Easier notifications in iOS 2021.5


Notifications are a popular feature of the Companion apps, but the differences between Android and iOS made it painful to use them to their full potential. Starting with today’s release of iOS 2021.5, the vast majority of functionality is now shared across both platforms. As part of this, the notifications documentation has been extensively updated as well.

Actionable notifications

Building actionable notifications for iOS and watchOS no longer requires defining categories in advance of using them; instead, you can include the actions right in the notification. Support for macOS will be included in a future release. Categories were one of the hurdles around multi-server support, so removing them entirely solves that part!

Included in the documentation is how to migrate from categories to dynamic actions. Both are still supported in the app at this time, but categories will be removed in the future.

Below is an example script which sends an actionable notification and uses script variables, wait for trigger, and choose to decide what to run.

# In a script's `sequence` or an automation's `actions`
- alias: "Set up action variables"
  variables:
    # Including 'id' in 'action' allows us to identify this script run
    # and not accidentally trigger for other notification actions
    action_very: "{{ 'VERY_' ~ context.id }}"
    action_mod: "{{ 'MOD_' ~ context.id }}"
- alias: "Send the notification"
  service: notify.mobile_app_zac_iphone
  data:
    message: "Are you hungry?"
    data:
      actions:
        - action: "{{ action_very }}"
          title: "Very Hungry"
        - action: "{{ action_mod }}"
          title: "Moderately Hungry"
- alias: "Wait for a response"
  wait_for_trigger:
    # We wait for specific actions because we don't want to run for 
    # any action, only for a response to the one we just sent
    - platform: event
      event_type: mobile_app_notification_action
      event_data:
        action: "{{ action_very }}"
    - platform: event
      event_type: mobile_app_notification_action
      event_data:
        action: "{{ action_mod }}"
- alias: "Handle the response"
  choose:
    - conditions: "{{ wait.trigger.event.data.action == action_very }}"
      sequence:
        - service: notify.notify
          data:
            message: "⚠️ Soylent Launch Incoming"
        - service: homeassistant.turn_on
          target:
            entity_id: switch.soylent_dispenser
    - conditions: "{{ wait.trigger.event.data.action == action_mod }}"
      sequence:
        - service: notify.notify
          data:
            message: "Anyone want to grab a croissant? -Zac"

This works for both platforms without including any platform-specific logic! Other features around actionable notifications are also shared, including adding a URL to open when picking an action:

actions:
  - action: "URI"
    title: "View More"
    uri: "/lovelace/some-dashboard"

Replacing, grouping, clearing

Replacing existing notifications or threading certain notifications was another difference between platforms, and the iOS-specific versions were a bit less ergonomic, so the Android versions now work for both. You can now use the simpler tag and group keys:

- service: notify.mobile_app_<your_device>
  data:
    message: "The front door is unlocked!"
    data:
      # replace any existing front_door_lock notifications
      tag: front_door_lock
      # thread with other doors notifications
      group: doors

You can also remove an existing notification by its tag:

- service: notify.mobile_app_<your_device>
  data:
    message: clear_notification
    data:
      tag: front_door_lock

Attachments

Attachments no longer require certain categories for dynamic attachment, so you can include streaming playback of a camera for any notification:

- service: notify.mobile_app_<your_device>
  data:
    message: "Motion detected"
    data:
      entity_id: camera.outside

Specifying a non-dynamic attachment is a little easier now, allowing you to short-hand the attachment part:

- service: notify.mobile_app_<your_device>
  data:
    message: "3D Print Complete"
    data:
      image: /media/local/3dprinter/latest.jpg

You can use video, image and audio. Only image is supported on Android.

You may have noticed that iOS notifications have file limits; this release adds on-demand downloading of attachments that exceed the size limit or when requested using the lazy attachment option.

Future areas of improvement

We’re still on the lookout for places of confusion or redundancy in notifications across the iOS and Android apps. What would you like to see improved?





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