Brevity = Wit: The Ideal Push Notification Length

Finding the ideal push notification message length isn't easy. Get guidelines and resources in this post. 


In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, wordy Polonius stated, “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Paraphrasing for mobile, the essence of an engaging message lies in its concise wording and delivery. Or, brevity = wit.

How many characters of a push notification actually appear? Our mobile team recently researched how push notifications render across a variety of Android and iOS handsets and display types. Messages cut off much sooner and more often than most people realize.

>> Related: 5 Things the Best Notifications Have in Common

While bytes impact the display of the message, cutoffs start at around 37 characters for Android and 89 characters for recent iPhones! (Here’s a listing of the maximum characters by operating system and device recommended for notifications.) Emoticons and special characters may increase the number of bytes.

Benefit + Action in <40 Characters

Here’s what concise messages around 40 characters look like:

Retail: "Members only: 20% off shoes. Shop now!"

News: "BREAKING: DC homicide suspect in custody."

Travel: "CHANGE: Flt 39 departing from gate C2."

As you can see, it’s challenging to be accurate and meaningful in so few words. Which means it’s imperative that you capture your users’ attention up-front.

How Operating Systems Impact Your Mobile Message

Different operating systems treat notifications differently. Message length is no different.  Each has guidelines that can truncate notifications so that they fit in each notification delivery style.

Android devices have long provided the opportunity for more extensive content. Notifications on Android are displayed in the notification area, and can be expanded by opening the notification drawer. These expanded notifications include Inbox Style, Big Text Style and Big Picture Style.

On iOS, display types include alerts, banners, notification centers and lock screens. With iOS 10 employing rich push notifications, users will gain some of the features previously only available on Android. The update lets users get more information from various apps without unlocking their iPhone, and also introduces a "clear all" feature for Notification Center notifications.


Examples of iOS mobile messaging notification types.

There’s More To The Story!

So once your Android or iOS user is hooked, and they tap on a message, the notification can now expand massively, e.g. up to 1283 characters on an iPhone 6, 1957 characters on an iPad, 562 characters on a Nexus 5X Phone or 536 characters on a Nexus 9 Tablet.

Those extra characters and bytes can change the way users interact with your content — and with how you judge the success of your message.

Mobile Messaging Best Practices

With hundreds of device types out there, and new iOS changes to notifications, it makes sense to follow these best practices:

  • Make your messages short

  • Frontload what’s important

  • Test on the devices that the majority of your audience use

Maybe, in our modern day context, brevity = successful mobile messaging instead … which is still under 40 characters. We wonder what Polonius would think of that!

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- Get industry-specific data on push notification send frequency
- Build a smarter push notification strategy
- Maximize your user acquisition spend & push notification ROI

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