Local Notifications with iOS 10

I can’t believe it is over six years since I first wrote about local notifications in iOS 4. Well in iOS 10 Apple has deprecated UILocalNotification which means it is time to get familiar with a new notifications framework.

Last updated: Jan 17, 2020

Setup

This is a long post so let’s start easy by importing the new notifications framework:

// Swift
import UserNotifications
// Objective-C (with modules enabled)
@import UserNotifications;

You manage notifications through a shared UNUserNotificationCenter object:

// Swift
let center = UNUserNotificationCenter.current()
// Objective-C
UNUserNotificationCenter *center = [UNUserNotificationCenter currentNotificationCenter];

Authorization

As with the older notifications framework you need to have the user’s permission for the types of notification your App will use. Make the request early in your App life cycle such as in application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:. The first time your App requests authorization the system shows the user an alert, after that they can manage the permissions from settings:

Notification Authorization

There are four notification types, badge, sound, alert, carPlay you can combine as required. For example if you want both alerts and sound:

// Swift
let options: UNAuthorizationOptions = [.alert, .sound];
// Objective-C
UNAuthorizationOptions options = UNAuthorizationOptionAlert + UNAuthorizationOptionSound;

You make the actual authorization request using the shared notification center:

// Swift
center.requestAuthorization(options: options) {
  (granted, error) in
    if !granted {
      print("Something went wrong")
    }
}
// Objective-C
[center requestAuthorizationWithOptions:options
 completionHandler:^(BOOL granted, NSError * _Nullable error) {
  if (!granted) {
    NSLog(@"Something went wrong");
  }
}];

The framework calls the completion handler with a boolean indicating if the access was granted and an error object which will be nil if no error occurred.

Note: The user can change the notifications settings for your App at any time. You can check the allowed settings with getNotificationSettings. This calls a completion block asynchronously with a UNNotificationSettings object you can use to check the authorization status or the individual notification settings:

// Swift
center.getNotificationSettings { (settings) in
  if settings.authorizationStatus != .authorized {
    // Notifications not allowed
  }
}
// Objective-C
[center getNotificationSettingsWithCompletionHandler:^(UNNotificationSettings * _Nonnull settings) {
  if (settings.authorizationStatus != UNAuthorizationStatusAuthorized) {
    // Notifications not allowed
  }
}];

Creating A Notification Request

A UNNotificationRequest notification request contains content and a trigger condition:

Notification Content

The content of a notification is an instance of the UNMutableNotificationContent with the following properties set as required:

  • title: String containing the primary reason for the alert.
  • subtitle: String containing an alert subtitle (if required)
  • body: String containing the alert message text
  • badge: Number to show on the app’s icon.
  • sound: A sound to play when the alert is delivered. Use UNNotificationSound.default() or create a custom sound from a file.
  • launchImageName: name of a launch image to use if your app is launched in response to a notification.
  • userInfo: A dictionary of custom info to pass in the notification
  • attachments: An array of UNNotificationAttachment objects. Use to include audio, image or video content.

Note that when localizing the alert strings like the title it is better to use localizedUserNotificationString(forKey:arguments:) which delays loading the localization until the notification is delivered.

A quick example:

// Swift
let content = UNMutableNotificationContent()
content.title = "Don't forget"
content.body = "Buy some milk"
content.sound = UNNotificationSound.default
// Objective-C
UNMutableNotificationContent *content = [UNMutableNotificationContent new];
content.title = @"Don't forget";
content.body = @"Buy some milk";
content.sound = [UNNotificationSound defaultSound];

Notification Trigger

Trigger a notification based on time, calendar or location. The trigger can be repeating:

  • Time interval: Schedule a notification for a number of seconds later. For example to trigger in five minutes:

    // Swift
    let trigger = UNTimeIntervalNotificationTrigger(timeInterval: 300,
      repeats: false)
    
    // Objective-C
    UNTimeIntervalNotificationTrigger *trigger = [UNTimeIntervalNotificationTrigger
      triggerWithTimeInterval:300 repeats:NO];
    
  • Calendar: Trigger at a specific date and time. The trigger is created using a date components object which makes it easier for certain repeating intervals. To convert a Date to its date components use the current calendar. For example:

    // Swift
    let date = Date(timeIntervalSinceNow: 3600)
    let triggerDate = Calendar.current.dateComponents([.year,.month,.day,.hour,.minute,.second,],
      from: date)
    
    // Objective-C
    NSDate *date = [NSDate dateWithTimeIntervalSinceNow:3600];
    NSDateComponents *triggerDate = [[NSCalendar currentCalendar]   
                  components:NSCalendarUnitYear +
                  NSCalendarUnitMonth + NSCalendarUnitDay +
                  NSCalendarUnitHour + NSCalendarUnitMinute +
                  NSCalendarUnitSecond fromDate:date];
    

    To create the trigger from the date components:

    // Swift
    let trigger = UNCalendarNotificationTrigger(dateMatching: triggerDate,
      repeats: false)
    
    // Objective-C
    UNCalendarNotificationTrigger *trigger = [UNCalendarNotificationTrigger 
      triggerWithDateMatchingComponents:triggerDate repeats:NO];
    

    To create a trigger that repeats at a certain interval use the correct set of date components. For example, to have the notification repeat daily at the same time we need just the hour, minutes and seconds:

    let triggerDaily = Calendar.current.dateComponents([hour,.minute,.second,],
      from: date)
    let trigger = UNCalendarNotificationTrigger(dateMatching: triggerDaily,
      repeats: true)
    

    To have it repeat weekly at the same time we also need the weekday:

    let triggerWeekly = Calendar.current.dateComponents([.weekday,hour,.minute,.second,], from: date)
    let trigger = UNCalendarNotificationTrigger(dateMatching: triggerWeekly,
      repeats: true)
    

    This is an interesting change from the older notification framework which had a fire date and repeat interval. The date components are more flexible but there is no easy way to fully replicate the fireDate property of the older framework. For example, if I want a daily trigger that starts in 1 week.

  • Location: Trigger when a user enters or leaves a geographic region. The region is specified through a CoreLocation CLRegion:

    // Swift
    let trigger = UNLocationNotificationTrigger(triggerWithRegion:region,
      repeats:false)
    
    // Objective-C
    UNLocationNotificationTrigger *locTrigger = [UNLocationNotificationTrigger
      triggerWithRegion:region repeats:NO];
    

Scheduling

With both the content and trigger ready we create a new notification request and add it to the notification center. Each notification request requires a string identifier for future reference:

// Swift
let identifier = "UYLLocalNotification"
let request = UNNotificationRequest(identifier: identifier,
  content: content, trigger: trigger)
center.add(request, withCompletionHandler: { (error) in
  if let error = error {
    // Something went wrong
  }
})
// Objective-C
NSString *identifier = @"UYLLocalNotification";
UNNotificationRequest *request = [UNNotificationRequest requestWithIdentifier:identifier
  content:content trigger:trigger]

[center addNotificationRequest:request withCompletionHandler:^(NSError * _Nullable error) {
  if (error != nil) {
    NSLog(@"Something went wrong: %@",error);
  }
}];

Note: Calling addNotificationRequest with the same identifier string will replace the existing notification. If you want to schedule multiple requests use a different identifier each time.

Custom Actions

To include custom actions for the user in a notification you first need to create and register notification categories. A category defines a type of notification that can have one or more actions. As a practical example, let’s create a category with two actions. There are three key steps:

  • Define the notification action(s): This requires a unique identifier and a (preferably localized) title. The notification action options allow you to require the user to unlock the device, to indicate a destructive option or to launch the app in the foreground.

    // Swift
    let snoozeAction = UNNotificationAction(identifier: "Snooze",
                       title: "Snooze", options: [])
    let deleteAction = UNNotificationAction(identifier: "UYLDeleteAction",
                       title: "Delete", options: [.destructive])
    
    // Objective-C
    UNNotificationAction *snoozeAction = [UNNotificationAction actionWithIdentifier:@"Snooze"
      title:@"Snooze" options:UNNotificationActionOptionNone];
    UNNotificationAction *deleteAction = [UNNotificationAction actionWithIdentifier:@"Delete"
      title:@"Delete" options:UNNotificationActionOptionDestructive];
    

    I have not shown an example but you can also create a text input action. See UNTextInputNotificationAction for details.

  • Create a category with the actions: This requires another unique identifier (you probably want to define these magic strings in an enum):

    // Swift
    let category = UNNotificationCategory(identifier: "UYLReminderCategory",
                   actions: [snoozeAction,deleteAction],
                   intentIdentifiers: [], options: [])
    
    // Objective-C
    UNNotificationCategory *category = [UNNotificationCategory categoryWithIdentifier:@"UYLReminderCategory"
      actions:@[snoozeAction,deleteAction] intentIdentifiers:@[]
      options:UNNotificationCategoryOptionNone];
    NSSet *categories = [NSSet setWithObject:category];
    
  • Register the category with the notification center. It is recommended to do this early in the app lifecycle.

    // Swift
    center.setNotificationCategories([category])
    
    // Objective-C
    [center setNotificationCategories:categories];
    

To include this action in our notifications we need to set the category in the notification content:

// Swift
content.categoryIdentifier = "UYLReminderCategory"
// Objective-C
content.categoryIdentifier = @"UYLReminderCategory";

The custom action now appears as part of the user notification:

Notification Action

You can display up to four actions but depending on screen space the user may not see them all. We will look in the next section at how to respond when the user selects the custom action.

The Notification Delegate

If you want to respond to actionable notifications or receive notifications while your app is in the foreground you need to implement the UNUserNotificationCenterDelegate. This protocol defines two optional methods:

  • userNotificationCenter(_:willPresent:withCompletionHandler:) is called when a notification is delivered to a foreground app. You receive the UNNotification object which contains the original UNNotificationRequest. You call the completion handler with the UNNotificationPresentationOptions you want to present (use .none to ignore the alert).
  • userNotificationCenter(_:didReceive:withCompletionHandler:) is called when a user selects an action in a delivered notification. You receive the UNNotificationResponse object which includes the actionIdentifier for the user action and the UNNotification object. The system defined identifiers UNNotificationDefaultActionIdentifier and UNNotificationDismissActionIdentifier are used when the user taps the notification to open the app or swipes to dismiss the notification.

In both cases you must call the completion handler once you finish.

You could use the app delegate but I prefer to create a separate class. Here is what a minimal notification delegate could like:

class UYLNotificationDelegate: NSObject, UNUserNotificationCenterDelegate {

  func userNotificationCenter(_ center: UNUserNotificationCenter,
       willPresent notification: UNNotification, 
      withCompletionHandler completionHandler: @escaping (UNNotificationPresentationOptions) -> Void) {
    // Play sound and show alert to the user
    completionHandler([.alert,.sound])
  }

  func userNotificationCenter(_ center: UNUserNotificationCenter,
       didReceive response: UNNotificationResponse,
       withCompletionHandler completionHandler: @escaping () -> Void) {

    // Determine the user action
    switch response.actionIdentifier {
    case UNNotificationDismissActionIdentifier:
      print("Dismiss Action")
    case UNNotificationDefaultActionIdentifier:
      print("Default")
    case "Snooze":
      print("Snooze")
    case "Delete":
      print("Delete")  
    default:
      print("Unknown action")
    }
    completionHandler()
  }
}

It is important to set the delegate before your app finishes launching. For example, in the application delegate method didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:

// Do NOT forget to retain your delegate somewhere
let notificationDelegate = UYLNotificationDelegate()

func application(_ application: UIApplication, didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [UIApplicationLaunchOptionsKey: Any]?) -> Bool {
  let center = UNUserNotificationCenter.current()
  center.delegate = notificationDelegate

  // ...
  return true
}

Managing Pending and Delivered

The old UILocalNotification framework always allowed you to remove individual or all pending notifications. The new UserNotifications framework greatly extends that by allowing you to manage both pending requests and delivered notifications that are still displayed in Notification Center. There are three similar methods for each:

  • getPendingNotificationRequests:completionHandler:
  • getDeliveredNotificationRequests:completionHandler:

Both methods return an array of objects in the completion handler. For pending requests you get an array of UNNotificationRequest objects. For delivered notifications you get an array of UNNotification objects which contain the original UNNotificationRequest and the delivery date.

  • removePendingNotificationRequests:withIdentifiers:
  • removeDeliveredNotifications:withIdentifiers:

Removes pending requests or delivered notifications. You pass these methods an array of the string identifiers used to schedule the notifications. If you first retrieve the array of pending requests or delivered notifications the identifier is a property of the UNNotificationRequest object.

  • removeAllPendingNotificationRequests
  • removeAllDeliveredNotifications

As the name suggests these methods remove all pending requests or delivered notifications.

You call these methods on the shared notification center. For example to remove all pending notification requests:

// Swift
center.removeAllPendingNotificationRequests()
// Objective-C
[center removeAllPendingNotificationRequests];

Example Code

You can both the Objective-C and Swift example code for this post in my code examples repository:

Further Reading

To read more and learn about some of the new features that I have not mentioned such as notification service extensions and notification content extensions take a look at the following WWDC sessions: