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SMS vs. Push Notifications: When to Text and When to Pop Up

Updated: Jan 11

The Difference Between Push Notifications and SMS Text Messages

In today's digital age, businesses have multiple ways to engage with their customers and keep them informed. Two popular communication channels that have gained significant traction are Push notifications and Text messages (SMS).

Both have their own unique advantages and can be valuable tools for reaching out to your target audience effectively.

In this blog post, we will delve into the world of push notifications and text messages, exploring their features, use cases, and the pros and cons of each. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of which messaging channel is best suited for your business needs.

What are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are short messages that pop up on a user's mobile or desktop device, even when they are not actively using an application or browsing a website. These notifications are sent through apps or web browsers and can deliver various types of information, such as updates, reminders, offers, and news. They serve as a direct line of communication between businesses and their customers.

Push notifications offer businesses an opportunity to deliver real-time updates, promotions, or personalized messages to their users and the key advantage is their ability to reach users even when they are not using the website or app.

When to Use Push Notifications?

  • Push notifications are best suited for time-sensitive information or updates that require immediate attention. They are effective in scenarios such as flash sales, breaking news updates, order status notifications, or time-bound promotions.

  • If you have a mobile app, push notifications can help boost user engagement by reminding them of new features, encouraging them to complete actions, or notifying them about personalized offers.

  • Push notifications allow businesses to send personalized offers and targeted promotions based on user behavior, preferences, and location, making them highly relevant and engaging.

Why Use Push Notifications?

The advantages of using push notifications include higher engagement rates, improved customer retention, and increased brand visibility. By leveraging push notifications, businesses can improve their user experience, drive conversions, and encourage repeat interactions. Push notifications are also an effective channel for re-engaging inactive users and prompting them to return to your app or website.

  • Increased Visibility: Push notifications appear directly on users' devices, providing high visibility and a greater chance of being noticed compared to emails or social media posts.

  • Instant Delivery: Push notifications have the advantage of near-instantaneous message delivery, making them an effective tool for time-sensitive information.

  • Higher Engagement Rates: Studies have shown that push notifications have higher open and click-through rates compared to other communication channels, enabling businesses to reach and engage their audience effectively.

What are SMS Notifications?

SMS notifications, or text messages are short messages sent via mobile network carriers to user’s mobile device, which can be send SMS through software applications as well. While SMS notifications have been around for years, they remain a powerful communication tool due to their wide accessibility.  SMS notifications involve sending short text-based messages directly to mobile phones, allowing businesses to connect with their customers on a personal level.

When to Use SMS Notifications?

  • Enable fast sharing of information: According to research people often read SMS notification within 5 seconds after they receive it in their mobile phones.

  • Send Urgent alerts: SMS notifications are perfect for urgent alerts and critical information that requires immediate attention.

  • Appointment reminders: SMS notifications can be utilized for sending appointment reminders, ensuring that customers are informed and reducing the likelihood of no-shows.

  • Sending Opt-in campaigns: It’s a valuable tool for running opt-in campaigns, where customers can subscribe to receive updates, exclusive offers, and promotions via text messages.

  • Overcoming Internet Limitations: Unlike push notifications that require an internet connection, SMS notifications can be delivered directly to users' mobile devices through cellular networks. Means customers with poor connectivity, they can still receive SMS notifications.

  • One Time Password (OTP): SMS text messages are widely used these days to send one time login codes to customers device for signing in, even the government services rely on SMS for confirmations and creating mass awareness.

Differences between Push and SMS Notifications

Now let’s compare push notifications and SMS notifications and see the major differences between them under different factors.


  • Push Notifications: Reach users already within your app, requiring prior opt-in and app download. May have limited reach if your app base is small.

  • SMS Notifications: Reach a wider audience across any phone, regardless of having your app installed, but requires opt-in through specific mechanisms like keywords or online forms.


  • Push Notifications: Can be highly interactive, linking directly to specific app features, actions, or content.

  • SMS Notifications: Limited interactivity in native messaging apps, but can lead to app downloads or web page visits through embedded links.

Internet Dependence

  • Push Notifications: Internet connection is needed for both the sender and recipient, unless notifications are pre-downloaded within the app.

  • SMS Notifications: Typically reliable and work even without internet connection as long as cellular network coverage is available.

Length and Formatting

  • Push Notifications: Shorter format, usually limited to 100-200 characters, with basic text and icons. Images, videos, and buttons can be included on some platforms.

  • SMS Notifications: Longer format, allowing up to 160 characters per message, with text, emojis, and some basic formatting options. Images and videos can be sent as multimedia messages.


  • Push Notifications: Appear on the device screen, even when the app is not open, but can be easily dismissed or ignored.

  • SMS Notifications: Display prominently in the messaging app and remain noticeable until read or deleted.

Additional Factors

  • Cost: Push notifications are generally free, while SMS can incur carrier charges, especially for bulk messaging.

  • Opt-in and Permissions: Push notifications require app permission and opt-in within the app, while SMS requires separate opt-in mechanisms.

  • Delivery Reliability: Push notifications may be delayed or fail if the app server is unavailable, while SMS delivery is usually reliable unless network issues exist.

Pros and Cons of Push Notifications and SMS Notifications

Push Notifications


  • High engagement: Can reach users directly within the app, leading to higher open rates and conversion rates.

  • Rich media: Supports images, videos, and buttons, making messages more engaging and informative.

  • Cost-effective: Generally free to send, making them a budget-friendly option for outreach.

  • Personalization: Can be targeted to specific user segments based on behavior or demographics.

  • Real-time communication: Deliver timely updates and promotions based on user actions or events.


  • Limited reach: Only reaches users who have downloaded and opted-in to your app.

  • Short lifespan: Can be easily dismissed or forgotten and disappear once seen.

  • Intrusive: If used too frequently, users may find them annoying and opt-out.

  • App dependence: Requires an active internet connection on both sides and ongoing app maintenance.

  • Limited interactivity outside the app: Clicking may only navigate within the app, limiting external impact.

SMS Notifications


  • Wider reach: Delivers messages to any phone, regardless of app usage or internet connection.

  • High visibility: Remain prominent in messaging apps until read or deleted.

  • Urgent communication: Ideal for critical updates or time-sensitive promotions.

  • Two-way communication: Can enable reply messages and interactions with customers.

  • Brand recognition: Familiar format builds trust and recognition with existing customers.


  • Lower engagement: Open rates and conversion rates tend to be lower than push notifications.

  • Limited formatting: Restricted to text, emojis, and basic formatting options.

  • Costly: May incur carrier charges, especially for bulk messaging.

  • Less personalization: Targeting options are limited compared to push notifications.

  • Privacy concerns: Opt-in processes need to be clear and avoid privacy issues.

Which Messaging Channel Should You Choose?

When deciding between push notifications and SMS notifications, it's essential to consider the nature of your business, your target audience, and the specific goals you want to achieve.

If your business aims to reach a broader audience and engage users who may not have subscribed to your application or browser notifications, SMS notifications offer a wider reach and immediate delivery, even without internet access. It ensures that your important messages reach every customer, regardless of their device or internet connectivity. With impressively high open rates and the ability to capture users' attention, SMS notifications are perfect for delivering important alerts, appointment reminders, booking confirmations or running opt-in campaigns.

Moreover, SMS notifications provide a straightforward and familiar user experience, which arrives directly in users' text inboxes without the need for additional steps or app installations. This simplicity ensures that recipients can quickly and effortlessly consume the information.

On the other hand, Push notifications with their high visibility, instant delivery, and ability to include rich media content can effectively catch users' attention and drive engagement. So, when someone is already engaged on your website Push Notifications will work well for businesses to send real time updates.

Additionally, for industries that prioritize compliance with data privacy regulations, SMS notifications can offer a more secure and compliant messaging option compared to push notifications.


So, when making your decision between Push notifications and SMS notifications, keep in mind the broader reach, high open rates, simplicity, and compliance advantages that SMS notifications bring to the table.

In conclusion, both Push notifications and SMS notifications offer distinct advantages and can be used strategically based on your specific communication needs and business requirements.

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