Some apps want to send you text messages — Uber jumps out as an example. I also get text messages from GrubHub, but that’s not a smartphone app, it’s a web app, and it doesn’t necessarily know that I have a smartphone.
But for pure smartphone apps, every text message is a failure. Android and iOS both have push notification systems. They serve the same purpose as text messages, and they’re custom-designed to do just that. They ought to have richer functionality than any mere text message can boast. And nobody has any meaningful limit on the number of push notifications they receive, unlike text messages.
And yet, here at Flywheel, we have people within the company pushing for replacing our existing push notifications with text messages. That anybody can do that an not immediately be judged crazy suggests that for some reason, push notifications don’t have the same value as a text message. Which suggests that either:
a. Apple and/or Google have somehow failed in their interface work, making push notifications less clear, less attention-grabbing, less reliable, something. I don’t really believe this. Let me note on the “less reliable” — I’ve met people who claim push notifications are less reliable than texts (in circumstances other than “data is down but voice is up”). When I pushed them to back up this assertion, they didn’t really have anything. But the perception exists at least in a few people.
b. The app maker has somehow failed in their interface work, choosing an overly soft sound or sending so many push notifications that their users tune them out. I think this is certainly part of it.
c. The community has failed in its collective interface work, making people ignore push notifications due to overuse not by a single app, but by the world of all apps. Which, I think, is the biggest part of the problem.
Issue c is ultimately Apple’s and/or Google’s problem as well, though. Push notifications ought to be a powerful part of their platforms, and if people are devaluing them, the OS makers need to find ways to prevent abuse. Maybe that means giving users a way to group, block, or otherwise devalue push notifications that are overly spammy. Maybe it just means changing guidelines on the use of PNs. Maybe it means taking unilateral action against app makers that Apple or Google determine to be problematic.
The OS makers ought to regard every text message sent by a smartphone app as a failure on the part of their operating system, and set a goal of making it self-evident that text messages are strictly inferior to push notifications.