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Ably can deliver native push notifications to devices using, amongst others, Apple’s Push Notification service and Google’s Firebase Cloud Messaging service. Native push notifications, unlike Ably’s channel based pub/sub messaging, do not require the device to maintain a connection to Ably, as the underlying platform or OS is responsible for maintaining its own battery-efficient transport to receive push notifications. Therefore, native push notifications are commonly used to display visual notifications to users or launch a background process for an app in a battery-efficient manner.
As shown above, Ably provides two models for delivering push notifications to devices:
Ably provides a REST API that allows native push notifications to be delivered directly to:
registrationTokenin the case of FCM,
deviceTokenin the case of APNS, or
encryptionKeyin the case of a Web device (experimental). This means is particularly useful when migrating to Ably with existing push notification target devices.
The model for delivering push notifications to devices over channels is intentionally very similar to how messages are normally delivered using Ably’s pub/sub channel. For example, a normal message published on an Ably channel is broadcast immediately to all realtime subscribers of that channel. When broadcasting push notifications on channels, however, the process is the same with the exception that the subscribers (devices receiving push notifications) are registered in advance using our API and the message itself must contain an extra push notification payload that specifies the optional visual format and optional data payload of the native push notification.
Every device that will receive push notifications must activate itself with the local operating system or framework, and hook into the push notification services that the underlying platform provides. This functionality is platform-specific and can also vary considerably across not just platforms, but also across the push services that operate on those platforms such as GCM and FCM, both of which are available on the Android platform.
The Ably client libraries aim to abstract away this complexity and platform-specific behaviour by providing a consistent API for device activation, maintenance of the device registration, and for subscription to Ably channels for receiving push notifications.
Whilst the realtime client libraries provide APIs for a device to activate itself (via
client.push) and subscribe for push notifications (via
channel.push), those APIs are intentionally limited to actions pertaining to the device it is run on.
Ably currently offers support for push notifications on the following platforms:
We no longer support Google Cloud Messaging; this is deprecated by Google, in favour of FCM, and the service will soon be terminated altogether.
The following Ably client library SDKs provide support for activation and receiving of native push notifications:
If you wish to see step by step instructions to set up, send and receive push notifications on your mobile devices, you can checkout our tutorials for iOS and Android, with both direct device registration and registration via server examples.
Ably’s Smart Notifications offers a less intrusive and more effective way to notify your users with native iOS, Android and browser notifications. Instead of delivering “dumb” push notifications to your users when you wish to get their attention, Ably allows you to deliver messages based on a user’s connection state, their active device and their current context within your application. This means you can send less but more effective notifications to your users. Find out more.
When a message is published on a pub/sub channel, a smart notification payload and rules can optionally be included with the message. When the Ably service receives a message with a smart notification payload, it will do one of two things: