Early Access Goodies for iOS 8 Developers

We’re extremely excited about the new interactive features coming to iOS 8 as users will be able to take immediate action directly from notifications themselves, which reduces friction for bidirectional communication. Using simple buttons embedded in notifications users can immediately signal that they want more or less of certain types of messages, or initiate specific actions to happen within apps.

Since Apple’s June announcements at WWDC, we’ve been hard at work and are happy to announce we’ve already added support for new features in Apple Push Notification Service (APNS), in some cases before Apple has even released them to production themselves.

While it will still be a couple of months before consumers can experience new iOS 8 capabilities, developers can get started planning and building for a new world of more interactive and actionable push notifications now.

Two New API Capabilities

1. Interactive Notification Categories - for developers coding against the iOS 8 preview release from Apple, you can now use the Urban Airship API to pass a category string to your mobile test device. This tells the device the pre-determined set of buttons to display to the user within the push notification. Used in conjunction with our support for custom data (extra key/value pairs), this provides early, rich support for Interactive Notifications.

For example, a bank could use this capability to send an automated push message informing a user of an overdraft, with a buttons to “view balance” or “transfer funds”.  The Urban Airship push payload would contain a category string “overdraft” while passing transaction identifiers through the custom key/value pairs to tie each button to the correct action.

2. 2kb Push Payload Limit - one of the biggest news items for developers was the increase in payload size from 256 bytes to 2kb. This is a major win for iOS developers because, as many of our customers know, 256 bytes is highly constrained for some of the richer behaviors they want to support, especially for internationalized messages with double-byte characters, e.g. Japanese, Chinese, and when coding advanced interactions, as are possible with Urban Airship’s Actions framework.

This change also brings Apple much closer to Google’s GCM support of Android’s 4kb limit, and Amazon ADM’s 6kb.

We’ve already coded and tested the new 2kb limit, but are waiting to release this until Apple pushes it into their production environment. The timing for this will be closer to the release of iOS8 this fall.

See our release notes for full technical details.

Watch for more commentary and releases from Urban Airship to help prepare you for mobile’s accelerating change.

We also recommend you keep the late September/early October release date of iOS8 in mind, and clear room on your application development roadmap to add support in time for the holiday shopping season.