September 2014 Release

iOS 8 New Feature Roundup

On September 17th, we made publicly available two major components of our iOS 8 feature support:

  • iOS SDK version 5.0

  • API support for Interactive Notifications

Coming in October, we will launch support for the use of these features in the Urban Airship web application as well as SDK and API support for the features on Android and Amazon with a new, combined Android/Amazon SDK. Stay tuned for more details in October. In the meantime, take a look at the notes below to see how you can get started with Interactive Notifications and Share Actions.

SDK

Introducing the 5.0 version of the Urban Airship iOS SDK! The iOS 5.0 release is a major upgrade and the first Urban Airship library to include support for new iOS 8 features.

Interactive Notifications

With Urban Airship Interactive Notifications, you now have the ability to engage your audience on a more personal level. Interactive notifications are push notifications with customizable buttons or fields that prompt a user to take specific actions outside of the app.

An interactive notification will display in one of three possible styles:

  • Lock Screen Style: Swipe left to reveal action buttons. This style occurs on the lock screen and in the iOS notification center.

  • Banner Style: Swipe down to reveal action buttons. This style occurs when a user receives a message while on the home screen.

  • Modal Style: This style occurs when a user receives a notification while having the app open. The user must enable this display option in system settings.

No matter the display style, a user must swipe down or across to reveal the buttons on an iOS 8 interactive notification. Because the buttons are not displayed by default, you must ensure that your notification makes sense without the added context provided by the buttons.

Urban Airship Interactive Notifications integrate with our Actions Framework, providing up to three action pathways per push: one when the user taps on the push, and one for each button included in the notification. Each pathway can take advantage of the Actions feature set to:

  • Direct the user to a destination: Use Landing Pages and Deep Links to send your users to specific content, or simply direct them to your app’s home screen.

  • Set tags: Use tagging to track how users are interacting with your notifications. For example, if a user selects Shop Now in the above image, you could set a wants_sandals tag.

  • Record a conversion event: Each button tap is counted and reported on in the per-push report, using Custom Events.

For a high-level view at interactive notifications, please see our Interactive Notification Topic Guide. Visit the iOS and API documentation for more details.

Built-in Interactive Notifications

Urban Airship has developed 27 predefined interactive notification types with the most common use cases in mind. Give users the option to accept or decline offers, buy products, or share relevant content, all using one of our many built-in options. For a full list of the predefined types, please see our built-in interactive notification reference.

Custom Interactive Notification Support

In addition to our built-in options, Urban Airship supports the creation of custom interactive notification types. Use the UA Actions framework or your own custom code to define interactive notifications that are tailored to your app. For more information, see the API documentation.

Share Actions

We have extended our Actions framework to include a Share option. When a user swipes a push or engages with an interactive notification, you may now pass special sharing text to a number of social media platforms, or any app with sharing functionality. The sharing text does not have to match the content of the notification. For example, if a user chooses to share your content on Twitter, the default text may include hashtags and a shortened URL. For more details on this feature, please see the Actions API documentation.

API

Interactive Notification Attribute

We added support for interactive notifications in the notification object of your push payload. Take a quick peek at the example payload below, and for more detail, see Interactive Notifications.

{
   "interactive" : {
      "type" : "ua_yes_no_foreground",
      "button_actions" : {
         "yes" : {
            "add_tag" : "ios_8",
            "remove_tag" : "ios_7",
            "open" : {
               "type" : "url",
               "content" : "http://www.urbanairship.com"
            }
         },
         "no" : {
            "add_tag" : "ios_nope"
         }
      }
   }
}

2K Push Payload Support

APNs now supports a maximum push payload size of 2K, up from a previous maximum of 256 bytes.

Although APNs accepts payloads of up to 2K, we are we are reserving 48 bytes of this space for push tracking. The maximum user-submitted payload will be 2,000 bytes.

The payload increase allows for more robust notifications:

  • Previously, the 256 byte limit would often inhibit sending notifications with actions and analytics tracking. With the additional space, you may combine actions, analytics tracking, and Interactive Notifications in a single push.

  • Double-byte characters, such as Japanese or Hebrew, no longer pose serious space difficulties. Reach audiences that may have previously been ignored due to technical restrictions.

  • Attach any form of custom data that may be useful to your audience engagement goals.

Reports

Custom Events

This release introduces Custom Events into the class reference. Custom Events let you track user activities and key conversions in your app, and tie them back to corresponding push campaigns. You will then be able to view the results of the event tracking via a data visualization in the Urban Airship web application.

This release note is just a heads up to let you know that Custom Events are Coming Soon— just in case you happen to see them referenced in the iOS SDK class reference.

Much more to come on Custom Events soon, so keep watching this space for updates.

Integration

Urban Airship Integration releases refer to the work that we do in the background to ensure smooth delivery of your messages, consistency of data flows across messaging platforms, and easier integration with customer data systems. Generally speaking, there is not much to do on your end related to these updates, but we just like to let you know what we’re up to.

iOS 8 Channels Update

With iOS 8, channels can have a device token and receive background push without being opted in for user-visible notifications. Previously, iOS channels were either opted in or opted out of notifications, with no distinction made for background push. This change presents certain problems, particularly with push reporting. In anticipation of these issues, we have adjusted our channels framework to work with this new model, ensuring a smooth transition to iOS 8.

Automation

First Open

A user’s level of interest in your app is typically highest at the moment he or she downloads the app and interacts with it for the first time. Studies have shown that a user’s failure to reengage with the app within the subsequent 7 days is a strong signal that the user will never open the app again.

In order to address this severe attrition risk, we are introducing the First Open Automation trigger.

The first time a user opens your app, this unique event is stored and made available as a relative trigger on which subsequent Automated messages or campaigns can be based.

Similar to the current set of available triggers,

  • “open” — matches any app open

  • “tag_added” — matches when a specific tag is added

  • “tag_removed” — matches when a specific tag is removed

The difference between a First Open and an Open is obvious: It can happen only once! Keep this in mind when contructing your messages. A common application for this type of trigger would be the “Welcome Series,” in which you would specify several intervals after the user’s first interaction with the app to “check in,” introduce popular features, etc.

For more information, please see the Automation sections of our Dashboard and API docs.

Wallet

Expire iOS Passes

You can now expire or void iOS passes. Please see Expire iOS Passes for the API reference.

User Dashboard

Updated Push Expiry Interface

The Message Center and Notification Expiry features have been redesigned to encourage use of the default push platform expiration value. The Notification Expiry option now hides the expiration field, auto-selecting the Default option:

The Default option depends on platform:

  • APNs: Indefinite expiration (approximately 1-2 weeks)

  • GCM: 4 weeks

  • ADM: 1 week

To enter a custom expiry time, select Specify to reveal the entry form, and enter the desired value:

The language of the Message Center Expiry feature has been clarified to Remove from message center:

Like Notification Expiry, once a user toggles Specify, the expiry entry form appears:

For more information on Push Expiry, please see our docs on Message Center Expiration.