Last update: May 2021

6 mins to read - 2020/02/03

Send Push Notifications to Apps in China With OpenBack

Push notifications have come to be understood as an integral branch of a good mobile marketing campaign. They’re fast, highly personalizable, and they don’t cost anything for the app user to receive. However, the standard framework of a push notification SDK has some shortcomings: a few of them are reliability, compliance with data security laws, and the effect they have on draining battery life. Another pain point for mobile apps when it comes to notifications is how to break into the Chinese market. Push notifications are known for being unreliable in China, particularly to Android phones, which use Google Firebase cloud messaging. However, OpenBack’s unique solution utilizes edge computing and machine learning to send highly reliable and personalized notifications that reach their destination in real-time – even when sent to apps on Chinese phones.

Download our data security whitepaper to learn about OpenBack’s innovative take on data privacy:

Why Are Push Notifications Unreliable in China?

First of all, different push notification providers have pros and cons when delivering to phones in China. Google Firebase is the most common platform for developers who want to send messages to their Android apps. However, this is problematic when it comes to China because Google is blocked by the country’s authorities. It’s the so-called “Great Firewall.” (Baidu is the most common search engine used in China.) While most Chinese internet users have access to a VPN to circumvent the block on Google, this is not helpful to developers. Generally, developers who want in on the Chinese market have had to create a completely separate app.

XMPP Push Notification Protocol

Alternative protocols for sending push notifications include XMPP and MQTT. However, both of these come with certain difficulties as well. XMPP, an XML-based protocol, is flexible and extendable, and makes up the bottom layer of the Google Cloud Messaging server. It is a widely used protocol, frequently used in chat messaging systems. There is also an open-source version of XMPP: Android Push Notification (androidpn). However, XMPP is a complex protocol which is more costly in terms of traffic and electricity used.

The open-source androidpn protocol consists of integrated solutions based on XMPP open-source components. However, use of androidpn comes with its own difficulties. Sometimes the androidpn server does not reconnect after the device is restarted. Similarly, the server does not save messages, and so it won’t receive messages if the client is offline at the time. And once androidpn sends the notification, it is finished with it. Developers will not receive any data or metrics of whether the message was clicked or swiped or engaged with in any way, or even if the message delivered on time.

MQTT Push Notification Protocol

Conversely, MQTT is a broker-based messaging protocol. It is lightweight and less mature than XMPP. Its “publish/subscribe” protocol is compact and scalable, which makes it more traffic and electricity-efficient than XMPP. Its server-side component, rsmb, has a C ++ version, and it has been deployed in sending push notifications in the enterprise field.

However, drawbacks to MQTT include that it is still new compared to alternatives. Implementation is a complex process, and it is also costly to deploy. Plus, its rsmb is not open-source.

Web and mobile users have learned to rely on various methods to receive push notifications. One, as mentioned above, is to use a VPN. Another is to sign up for email notifications for a particular app, and then convert those emails to notifications. However, this method is circuitous and unwieldy.

The most reliable method of working around China’s Google firewall to send push notifications in China is to use a reliable third-party service, such as OpenBack.

How OpenBack Can Facilitate Push Notifications in China

OpenBack stands alone among third-party push notification platforms in that we deliver notifications on-device, using edge computing. This means we don’t have to use Google Firebase or other services that are problematic in China. OpenBack technology works without the need for funneling push tokens through a cloud server. Because of this, we are perfectly compatible with China’s firewall. And this means that our platform serves as the perfect conduit for Western app developers to step into the Chinese market.

Our underlying technology is different from our competitors, in that all data processing occurs on the device itself. This means that our SDK inside the app controls everything locally, so there is no need for an open socket. In addition to allowing your app to comply with China’s firewall, it also makes for improved user experience. OpenBack’s edge computing and machine learning-based architecture allows for delivery of notifications in real-time. Developers can customize notifications to different segments of users according to their interests, schedules, device battery life, and much more.

By taking a user-first approach, regulation-compliant approach, OpenBack has seen results of improved push conversion in our clients by x4.For more information on how OpenBack is unique from other push notification platforms, click here.

Otherwise, to learn more about how OpenBack can be a doorway into the Chinese market for your mobile app, talk to one of our experts.

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