Push notification landscape has been relatively quiet for a few years since Apple introduced push notification in 2008. Google Push system (GCM, aka Google Cloud Messaging) was the only important change that happen to that sector, but it has not been widely adopted yet. It still feels like a nice-to-have option for most Android developers.
This year however the push notification ecosystem is evolving and traditional push for developers service providers need to change gears: Urban Airship, Parse, Pusher, Push.io among others are getting disrupted.
Here are the top 5 elements that helps understand and anticipate the shift:
1. Both Google and Apple introduced major improvements in their notification service
Google introduced many changes during Google I/O 2013 in their push notification service. Among those changes, notification synchronization and upstream notifications provide vastly enhanced user experience.
Apple also added new features during WWDC conference 2013. The most important one is the ability to truly awake an application by sending a notification, granting it processing power without the need for user interactions.
The bottom line is that push providers need to develop fast and focus on the push business to be able to stick to the new round of changes in the push notification API provided by each mobile OS provider.
It also means that both Apple and Google push notification services are getting more and more different and pack more and more features. A good platform providers cannot just implement the lowest common features set available in each platform. They need to offers API that allow to target mobile platform specific features. This is difficult and requires skills and continuous improvements on their push platform.
2. Push notification is key to the mobile application experience
Push notification is now admitted as a key feature for better battery life in mobile environment. The changes introduced by both Apple and Google makes smart use of push notification a mandatory service for a vast majority of mobile apps. Going from a nice-to-have feature, the push notification is increasingly becoming the link between an always running server-side back-end and a smart, user-friendly and battery efficient mobile app.
This is probably the most overlooked feature in the upcoming iOS 7. Improvement in the way background applications behave is the element that will really change how end-users use their devices. Push notification service is the most important component for background apps as it is the most flexible way to control when the mobile app will be doing its client-side background processing.
3. New push services are being launched: true cross platform requires more platform support
All traditional players support iOS (while some strangely focus only on Android). However, beside iOS the cross platform support is quite inconsistent and sometimes very limited even for the second platform: Google Cloud Messaging.
Today, a modern push notification service need a very broad scope:
- Apple support: iOS Push notification, including the new iOS 7 features.
- Google support: GCM push notification, including XMPP notification, upstream notifications, and notification synchronization.
- Native web apps support: with Phonegap build compliance.
- Microsoft push for Windows Phone
- Kindle Fire is big enough in US and UK that it is now important to support Amazon Push Service.
4. Large players like Amazon wants their share of the mobile back-end market
Amazon launched today its mobile notification service for iOS, Android (Google flavor) and Kindle fire (Amazon Android flavor).
This is a nice step that shows push is becoming increasingly important. This is mostly a catch up move as Microsoft had such service on Azure cloud platform since 2012.
Big players will reshape the business equilibrium of the area, with aggressive per push notifications pricing.
5. New niche players are entering the market with disruptive business model
At ProcessOne, we feel that for the previous reasons, we have a role to play. We have been working on realtime backends since 2005. We found that Boxcar brand was a good opportunity to package a mobile developer push offer that is cost effective, offers state of the art push experience and truly cross platform experience.
We believe our technology allow us to be truly effective in the way we manage push. This enables innovative and disruptive business model where the cost is not based on the number of push you send, but on the sending rate. Thank to our approach, our plans for push notification are fully unlimited in term of number of push sent and number of devices: You select a plan and you know in advance how much you push platform is going to cost you.
The nice effect of our unlimited business model is that push is a feature that you can use without worrying about the cost. You do not have to restrict your usage of push just to fit your budget.
Being a niche, pure player, we believe that this focus gives Boxcar a edge to lead the pack in features as well as in pricing.
From an important feature, push notification is becoming a key element in mobile developer infrastructure. It is not anymore a marketing, user engagement trick, and has now became the backbone of every mobile development infrastructure.
This is only the beginning of more profound changes that the mobile back-end landscape will be seeing in the coming months. Push notification is now a critical capability.
— Mickaël Rémond @mickael