chat icon
sceyt logo

Sceyt Support

chat icon
chat icon

Push Notifications vs SMS – The Core Differences

Push Notifications vs SMS – The Core Differences

Catching attention and keeping people engaged is tricky these days.

You know what it’s like. Every few minutes you receive an email or some kind of direct message – usually an SMS or push notification.

The thing is – direct messaging is one of the most effective ways to maintain customer or user engagement. But there’s one debate that keeps rumbling on…

Which is best for customer engagement – push notification vs SMS?

But as an app developer or owner, you probably have other questions, like how much does each method cost and how reliable are they?

In this blog post, we’ll do a deep dive into push notifications vs SMS and help you decide which works best for your app. 

Understanding Push Notifications

Understanding Push Notifications

What are push notifications?

Push notifications are those little pop-ups you get from apps on your smartphone. They're messages that an app can send out to users who have the app installed, even if the app isn't currently open. It's like a nudge to the user, saying, "Hey, check this out when you have a moment."

To get these going in your app, you need to configure your app with the platform's push notification service, like Apple's APNs or Google's FCM. You've got to handle device tokens, which are similar to addresses that notifications are sent to. You also need to ensure your backend can communicate with these services to push out the messages.

Some APIs, such as Sceyt Chat API, include a built-in push notification feature to alert users to new in-app chat mentions or conversations.

Pros and cons for app developers

For developers and app owners, the pros are clear – instant engagement, the ability to send real-time updates, and nudging users to return to your app. 

The cons? Setup can be a bit of a hassle, and overuse can annoy users, leading to app uninstalls. Plus, you're at the mercy of the OS's notification rules, which can change and mess with your engagement strategies.

Understanding SMS

SMS, or text messaging, is a communication workhorse. It's a good and reliable staple of the mobile world—no frills, just 160 characters of text sent straight to a user's phone. It helps you reach users who may not have a reliable internet connection, but do have a cell signal.

For setup, your app will need to connect to an SMS gateway to send messages. This connection is how your app communicates with mobile networks to deliver the SMS.

Pros and cons for app developers

Advantages? SMS has an excellent open rate of 98%, which means you get near-maximum engagement . 

The downside? It's just plain text, costs can stack up, and users need to opt-in, which can be a hurdle. Plus, it's important to navigate the various regulations that govern SMS.

Comparing Delivery and Reliability

When you're picking between push notifications and SMS, you're basically choosing between the swiftness of the internet and the wide coverage of cellular networks. 

  • Push notifications are quick, digital nudges from apps. They reach users almost instantly. They're great for quick engagement, but they rely on a solid internet connection to hit their mark.
  • SMS, on the other hand, is sent over vast cellular networks. It doesn’t need WiFi or data plans – it just works. So, when you want to deliver an urgent message that can’t wait, SMS is a better option.

Through the lens of user experience, the decision hinges on the message's nature and the recipients. If your content is rich and needs the internet anyway, push notifications are a dynamic and fast way to engage. But for reliable reach that doesn’t depend on an internet connection, SMS is unmatched.

Cost Analysis – Push Notifications vs SMS

When you're considering the cost analysis for push notifications vs SMS, you've got to consider both the initial setup and the ongoing costs. 

Push Notifications Cost

Push notifications are usually a bit cheaper since they rely on the internet, which you're already paying for. You just need to hook into the existing infrastructure provided by the platforms like Apple's APNs or Google's FCM—there's no cost there unless you're using a third-party service to manage them.

SMS Cost

SMS can get pricey. You're paying per message, and while the cost might seem low at first glance, it adds up quickly when you're sending thousands of texts. For startups, managing costs is crucial, so they might lean towards push notifications. Established businesses with a larger customer base and more resources might opt for the broader reach of SMS at times despite the higher cost.

Engagement and User Preferences

Push notifications and SMS serve different roles in user engagement. 

For instance, if you’re targeting younger users who are always on their phones, push notifications can be a game-changer. They pop up right on the screen, prompting immediate action. Plus, with apps, you get to see detailed analytics on how users interact with your notifications.

On the flip side, SMS has a wider reach. Even your grandma understands SMS! If you need to reach a broader audience, SMS is your best bet. But proceed with caution as users are getting choosier about who they let into their SMS inbox. You’ve got to ensure your texts are wanted, or you'll be cut off with an app install before you can say ‘ghosted’.

Ultimately, it's about knowing your audience. Are they the type that appreciates a nudge from a push notification, or are they more traditional and respond better to SMS? Match your method to their preferences, and you're golden. 

You should aim to strike a balance between being informative and not becoming a nuisance.

Privacy and Security Implications

Push notification privacy and security

With push notifications, you're dealing with device-specific tokens, which are similar to unique IDs for the app on a device. This is pretty secure, as long as your server and the push notification service keep things encrypted.

SMS privacy and security

SMS isn’t encrypted end-to-end, so there's a theoretical risk of interception. However, for the most part, it's considered secure and direct, especially for things like two-factor authentication codes.

User perception

People tend to trust SMS for its simplicity, but there’s growing concern about spam and phishing attacks. Push notifications, if done right, can feel more personal and app-specific, which can boost trust. But overdo it, and you'll annoy users, or worse, they’ll disable notifications.

The key? Use these tools wisely. Respect user privacy, be transparent about data usage, and always, always keep security tight. That's how you build trust.

Push Notifications In Action

  • Flash Sales Alerts: Send out instant alerts for time-sensitive deals. Create urgency to get quick user action.
  • Event Reminders: Remind users about events or webinars and keep them more engaged with the app.
  • Personalized Recommendations: Suggest products or content that users might like based on app activity.
  • User Re-engagement: Use strategies to tempt users back to the app with incentives or new feature announcements.
  • Social Interactions Alerts: Alert to new social interactions such as likes, comments, chat messages, or friend requests.
  • Game Level Updates: Alert players of new challenges, features, or levels in gaming apps. 
  • News and Updates: Keep users informed with breaking news or important updates delivered to their device.

SMS In Action

SMS In Action
  • Delivery Updates: Send real-time delivery status updates, to keep customers informed even when there’s no internet.
  • Booking Confirmation: Confirm reservations and appointments.
  • Service Outages: Notify about service interruptions or maintenance, even when users don’t have app access.
  • Payment Confirmations: Secure and reliable receipts for transactions.
  • Healthcare Reminders: Medication or appointment reminders.

Push Notification Best Practices

  • Consent is Key: Always get user permission before sending notifications.
  • Timing Matters: Schedule notifications based on user time zones and habits.
  • Personalize: Tailor notifications to user preferences and behaviors.
  • Keep it Short: Deliver concise and clear messages.
  • Frequency Control: Avoid spamming. Too many notifications can lead to user opt-out.
  • Action-Oriented: Include easy to follow calls-to-action.
  • Monitor and Adapt: Analyze engagement data and refine your strategy.

SMS Best Practices

  • Opt-In: Ensure user opt-in to receive SMS messages.
  • Offer Value: Messages should offer clear value, like exclusive deals or important information.
  • Be Brief: SMS messages have character limits, so every word counts.
  • Compliance Matters: Stick to regulations such as GDPR or TCPA.
  • Segmentation: Use demographic and behavioral data to segment audiences for targeted messaging.
  • Testing: A/B test messages to find the most effective wording and offers.
  • Clear Opt-Out: Make it easy for users to opt-out of SMS communications.

Try Sceyt’s Low-Latency Chat API Today

In-app communication is important, but so is keeping your users up to date when they’re not using the app. Push notifications and SMS help you to increase app engagement, but only when used effectively. 

When it comes to in-app chat, most people want to stay informed when they receive a mention or reaction. That’s why Sceyt Chat API has built-in push notification capabilities.

If you want to see what Sceyt can do for you, check out our demo app or sign up for a free trial.