We have an iPhone app available in the app store that utilizes push notifications. Normally we use this functionality to inform users when new podcasts are available (usually once a week).

We've noticed that a significant portion of our users are not updating as regularly as we'd like (26% haven't updated to the latest version from the app store which was released 17 days ago).

We're considering using the push notifications to alert users of the availability of an update in the future but we can't retroactively differentiate between those who have upgraded and those who haven't (meaning even those who have updated will receive the notification). In the future, of course, we'll add the functionality to only alert those who have upgraded.

Do you think sending a push notification now provides a poor user experience or could be confusing to those who have already updated? Do you think it's worth alerting everyone to inform the minority percentage that hasn't updated?

  • Don't you have a way to distinguish the clients who are running an old version from the clients running the new version, and only notify the clients with the old version? I'm sure that should be possible.. – AndroidHustle Apr 20 '12 at 14:26
  • @AndroidHustle I was equally surprised, but jaytr0n has made it sound like the outdated app doesn't contain the algorithm necessary to selectively suppress messages, but that future ones will. I'm not familiar with the iOS push API, though. – msanford Apr 20 '12 at 14:29
  • 1
    Yes, you can definitely distinguish between those who have upgraded and those who have not if you have put that functionality in the app. As @msanford mentioned, We did not include that feature in the current release but will in future releases so the issue is with notifying the group with the existing app. – jaytr0n Apr 20 '12 at 14:31
  • 1
    @msanford ahh, ok – AndroidHustle Apr 20 '12 at 14:34

In my opinion, sending a notification to users to update to the latest version of something when it may already be updated is indeed tricky and you certainly risk confusing them.

I think, though, that you can get away with it if you word it carefully and hedge appropriately. (Being unfamiliar with the iOS push API, but having seen it in action, I'll assume you're limited to plain-text notifications with a title):

  • Hey! Have you checked for updates in the App Store recently?
  • Updates Are all your apps up to date? Check the Updates button in the App Store.
  • Have you checked the App Store lately? There may be important updates waiting for you!

I wouldn't even necessarily distinguish telling them to update your app vs all their apps: those who let hundreds of app updates pile up might do with a secondary reminder, anyway.

One other important thing to consider: is it possible that people are intentionally not updating your app? Have you changed something, like a privacy policy, or added banner ads, or received poor reviews for the update? If so, your problem may lie elsewhere.

  • 1
    We haven't received any negative reviews for the latest updates and it's a minor update that simply fixes a few typographic errors. It's possible the update wasn't advertised as enticing enough to upgrade. Our target group is less technical savvy so my assumption (I need to gather more information) is they simply don't upgrade their apps frequently. – jaytr0n Apr 20 '12 at 14:33
  • 1
    @jaytr0n That was my guess, too, which is why I mention not distinguishing between updating your app or all apps. I always try to examine all possible factors, especially on a site like this; you'd be surprised how many times those 'Um, also, did you consider...' side-notes have helped me on Stack Overflow! – msanford Apr 20 '12 at 14:36

If I updated an app and then got a notification saying there is an update available (to which I've already updated), I'd be a bit put off by that.

Apple already has a push notification system to let users know they have app updates. Unless you can specifically target users that have not updated to the version you are requesting they update to, I'd say leave it to apple to notify them.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.