How To Get Started With iOS Push Notifications

This post will show you everything you need to know to get started with iOS push notifications for the Apple App Store.

Does this sound familiar?

You are looking for a new game to play and do 30 minutes of research on game forums to find a fun game for your iPhone. You download it for free and play it for five minutes.

It is exactly what you wanted and you tell yourself that you will go back to it later...but you never do. The app just sits there until you finally put it out of its misery and delete it when you are cleaning out your phone.

This happens to everyone and it certainly happens to the people who use your app. But how can you prevent this?

One way is to use iOS push notifications to give your users good reasons to open your app and continue to use it. Let's take a look at how you can implement push notifications and what are some of the best ways to utilize them.

What Are iOS Push Notifications?

You have probably seen a push notification before, but if not, let's take a second to show you what they look like and why they can be so valuable.

We will use our favorite example, Clash of Clans to show you what push notifications look like. When you first install the app, it will ask you if you want to receive push notifications.

If you choose to get notifications, you will get updates on what is happening in the game. For example, when your troops are ready for battle, you will get a notification that looks like this.

As you can see, if you find out about new events in the game, this make it more likely that you will open the game and continue to play it. This principle can be applied to any app, not just games. Now let's take a look at how to implement push notifications.

How To Implement Them

There are several ways to implement push notifications. One way that you can do this is to create your own push notification server. If you are looking for detailed instructions on how to do this, check out this two-part tutorial on how to set it up.

But that is a little complicated to setup and maintain. It can also get expensive. If you would like to have a service host your push notifications, here are several that you can try.


Appsfire provides four basic services: they help you discover quality apps, acquire users, engage users and monetize your app. Their engagement offering gives you the ability to send in-app notifications, push notifications, intercept negative reviews and more.


A free PushWoosh account will give you unlimited notifications to up to one million devices. They also provide rich push notifications and multi-language support.

Urban Airship

Urban Airship offers push app messages, rich app messages and a message center. They also offer segmentation, analytics and help you create wallet programs.

We mentioned this in a previous post, but it is worth repeating here. Urban Airship did a study of how push notifications relate to user retention and there was an 80% higher retention rate when a push notification was sent within the first month.

Here are some of the other stats that they uncovered:

Other Services

If the services above do not suit your needs, here are some other push notification services that may work for you.

Tips For Best Results

Obviously, if you bother your users too much, they will turn off your push notifications and are much more likely to delete your app. So the best thing is to start with one notification and gauge the response. From there, add notifications one at a time to see how it impacts your user retention.

Of course, it also depends on what kind of app you have. If you have a game, it is easy to notify players of events in the game or if there are other players who want to challenge them.

But if you have a word processing app, it might be a little harder to justify multiple notifications. If that is the case with your app, then you could stick to two notifications at the beginning.

First, you can welcome them to app within the first 48 hours and offer a useful resource, like a user's guide on how to use your app. Then, if they have not opened the app after a certain period of time, 30 days for example, you can send a push notification with another useful resource or an offer to help. You could also notify your users of version updates, added features, sales and reminders that are applicable to the function of your app.


You need to keep as many users as possible, so consider using push notifications to remind users of the benefits of your app and keep them engaged. You may be concerned that using push notifications will annoy your users and cause them to delete your app.

That is certainly a valid concern, but as the data above has shown, even just one notification has the power to keep users around much longer than no notifications. So start slow and find the balance between being a nuisance and being engaging.

Are you currently using iOS push notifications? Share your results in the comments below.

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Hugh Kimura

Written by: Hugh Kimura, Head of Content

Date: November 2013

Never miss an insight. Get quality content sent to your inbox every week.

Thank you!

By clicking "Subscribe" above, I agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge the Privacy Policy.