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Bad News: Ads Are Coming to Your iPhone Push Notifications

Good news: It looks like you'll be able to opt out fairly easily.

bbchase/Twitter

Advertisements are coming to one of the few relatively ad-free digital spaces that still exist: iPhone push notifications. That’s right, in the very near future that buzz in your pocket could be a company trying to sell you something instead of your wife reminding you to pick up bread or your fantasy football app alerting you that your RB1 is injured (ugh.)

We know about this unfortunate development thanks to Apple’s recent update to its app developer guidelines that was spotted by 9to5Mac. Thankfully, a close reading of the relevant section does reveal some good news.

Push Notifications must not be required for the app to function, and should not be used to send sensitive personal or confidential information. Push Notifications should not be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in your app’s UI, and you provide a method in your app for a user to opt out from receiving such messages.

So you’ll have the ability to both grant and revoke permission for the ads, thank goodness. But that still leaves us wondering why it’s making this change, over a decade after Apple launched push notifications with iOS 3.0.

The best theory we’ve heard comes from The Verge, which points out that Apple has broken its own rules more than once by sending out push notifications that are basically ads, notably for Apple Music and the Kendall Jenner episode of Carpool Karaoke on Apple TV+, that engendered some pretty angry reactions from both users and devs.

If another developer had done so, they would have risked banishment from the App Store. By modifying the rules, Apple is precluding future critiques from that it’s not operating by the standards it demands of developers.

Given the strict opt-in and opt-out language, we’re hopeful that this change won’t have much of an effect on the iPhone experience in the near future even while it feels like the first step toward more invasive iPhone advertising.