How Does Push Notifications Work in Smartphones? A Brief Guide

Push notifications are one of the most common things that we observe in Android based Smartphones. Many applications and sometimes system software of Smartphones use push notifications to inform owner of the device about something important.

These are usually appeared at the top of screen with a unique notification tune. However, in PC web browsers, JavaScript must be enabled to make push notifications visible. If you don’t know how to enable JavaScript in your web browser, you can learn all issues related to browsers at

Importance of Push Notifications in Smartphones
As I mentioned above, there are many reasons behind push notifications. Such as notifications from cellular services to mobile devices, notifications from web browsers or to receive “pushed” notifications from social apps like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. Microsoft Push Notification Server (MPNS) is used to send push notifications on windows phone. This MPNS is actually is a cloud based service.

Working of Push Notifications
Process of appearing push notifications is not that easy and straight forward as it seems. It actually involves a bit complexity. Following is the procedure behind appearance of push notifications on our Smartphone’s screen.
  • First of all, the application which wants to show notification requests to the “push client service (PCS)” part of our Smartphone’s operating system (OS). Smartphone’s OS acknowledges the request the register it.
  • For windows phone, the PCS contacts to the MPNS. The MPNS then provide PCS with a resource to proceed with the request of notification. This resource is knows as Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). Then the PCS gives this URI to the app which requested for the notification.
  • Now the app get the permission to show its notification from your device. Then the app send this URI to its cloud service. The app’s cloud then send notifications to MPNS. A feedback is provided by MPNS to the app’s cloud service which means the notifications are received by MPNS and will be displayed soon.
  • This is how the notifications get displayed and when the owner (you) tap on the notification, MPNS take you to the app.

Possible Status of Device before Receiving Push Notifications
Your Android can be on status which is acknowledged by MPNS before showing notifications on your Smartphone. Possible device statuses are given below.
i) Device is connected
It means your Android based Smartphone is connected to the MPNS and is ready to receive push notification with any hurdle. This is the normal status when you’re having an active internet connection via Wi-Fi of cellular data. MPNS will immediately display notification on your device without putting them on a waiting stack.
ii) Device is temporarily disconnected
When your device is offline for less than 24 hours then this status is considered. It means MPNS will soon try again to send notification whenever it acknowledges the connection of your Smartphone with a working internet connection.
The MPNS will gather up to 30 notification in a waiting stack. Possible reasons for this state are as follows:
  • Low battery
  • Your device is temporarily disconnected from Wi-Fi or cellular data
  • Data usage is exceeded by a limit set by you
  • Cellular service is temporarily unavailable (in-case you’re using cellular data plan)
  • Firewall or an antivirus application interfering a particular type of push notifications. Sometimes such things are used to make your Smartphone secure.
  • Internet connection instability due to frequent transition between Wi-Fi and cellular data.  
iii) Device is disconnected
This status means your smartphone has been offline since more than 24 hours. After 24 hours the MPNS considers your device as an offline device and all the notification which are waiting in queue are discarded. It means the push notification process and request needs to initiate again from start when your device come online again.

Different Types of Push Notifications
Push notifications are off different types, such as:
  • Raw notifications: These are used mostly for games. i.e. The notifications that we receive while playing games in our Smartphones (especially online games) fall in this category. This requires the specific game to be running that we receive a notification for.
  • Toast notifications: These are the most commonly observed notifications that we receive at the top of screen. These are usually linked to the apps. It means when you tap on a notification it will take you to that specific application’s page. Receiving a Toast notification does not require the specific app in running condition.

Not Receiving Push Notifications? See what to do!
This section is for you if by any chance, you aren’t receiving push notification on your phone. There are certain things that you can check before consulting a Smartphone expert, to troubleshoot this issue.
  • Check if battery saver is on or off. If on then turn it off and connect your device to an active internet connection.
  • If you’re using cellular data pack then check if you’ve reached your data limit.
  • If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection then check if your Wi-Fi router is working properly.
  • Check if you’ve set a data usage limit. Go to Settings > Mobile data.
  • Try rebooting your Smartphone and reconnect to an active internet connection.
If you’ve any minor issue then it must be solved till now. If the problem still persists then: If it’s only one app you’re not receiving push notifications for. If so then
  • Go to Settings > Applications, locate the app, tap on it and see if it’s not Disabled.
  • Open the app and investigate if it is working properly. You can try uninstalling and then install it back. Hope you’ll get this issue solved.
So, this is the introduction and working of Push notifications in Smartphones with the case study of Windows Phone. Push notifications are most common observation in a Smartphone as compared to Desktops.
In my personal opinion, everyone should know what these are and how they work in Smartphones. Believe me, you do not need to have Credit Card in your pocket to learn such a simple thing. That’s why I decided to make a brief guide on push notification with small tips and solution to tackle the issues associated with them. I hope you’d have enjoyed it.