Up until very recently, Apple has ensured it has almost complete control over how users experience the iPhone. Where mobile phones were once all about customization, Apple’s game changing smartphone brought uniformity, with third-party tinkerers unable to alter the core functions of the phone - users can change backgrounds and notification sounds, for example, but most don’t, such is Apple’s eye for detail and aesthetics. You pick up an Apple product, you know how it works and you know what to expect.
Since iOS 8, though, Apple has been steadily breaking down the walled garden it’s held since the iPhone exploded nearly a decade ago. iOS 8 saw third-party keyboards allowed for the first time, and the content blockers of iOS 9 hint at a future where Apple is more willing to open it’s products up to software developers. ‘Apple is, brick by brick, breaking down its walled garden of control,’ said IBB Consulting’s Jefferson Wang. ‘They’re more willing to listen to the industry, and consumers.’
As put by TechCrunch, ‘Apple is going all in on third-party extensions, and more core parts of the operating system are now expandable.’ iOS 10 will see developers building Siri extensions, allowing users to send messages via Siri in any messaging app, send cash, request a ride, order food, etc. According to TechCrunch Maps, too, is to receive extensions ‘for some specific apps, such as ride-hailing apps, restaurant recommendation and booking apps.’ Apple is slowly departing from the assumption that its core system is the right way of experiencing its phones, and expect to see fundamental changes available to iOS.
All of this means a revamp of push notifications, too. The iPhone’s lock screen is actually remarkably limited in capability compared to the likes of Android, with each and any app having simply its logo and a handful of lines of text to play with - certain apps, like Messages, can display thumbnails of media messages but this is the only break from uniformity. iOS 10’s new multifunctional lock screen will see push notifications revamped, though, with more variation and functionality made possible. Users will be able to open an uber widget with a quick map update of their ride’s progress, for example.
In fact, all push notifications will be made more configurable from the back, something brands and developers should be aware of given how receptive users are to them already. On an Android device, users automatically opt in to receiving push notifications every time they download an app, and on iOS the opt-in rate is 41%, and they’re as useful for marketers as they are for app developers’ retention numbers. Of those who opt in, the average reaction rate (push notifications that are clicked on) is 8.7% - the number actually varies wildly between iOS and Android, at 4.3% and 13.1% respectively.
These engagement numbers are higher than both Email and SMS, and push notifications increase app engagement by 88%. On the other hand, though, 52% of mobile users find push notifications annoying, a number likely only to rise when these notifications vary in size and type of media.
One company looking to ensure brands get push notifications right is Batch, a French startup committed to ‘giving [marketers] the tools to bring their best web & email practices into native mobile environments, and to use the power of segmentation to master mobile’s fundamental communication channels: push notifications and in-app messages.’ Batch challenges the notion that sending too many push notifications is an absolute sin, rather it advocates ensuring your message is send at the right time, to the right person, with the right information. The company’s focus on segmentation and mobile is astute, and brands should follow suit in realizing the potential of push notifications more generally.
As Apple’s walled garden is dismantled brick by brick, the opportunities for both marketers and developers will be huge. From push notifications to Maps extensions, the opportunity to target Apple’s previously protected user base - some 101 million people in the US alone - is coming, and those that find a way to do so, whilst bringing value to the user, will reap the rewards.