How messaging works

Learn how Airship gets messages to your users.

Before you can send messages, you need:

  1. An app or website integrated with the Airship SDK. The SDK enables communications with mobile devices and web browsers. However:
    • SMS and email notifications do not require an app or website.
    • Notifications sent to Open Channels do not require SDK integration, but your webhook server must be able to process and interpret a JSON payload.
  2. A container for your messages. This is the project. You will create a project for each app or website you want to communicate with.
  3. An audience of your app’s or website’s opted-in users.
    • Apple News notifications are sent to Apple News subscribers. The Apple News audience management is not handled via Airship.

With those things in place, then:

  1. You create a message.
  2. Your app or website interprets the message via the Airship SDK, displaying or delivering it to users. SMS, email, and Apple News notifications are interpreted by a native client and do not use or require the SDK.
  3. Users see your message.


To take advantage of Airship, you must have an app, website, or another medium, e.g, SMS, email, etc., that you want to use to communicate with your users.

Apps and websites

Your app or website must include the Airship SDK. The SDK is the mechanism for registering your users as channels in Airship, making them eligible to receive non-SMS messages. The SDK also interprets message payloads that you send to your users and tracks user trends within your app.

The SDK also enables Named UserA customer-provided identifier used for mapping multiple devices and channels to a specific individual. , Channel CoordinationA group of strategies you can use to target users where they are most likely to receive your message. , and predictive features: Predictive ChurnAnalyzes your audience for users that exhibit behaviors indicating they are likely to become inactive, and tags the users as High, Medium, or Low Risk. and Optimal Send TimeAn algorithm that determines the best hour for optimal engagement activity — when each individual member of your audience is most likely to receive and act on your message. iOS, Android, and Amazon platforms only. .

SMS, Email, and open channels

You do not need to use the Airship SDK for SMS, email, or open channels. However, these channels typically require you to use the API to register new channels and perform other features.

SMS and email are native messaging channels; you can register users via the API, but you don’t need to do anything special to communicate with your users via SMS or email.

However, while email and SMS channels are convenient mediums and easy to set up, they do not provide the orchestration and predictive features that help you better understand your user base. Data and analytic features generally require the SDK.

Open channels are platforms that are not natively supported by the Airship SDK. To use Airship with open channels, your open platform, e.g., chatbot, Slack integration, must be able to accept and interpret a JSON payload. Typically you will enable the delivery of the payload via a webhook server. See: Open Channels.

Your project

Almost everything you do with Airship, including creating messages, happens inside a project. A project is essentially Airship’s representation of your app or website. A project:

  • Is a record for your app, website, and any other channels you use to communicate with your audience.
  • Stores your message history, message templates, audience and analytic data, channel configuration, and default message configuration settings.
  • Contains the keys required to talk to various notification services.

You make use of all Airship features from within a project or using your project’s app key. Each of your apps or websites requires an individual Airship project, which will have separate application keys and audiences. See: The SDKs and APIs: Authentication.

You create projects in the DashboardThe Airship web interface located at or .