story) by using notification threads.
Notification Grouping on iOS 12
Custom Notification Settings in iOS 12 Custom Notification Settings
You can now build a custom settings screen inside your app that will give users more control over what sorts of notifications they receive. This is similar to the functionality provided on Android through the use of channels.
Interactive Notifications
This enhancement lets you can include the interactivity of an in-app message directly inside your push! Take a look at the example shown here, where one of our developers has embedded an NPS survey directly inside a push notification. Interactive notifications are a big deal and frankly, we’re still wrapping our heads around all the use cases.
Interactive Notification on iOS 12
Critical Alert on iOS 12 Critical Alerts
For health/safety apps, critical alerts give you the ability to send push notifications that get delivered prominently, regardless of a device’s Do Not Disturb or ringer settings. Apps must get approval from Apple to send critical alerts and users must opt-in as well.
More Granular Control of Notifications
Beyond the support for a custom notification settings screen, iOS 12 introduces a host of other features that give users far more control over what notifications they receive and how they receive them. This has some big implications for marketers and we’ll dive into the details in a future blog post.
iOS 12 Notification Management


A New Day for Push on iOS

As you can see, iOS 12 brings a host of new features that dramatically increase the impact push notifications can have. We expect iOS 12 to launch in the next 2-3 weeks, so be sure to talk to your developers and confirm that your app is ready to take advantage of everything iOS 12 has to offer.