Top 5 Push Notification Services and How to Choose the Best One

Top 5 Push Notification Services and How to Choose the Best One

Mikhail Peremitko

Mikhail Peremitko

Android/React Native Developer @ Stormotion

Andrii Bondarenko

Andrii Bondarenko

Tech Journalist @ Stormotion

Since 2008, when they were pioneered by Apple, push notifications became an inevitable feature of almost any Mobile Digital Product. No matter what Project you’re working on - a game, a dating application, or a retail mobile app - there’s a 95% chance that this feature will be included in the MVP-Scope.

However, with the rising number of Push Notification Service providers, it becomes a challenging task to pick the right one. For example, only in this list, you can find over 50 options to choose from and it still doesn’t mention many other services.

There are many push notifications providers so you should choose wisely (*image by [Andrew McKay](https://dribbble.com/andrewmckay){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

There are many push notifications providers so you should choose wisely (image by Andrew McKay)

For this article, we made up a shortlist of 5 providers that we believe are worth taking into consideration. Why? Because they match the criteria we use at Stormotion when choosing a top Push Notification Service for our Digital Products.

Here are our tips that we hope will help you as well!
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🤔 Top 10 Points to Consider when Choosing a Mobile Push Notification Service for Your Project

Long story short, the best App Push Notifications Service is the one that covers the needs of your Product and is comfortable to work with (from the development perspective).

Here’s a questionnaire that will help you find out whether a Push Notification Service meets your Project requirements:
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Question # 1: What is the planned sending volume or/and the number of recipients? 👥

Depending on the type of your app, you may need to send from a few dozens to a few hundreds of thousands and even more notifications.

For example, a news application regularly sends notifications to a wide audience might have a higher sending volume, compared to a B2B app that reaches users through highly personalized and occasional messages.

Sending volume means a lot if you have a big audience (*image by [Mursyid](https://dribbble.com/mursyiduchy){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

Sending volume means a lot if you have a big audience (image by Mursyid)

Therefore, you should choose the Mobile Push Notification Service that covers the needed volume of notifications you plan to send. Frankly speaking, all providers mentioned in our shortlist can support work with hundreds of thousands of notifications so the main difference may be in the pricing models.

For example, Catapush’s free plan supports only 100 recipients, while PushCrew allows using the free version with up to 2,000 subscribers.

Question # 2: Is there a need to send huge amounts of push notifications simultaneously? 📨

Just like the volume, the sending rate is a highly specific category that may be important to one project but almost completely useless to other ones.

If your Project needs to handle huge amounts of notification messages at the same time, you should pay special attention to whether your chosen Push Notification Service matches your requirements.

Is there a need to send many notifications in short periods of time? (*image by [Erick Jones](https://dribbble.com/erickjones){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

Is there a need to send many notifications in short periods of time? (image by Erick Jones)

This feature also impacts the price. For example, Batch considers the push delivery speed as one of the key differences between various pricing plans.
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Question # 3: Do segmentation and personalization mean a lot to your product? 👩‍💼

Personalization and segmentation are some of the most obvious benefits of push notifications. This isn’t an advantage but rather a “must-have” for any top Push Notification Service.

Therefore, check how these features perform in the chosen service (e.g. how many and what segments you can build).
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Question # 4: Do you expect any advanced functionality from the App Push Notifications Service? 📸

Today push notifications are more than just a simple text message. For example, they can be:

  • Interactive - let users interact with notifications through buttons to perform specific actions (e.g. respond, pay, set a quick reminder, like, open).
  • Rich - enhance your messages with media content (images, gifs, videos, audios).
  • Automated - trigger notifications under some conditions (a user wasn’t active for some time or when they perform a specific action).
  • Geotargeting - reach users based on their real-time location.
Advanced functionality can greatly improve notifications' performance (*image by [Greg Dougherty](https://dribbble.com/gregdougherty){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

Advanced functionality can greatly improve notifications' performance (image by Greg Dougherty)

So, the main point here is that a chosen SDK shouldn’t limit you and leave a room for customization and flexibility.
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Question # 5: What mobile analytics and user-level data do you want to have access to? 📊

There’s often no time to take a close look at the analytics, however, if you use the collected data correctly, it can greatly improve your KPIs. To be honest, the range of available analytics tools is almost the same among different Push Notification Service providers but it's always better to double-check whether the chosen option covers your needs.
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Question # 6: What is the pricing? 💵

Finally, pay attention to the costs (but never consider it as the most important factor). When it comes to the pricing, the devil is usually in the details. The most common options that you may face are:

  • Monthly, quarterly, or annual payments that depend on the factors like the number of recipients, the volume of push notifications delivered per minute, or available extra functionality (e.g. targeting or automation). The average costs in this category start at $20-30/month and can potentially reach a few hundreds of dollars for enterprise solutions.
  • Pricing based on the number of delivered messages - this system is used by such Push Notification Service providers like Amazon or IBM. The average pricing is $0.50 per million notifications.
Pay attention to available pricing models (*image by [Liza Otchenashenko](https://dribbble.com/lizao){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

Pay attention to available pricing models (image by Liza Otchenashenko)

Also, the best App Push Notifications Services usually provide free trial versions - either for a limited period of time (about a month) or before you reach a specific number of users (from 100 to 2500 depending on a provider).

A free trial is a great opportunity to test service’s capabilities.

So, these were the 6 main questions that will help you find out whether the service fits the project requirements. However, the best App Push Notifications Services not only help your business grow but also create a comfortable environment for developers.
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👨‍💻 How to Choose a Good Push Notification Service from the Development Perspective?

We asked our Dev Squad at Stormotion what they consider to be the most important factors when choosing a Mobile Push Notification Service to work with. Here are their answers:
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# 1: Comprehensive documentation 📖

If you want to avoid troubles in the future, you should choose a tool to implement App Push Notifications with clear and comprehensive documentation.

Comprehensive documentation is one of the key requirements from the development perspective (*image by [Damian Kidd](https://dribbble.com/damiankidd){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*)

Comprehensive documentation is one of the key requirements from the development perspective (image by Damian Kidd)

In other words, it should contain answers to all key questions and make the structure of the tool as clear as a bell. Of course, the first thing that requires attention is how the essential matters - configuration and initialization - are described.
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# 2: Developer-friendly & Easy to work with 👨‍💻

Actually, this requirement comes from the previous one. The service should provide a developer-friendly API or SDK, which makes implementing simple and clear.

However, a good library should also leave some room for easy customization, not limiting the developer to a few strict solutions. It helps to adjust the service to the needs of your product.
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# 3: Available for cross-platform development 📱

There’s not a lot to say since everything is quite clear. It's best to choose a Mobile Push Notification Service that successfully works with both platforms.

*Image by [sarafrbrito](https://dribbble.com/sarafrbrito){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*

Image by sarafrbrito

Moreover, it’s a good thing to think about even if you’re creating a Project for a single platform at the moment. Why? Because it may not take too long before your Product will go cross-platform.
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# 4: Testing functionality 💻

As a developer, one can’t get things done without testing them. That’s why you should pay special attention to the testing policy of the chosen notifications provider.

Does it depend on the pricing plan? Are there any limitations during the free trial period? What testing tools are available and will they be enough for your Project?

Take care of that beforehand so you don’t face this obstacle during the QA stage when the development is almost over.

Finally, let’s review a few examples of great notification services that are quite popular these days!
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🏆 Top 5 Push Notification Service Providers for your Mobile Product

It’s not a problem to find the list of notifications services with about 20-30 names on it. Furthermore, it will take a lot of time to define which one is the most appropriate in your case.

To simplify this process, we’ve created our own list of 5 tools that we’re truly excited to tell about. Let’s check them out!
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# 1: Urban Airship

The company is one of the industry pioneers since they were established back in 2009. Despite the fact that they offer many different marketing products, their main competence is push notification services.

*Image by [Nope Creative](https://dribbble.com/NopeCreative){ rel="nofollow" .default-md}*

Image by Nope Creative

How does Urban Airship’s App Push Notifications tool fits criteria we’ve just discussed?

  • The service supports segmentation & personalization options (it’s possible to create custom display triggers) as well as advanced functionality - rich, interactive and automated notification messages. You can also develop notifications with location triggers (geotargeting).
  • Throughput is impressive - up to 300k messages/second.
  • Of course, you can use the service for iOS and Android platforms.
  • Pricing policy is great, too. There are Starter (completely free), Basic ($99/month) and Custom plans with 45 days free trial period.
  • Urban Airship has a branched system of analytical tools and allows you engaging users based on their churn risk, behavioral patterns, and many other kinds of data.

From the development perspective, everything is quite good, too. Urban Airship offers developers clear and comprehensive documentation, guides, and tutorials.

# 2: Amazon SNS

This Push Notification Service was introduced by Amazon in 2010. The company aimed to provide a single API that would allow sending push notifications to multiple platforms - and they’ve succeeded!

Actually, Amazon Simple Notifications Service works as an intermediary between users’ devices and well-known notifications services (APNS, GCM, MPNS and others). In a few words, Amazon SNS uses a device token to create a mobile endpoint, letting you send direct push notifications to users.

This is how Amazon SNS works

This is how Amazon SNS works

What are the main advantages of the service? Here they are:

  1. Flexible trial period: the first 1,000,000 notifications are free.
  2. Clear pricing strategy: $0.50/million notifications.
  3. Comprehensive documentation: it’s organized in a convenient way (using graphs, tables, and images) and contains answers to all core questions.
  4. It’s cross-platform: you can send push notifications to multiple platforms (iOS, Android) using a single API.

# 3: Accengage

Accengage may have not such a long history as Urban Airship but is considered by many as one of the best App Push Notifications providers. This flexible service is both helpful and comfortable to use at the same time:

📱 From the product perspective

⚙️ From the development perspective

It’s possible to reach the audience using many different formats: push notification messages, in-app pop-ups, banners etc.

You can access documentation for different frameworks and platforms. This makes it easy to use Accengage during the native iOS & Android, React Native or Cordova app development.

The platform supports interactive & rich notification messages.

The documentation is quite comprehensive since it describes every single step developers should take.

Flexible customization and personalization tools that help you target specific audiences.

It also includes many examples, making it easy to integrate push notification even for those who have never done this.

Accengage also supports geofencing and iBeacon technologies, allowing to start specific location-based events.

Where it's possible, the screenshots and images are provided, making the documentation more visual.

This App Push Notifications Platform also supports a bunch of other cool features among which are: unlimited A/B testing, multi-app & multi-language messages, deep linking etc.

Pricing options are custom but you can request a free demo to make your own impression of this Mobile Push Notification Service.

# 4: OneSignal

No doubt, the best thing about the OneSignal Push Notifications Platform is that you can use it absolutely for free. This pricing model includes:

  • unlimited devices, notifications, and segments;
  • scheduling & automation possibilities;
  • A/B testing;
  • real-time analytics.

Just like other services, OneSignal supports all the features that help to make your notification messages more engaging and encouraging to take an action: rich media, action buttons, personalization, and so on.

OneSignal

OneSignal’s documentation deserves special attention. It is written in a way that even someone who has never worked with push notifications will understand the whole process after the first reading.

Moreover, the documentation provides you not only with the implementation rules but also with a general description of how push notifications perform: for example, what media types can be attached to rich notifications, how many buttons in interactive messages are supported on different platforms, etc.

Finally, OneSignal offers clear SDK references for native iOS/Android, React Native, Ionic, Unity, and other types of mobile app development.
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# 5: Firebase Cloud Messaging

Finally, the last top Push Notification Service that we would like to mention in this article is Firebase Cloud Messaging or simply FCM.

Firebase is a massive mobile development platform by Google that provides many useful products: a machine learning development kit, cloud storage, a real-time database, a crash reporting system, and many others.

FCM

FCM system involves 2 components:

  1. From the one side, you use an app server or a trusted environment (like Cloud Functions for Firebase) to create, customize and send notification messages to your audience.
  2. From the other side, a client app (iOS, Android, or web) that receives notifications.

Like other services, FCM supports rich, targeted, automated messages as well as A/B testing and content customization. Also, FCM is included in the list of free products so you can use it with no limits.
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💡 Takeaways

This was the list of our favorite Push Notifications Service providers. Which one should you choose for your project? Depends on your requirements!

In a few words, a chosen notification service should cover the needs of your Product and be a comfortable tool for your Dev Squad. Have any questions left? Hit the button below and drop us a line!

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