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WWDC 2021 - Major push notifications announcements 🍎📲


28 Jun 2021 Written by Louis Héron

The release of the next iOS version (the 15th one to be precise) expected in September, will bring a set of new features concerning push notifications.

Apple's philosophy behind these innovations? Let the user reduce the "distractions" generated by notifications. iOS 15 will offer each user to have more detailed management on notification permissions depending on the time of day.

Visual | A light new look

Apple has slightly modified the appearance of notifications in order to highlight their content more:

  • The application icon will take up more space.
  • If the notification does not have a title, then only the app name will appear.
  • The rendering of the action buttons associated with Rich Notification now matches the system UI, and it will be possible to associate an icon with them to provide a visual context element.
  • Notifications from messaging apps will be able to display the image associated with the contact sending the message.

Nothing very new under the sun in terms of style except for the name of the application disappearing (it was already discreet) and the need to have in your app a high resolution version of your icon (but this is surely already the case!).


The "Notification Summary"

The Notification Summary is a new system option that will group together notifications received in order to deliver them as a summary at fixed times, displayed on specific UI on the locked screen. This new option will be Off by default and each user will decide to activate it or not.

  • By default, no application is included in the scheduled summary. The choice of applications to include is left to the user, as well as the time and number of summaries during the day.
  • Notification order in the summary interface will depend on the "relevance" of each applications for the user. This "relevance" will be determined by the operating system's artificial intelligence. The number of interactions a user has with an app will help the OS to determine this "relevance".
  • Two notifications will be highlighted in the summary. Among these two, the OS will preferably highlight notifications containing rich media. Thus, notifications containing an image or a video will have a better chance of appearing first in the summary.
  • A new API will allow developers to give an "importance score" to each of their application's notifications. If several notifications from the same application are contained in a summary, this score will allow the OS to display notifications from the most important to the least important.
  • If Notification Summary is enabled, the native Opt-in notification request pop-up will then display two different authorization options: "Allow immediate notifications" or "Add to scheduled summary".

iOS 15 will probably highlight the system option to users, but it is impossible to know the future adoption rate that this new feature will have. It is therefore very likely that nothing changes and that most of users do not bother to configure the Notification Summary.

The "Focus" modes

iOS will allow users to customize in an advanced way the current "Do not disturb" mode allowing to cut the reception of calls and notifications. It will be possible to define several “modes” (Reading, Work, Time for oneself, etc.) and to specify people and applications allowed to overide each mode when activated.

As an example, a user can define a "Reading" mode during which he accepts to be disturbed only by notifications from his favorite media application as well as messages from his immediate family. All other applications and contacts will not be able to interrupt their attention.

Users will be able to choose to share their current "mode" (or "status") with certain contacts or with certain applications.


The "Interruption Levels" | 4 criticality levels for notifications

With iOS 15 Apple will provide developers with a new API allowing them to specify an "Interruption Level" for each notification. This level of criticality indicates to what extent a notification can override the restrictions seen previously to directly reach the user.

Four levels will allow you to categorize your notifications:

  • Passive - Passive notifications will not make noise nor light up the screen and will not be able to override the restrictive system options seen above if enabled by the user (Notifications Summary and Focus modes). Suitable for notifications that do not require immediate attention.
  • Active - Default interruption level and equivalent to current notification behavior. However, Active notifications will not be able to override the restrictive system options seen above if activated by the user.
  • Time Sensitive - "Time Sensitive" notifications will have the right, if the user activates the option at the system level (see screenshot below), to bypass restrictions imposed by the Notification Summary and the Focus modes. In this case, a "Time Sensitive" indication will appear on the notification.
  • Critical - Critical notifications will behave like Time Sensitive, with the difference that they will emit a noise even if the user has switched their phone to silent mode using the physical button on the side of the smartphone. Sending this type of notification is subject to Apple's approval.

It will not be possible to abuse "Time Sensitive" or "Critical" notifications only to attract users' attention. iOS will detect abuses and suggest users to turn off the "Time Sensitive" mode or all notifications from an app abusing this type of notification.

In addition, the OS will allow you to "Snooze" a notification thread, for an hour or for the whole day, directly from the locked screen.



The new features announced by Apple aim to give users more control over the management of the notifications they receive and once again push publishers to think carefully about their communication and engagement strategy through this channel.

More than ever with iOS 15, it will be important to build build a trusting relationship with users by offering them relevant messages during their journey.

Making people understand the value of push notifications sent with pre Opt-In messages and staying true to this promise by maintaining a high level of personalization, this is the way for mobile marketers in the fall!

Louis Héron

Senior Product Marketer @ Batch

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