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Local and Remote Notification Programming Guide

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Communicating with APNs

The APNs provider API lets you send remote notification requests to APNs. APNs then conveys notifications to your app on iOS, tvOS, and macOS devices, and to Apple Watch via iOS.

The provider API is based on the HTTP/2 network protocol. Each interaction starts with a POST request, from your provider, that contains a JSON payload and a device token. APNs forwards the notification payload to your app on the specific user device identified by the request’s included device token.

A provider is a server, that you deploy and manage, that you configure to work with APNs.

Provider Authentication Tokens

To securely connect to APNs, you can use provider authentication tokens or provider certificates. This section describes connections using tokens.

The provider API supports the JSON Web Token (JWT) specification, letting you pass statements and metadata, called claims, to APNs, along with each push notification. For details, refer to the specification at https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc7519. For additional information about JWT, along with a list of available libraries for generating signed JWTs, see https://jwt.io

A provider authentication token is a JSON object that you construct, whose header must include:

  • The encryption algorithm (alg) you use to encrypt the token

  • A 10-character key identifier (kid) key, obtained from your developer account

The claims payload of the token must include:

  • The issuer (iss) registered claim key, whose value is your 10-character Team ID, obtained from your developer account

  • The issued at (iat) registered claim key, whose value indicates the time at which the token was generated, in terms of the number of seconds since Epoch, in UTC

After you create the token, you must sign it with a private key. You must then encrypt the token using the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) with the P-256 curve and the SHA-256 hash algorithm. Specify the value ES256 in the algorithm header key (alg). For information on how to configure your token, see “Configure push notifications” in Xcode Help.

A decoded JWT provider authentication token for APNs has the following format:

  1. {
  2. "alg": "ES256",
  3. "kid": "ABC123DEFG"
  4. }
  5. {
  6. "iss": "DEF123GHIJ",
  7. "iat": 1437179036
  8. }

To ensure security, APNs requires new tokens to be generated periodically. A new token has an updated issued at claim key, whose value indicates the time the token was generated. If the timestamp for token issue is not within the last hour, APNs rejects subsequent push messages, returning an ExpiredProviderToken (403) error.

If you suspect your provider token signing key is compromised, you can revoke it from your developer account. You can issue a new key pair and can then generate new tokens with the new private key. For maximum security, close all your connections to APNs that had been using tokens signed with the now-revoked key, and reconnect before using tokens signed with the new key.

APNs Provider Certificates

Your APNs provider certificate, which you obtain as explained in “Configure push notifications” in Xcode Help, enables connection to both the APNs Production and Development environments.

You can use your APNs certificate to send notifications to your primary app, as identified by its bundle ID, as well as to any Apple Watch complications or backgrounded VoIP services associated with that app. Use the ( 1.2.840.113635.100.6.3.6 ) extension in the certificate to identify the topics for your push notifications. For example, if you provide an app with the bundle ID com.yourcompany.yourexampleapp, you can specify the following topics in the certificate:

  1. Extension ( 1.2.840.113635.100.6.3.6 )
  2. Critical NO
  3. Data com.yourcompany.yourexampleapp
  4. Data app
  5. Data com.yourcompany.yourexampleapp.voip
  6. Data voip
  7. Data com.yourcompany.yourexampleapp.complication
  8. Data complication

APNs Connections

The first step in sending a remote notification is to establish a connection with the appropriate APNs server:

  • Development server: api.development.push.apple.com:443

  • Production server: api.push.apple.com:443

Your provider must support TLS 1.2 or higher when connecting to APNs. You can use the provider client certificate which you obtain from your developer account, as described in Creating a Universal Push Notification Client SSL Certificate.

To connect without an APNs provider certificate, you must instead create a provider authentication token, signed with the key provisioned through your developer account (see “Configure push notifications” in Xcode Help). After you have this token, you can start to send push messages. You must then periodically update the token; each APNs provider authentication token has validity interval of one hour.

APNs allows multiple concurrent streams for each connection. The exact number of streams differs based on your use of a provider certificate or an authentication token, and also differs based on server load. Do not assume a specific number of streams.

When establishing a connection to APNs using a token rather than a certificate, only one stream is allowed on the connection until you send a push message with valid provider authentication token. APNs ignores HTTP/2 PRIORITY frames, so do not send them on your streams.

Best Practices for Managing Connections

Keep your connections with APNs open across multiple notifications; do not repeatedly open and close connections. APNs treats rapid connection and disconnection as a denial-of-service attack. You should leave a connection open unless you know it will be idle for an extended period of time—for example, if you only send notifications to your users once a day, it is acceptable practice to use a new connection each day.

Do not generate a new provider authentication token for each push request that you send. After you obtain a token, continue to use it for all your push requests during the token’s period of validity, which is one full hour.

You can establish multiple connections to APNs servers to improve performance. When you send a large number of remote notifications, distribute them across connections to several server endpoints. This improves performance, compared to using a single connection, by letting you send remote notifications faster and by letting APNs deliver them faster.

If your provider certificate is revoked, or if the key you are using to sign provider tokens is revoked, close all existing connections to APNs and then open new connections.

You can check the health of your connection using an HTTP/2 PING frame.

Terminating an APNs Connection

If APNs decides to terminate an established HTTP/2 connection, it sends a GOAWAY frame. The GOAWAY frame includes JSON data in its payload with a reason key, whose value indicates the reason for the connection termination. For a list of possible values for the reason key, see Table 8-6.

Normal request failures do not result in termination of a connection.

APNs Notification API

The APNs Provider API consists of a request and a response that you configure and send using an HTTP/2 POST command. You use the request to send a push notification to the APNs server and use the response to determine the results of that request.

HTTP/2 Request to APNs

Use a request to send a notification to a specific user device.

Table 8-1HTTP/2 request fields

Name

Value

:method

POST

:path

/3/device/<device-token>

For the <device-token> parameter, specify the hexadecimal bytes of the device token for the target device.

APNs requires the use of HPACK (header compression for HTTP/2), which prevents repeated header keys and values. APNs maintains a small dynamic table for HPACK. To help avoid filling up the APNs HPACK table and necessitating the discarding of table data, encode headers in the following way—especially when sending a large number of streams:

  • The :path value should be encoded as a literal header field without indexing

  • The authorization request header, if present, should be encoded as a literal header field without indexing

  • The appropriate encoding to employ for the apns-id, apns-expiration, and apns-collapse-id request headers differs depending on whether it is part of the initial or a subsequent POST operation, as follows:

    • The first time you send these headers, encode them with incremental indexing to allow the header names to be added to the dynamic table

    • Subsequent times you send these headers, encode them as literal header fields without indexing

Encode all other headers as literal header fields with incremental indexing. For specifics on header encoding, see tools.ietf.org/html/rfc7541#section-6.2.1 and tools.ietf.org/html/rfc7541#section-6.2.2.

APNs ignores request headers other than the ones listed in Table 8-2.

Table 8-2APNs request headers

Header

Description

authorization

The provider token that authorizes APNs to send push notifications for the specified topics. The token is in Base64URL-encoded JWT format, specified as bearer <provider token>.

When the provider certificate is used to establish a connection, this request header is ignored.

apns-id

A canonical UUID that identifies the notification. If there is an error sending the notification, APNs uses this value to identify the notification to your server.

The canonical form is 32 lowercase hexadecimal digits, displayed in five groups separated by hyphens in the form 8-4-4-4-12. An example UUID is as follows:

123e4567-e89b-12d3-a456-42665544000

If you omit this header, a new UUID is created by APNs and returned in the response.

apns-expiration

A UNIX epoch date expressed in seconds (UTC). This header identifies the date when the notification is no longer valid and can be discarded.

If this value is nonzero, APNs stores the notification and tries to deliver it at least once, repeating the attempt as needed if it is unable to deliver the notification the first time. If the value is 0, APNs treats the notification as if it expires immediately and does not store the notification or attempt to redeliver it.

apns-priority

The priority of the notification. Specify one of the following values:

  • 10–Send the push message immediately. Notifications with this priority must trigger an alert, sound, or badge on the target device. It is an error to use this priority for a push notification that contains only the content-available key.

  • 5—Send the push message at a time that takes into account power considerations for the device. Notifications with this priority might be grouped and delivered in bursts. They are throttled, and in some cases are not delivered.

If you omit this header, the APNs server sets the priority to 10.

apns-topic

The topic of the remote notification, which is typically the bundle ID for your app. The certificate you create in your developer account must include the capability for this topic.

If your certificate includes multiple topics, you must specify a value for this header.

If you omit this request header and your APNs certificate does not specify multiple topics, the APNs server uses the certificate’s Subject as the default topic.

If you are using a provider token instead of a certificate, you must specify a value for this request header. The topic you provide should be provisioned for the your team named in your developer account.

apns-collapse-id

Multiple notifications with the same collapse identifier are displayed to the user as a single notification. The value of this key must not exceed 64 bytes. For more information, see Quality of Service, Store-and-Forward, and Coalesced Notifications.

The body content of your message is the JSON dictionary object for your notification’s payload. The body data must not be compressed and its maximum size is 4KB (4096 bytes). For a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) notification, the body data maximum size is 5KB (5120 bytes). For information about the keys and values to include in the body content, see Payload Key Reference.

HTTP/2 Response from APNs

The response to a request has the format listed in Table 8-3.

Table 8-3APNs response headers

Header name

Value

apns-id

The apns-id value from the request. If no value was included in the request, the server creates a new UUID and returns it in this header.

:status

The HTTP status code. For a list of possible status codes, see Table 8-4.

Table 8-4 lists the possible status codes for a request. These values are included in the :status header of the response.

Table 8-4Status codes for an APNs response

Status code

Description

200

Success

400

Bad request

403

There was an error with the certificate or with the provider authentication token

405

The request used a bad :method value. Only POST requests are supported.

410

The device token is no longer active for the topic.

413

The notification payload was too large.

429

The server received too many requests for the same device token.

500

Internal server error

503

The server is shutting down and unavailable.

For a successful request, the body of the response is empty. On failure, the response body contains a JSON dictionary with the keys listed in Table 8-5. This JSON data might also be included in the GOAWAY frame when a connection is terminated.

Table 8-5APNs JSON data keys

Key

Description

reason

The error indicating the reason for the failure. The error code is specified as a string. For a list of possible values, see Table 8-6.

timestamp

If the value in the :status header is 410, the value of this key is the last time at which APNs confirmed that the device token was no longer valid for the topic.

Stop pushing notifications until the device registers a token with a later timestamp with your provider.

Table 8-6 lists the possible error codes included in the reason key of a response’s JSON payload.

Table 8-6Values for the APNs JSON reason key

Status code

Error string

Description

400

BadCollapseId

The collapse identifier exceeds the maximum allowed size

400

BadDeviceToken

The specified device token was bad. Verify that the request contains a valid token and that the token matches the environment.

400

BadExpirationDate

The apns-expiration value is bad.

400

BadMessageId

The apns-id value is bad.

400

BadPriority

The apns-priority value is bad.

400

BadTopic

The apns-topic was invalid.

400

DeviceTokenNotForTopic

The device token does not match the specified topic.

400

DuplicateHeaders

One or more headers were repeated.

400

IdleTimeout

Idle time out.

400

MissingDeviceToken

The device token is not specified in the request :path. Verify that the :path header contains the device token.

400

MissingTopic

The apns-topic header of the request was not specified and was required. The apns-topic header is mandatory when the client is connected using a certificate that supports multiple topics.

400

PayloadEmpty

The message payload was empty.

400

TopicDisallowed

Pushing to this topic is not allowed.

403

BadCertificate

The certificate was bad.

403

BadCertificateEnvironment

The client certificate was for the wrong environment.

403

ExpiredProviderToken

The provider token is stale and a new token should be generated.

403

Forbidden

The specified action is not allowed.

403

InvalidProviderToken

The provider token is not valid or the token signature could not be verified.

403

MissingProviderToken

No provider certificate was used to connect to APNs and Authorization header was missing or no provider token was specified.

404

BadPath

The request contained a bad :path value.

405

MethodNotAllowed

The specified :method was not POST.

410

Unregistered

The device token is inactive for the specified topic.

Expected HTTP/2 status code is 410; see Table 8-4.

413

PayloadTooLarge

The message payload was too large. See Creating the Remote Notification Payload for details on maximum payload size.

429

TooManyProviderTokenUpdates

The provider token is being updated too often.

429

TooManyRequests

Too many requests were made consecutively to the same device token.

500

InternalServerError

An internal server error occurred.

503

ServiceUnavailable

The service is unavailable.

503

Shutdown

The server is shutting down.

HTTP/2 Request/Response Examples for APNs

Listing 8-1 shows a sample request constructed for a provider certificate.

Listing 8-1Sample request for a certificate with a single topic
  1. HEADERS
  2. - END_STREAM
  3. + END_HEADERS
  4. :method = POST
  5. :scheme = https
  6. :path = /3/device/00fc13adff785122b4ad28809a3420982341241421348097878e577c991de8f0
  7. host = api.development.push.apple.com
  8. apns-id = eabeae54-14a8-11e5-b60b-1697f925ec7b
  9. apns-expiration = 0
  10. apns-priority = 10
  11. DATA
  12. + END_STREAM
  13. { "aps" : { "alert" : "Hello" } }

Listing 8-2 shows a sample request constructed for a provider authentication token.

Listing 8-2Sample request for a provider authentication token
  1. HEADERS
  2. - END_STREAM
  3. + END_HEADERS
  4. :method = POST
  5. :scheme = https
  6. :path = /3/device/00fc13adff785122b4ad28809a3420982341241421348097878e577c991de8f0
  7. host = api.development.push.apple.com
  8. authorization = bearer eyAia2lkIjogIjhZTDNHM1JSWDciIH0.eyAiaXNzIjogIkM4Nk5WOUpYM0QiLCAiaWF0I jogIjE0NTkxNDM1ODA2NTAiIH0.MEYCIQDzqyahmH1rz1s-LFNkylXEa2lZ_aOCX4daxxTZkVEGzwIhALvkClnx5m5eAT6 Lxw7LZtEQcH6JENhJTMArwLf3sXwi
  9. apns-id = eabeae54-14a8-11e5-b60b-1697f925ec7b
  10. apns-expiration = 0
  11. apns-priority = 10
  12. apns-topic = <MyAppTopic>
  13. DATA
  14. + END_STREAM
  15. { "aps" : { "alert" : "Hello" } }

Listing 8-3 shows a sample request constructed for a certificate that contains multiple topics.

Listing 8-3Sample request for a certificate with multiple topics
  1. HEADERS
  2. - END_STREAM
  3. + END_HEADERS
  4. :method = POST
  5. :scheme = https
  6. :path = /3/device/00fc13adff785122b4ad28809a3420982341241421348097878e577c991de8f0
  7. host = api.development.push.apple.com
  8. apns-id = eabeae54-14a8-11e5-b60b-1697f925ec7b
  9. apns-expiration = 0
  10. apns-priority = 10
  11. apns-topic = <MyAppTopic>
  12. DATA
  13. + END_STREAM
  14. { "aps" : { "alert" : "Hello" } }

Listing 8-4 shows a sample response for a successful push request.

Listing 8-4Sample response for a successful request
  1. HEADERS
  2. + END_STREAM
  3. + END_HEADERS
  4. apns-id = eabeae54-14a8-11e5-b60b-1697f925ec7b
  5. :status = 200

Listing 8-5 shows a sample response when an error occurs.

Listing 8-5Sample response for a request that encountered an error
  1. HEADERS
  2. - END_STREAM
  3. + END_HEADERS
  4. :status = 400
  5. content-type = application/json
  6. apns-id: <a_UUID>
  7. DATA
  8. + END_STREAM
  9. { "reason" : "BadDeviceToken" }