With WWDC fast approaching, it's the time of year when everyone posts their hopes and dreams and predictions for Apple's upcoming software release. There's tons of great ideas out there, and I certainly have my own feature requests both as a developer and as a consumer, but I just want to write today about one that is especially irksome during this (US) holiday weekend.

Marketing push notifications.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend in the US is a popular time for friends and families to gather and cook a shared meal together. It's sort of like another Thanksgiving at the beginning of Summer. And in the past three days I've received push notifications from pretty much every food delivery app on my device. Papa John's, Uber Eats, Drizly, Pizza Hut, DoorDash - they've all sent me alerts saying basically the same thing: "Hey! Are you a lonely shut-in? Just don't want to cook? Don't forget that you can pay us an exorbitant delivery fee and we'll give a suburban mom $0.60/mile to bring food to YOU!"

Look, I know I can turn off notifications for these apps. But when I actually do use them, getting an alert that my order has been received or is on its way is useful. I just don't want all the rest of the marketing/growth bullshit. In fact, Apple agrees with me. The App Store Review Guidelines have this to say about push notifications:

4.5.3 Do not use Apple Services to spam, phish, or send unsolicited messages to customers, including Game Center, Push Notifications, etc.

and

4.5.4 Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used for advertising, promotions, or direct marketing purposes or to send sensitive personal or confidential information. Abuse of these services may result in revocation of your privileges.

The App Store is eleven years-old. Do I actually expect Apple to suddenly start enforcing their rules now, when they've been turning a blind eye towards growth-at-all-costs for so long? No, of course not. Just like mailing lists, mass push notifications obviously drive consumer spending. And with Apple hyper-focused on increasing services revenue to offset declining hardware purchases to appease Wall Street at the cost of degrading customer experience, they're certainly not going to bring the ban-hammer.

But maybe there's a middle ground.

I propose segmenting push notifications into two groups:

  • Alerts related to my account
  • Marketing and everything else

Let me enable/disable those in any combination.

While I unsubscribe from most company mailing lists, there are quite a few marketing emails I regularly get and look forward to. So I wouldn't necessarily just mass opt-out of every marketing push notification. Just the ones that are noisy and truly irrelevant.

Will Apple actually do this? Hahahah. No. Of course not. That would take courage.