Intro to Messages

Messages are the content you want to send to your users; Composers are the means by which you create messages through the dashboard. This topic explains the basics of messages and composers.

Message Types

There are several message types, each defined by how they are experienced by the user. Some message types support automation of delivery or display based on triggers. See the descriptions and additional information in Message and Composer Types.

  • Push notification
    • Silent push notification
    • Web push notification
  • In-app message
  • Message Center
  • Apple News notification
  • Email notification
  • SMS notification


A message can be sent to all of an app’s or website’s users, a section of users, defined test user groups, or to lists of users.

Learn more in How Messages Work: Your Audience.

Behavior and Appearance

When you create a message, you can determine various aspects of the message depending on message type. The most basic appearance division is whether the message is text only or styled. Within styled messages are various options to control colors, include media and buttons, and designate what actions occur when a user interacts with the message.

The display of a message varies per message type, based on:

  • Display format: The visual format of the message.
  • Display timing: When the message appears.
  • Display location: Where the message appears.

Display Format

App and Web messages support banner, modal, or fullscreen formats.

  • Banner messages appear at the top or bottom of your screen, sliding up from the bottom of the screen, or down from the top. They are designed to be less obtrusive to users than modal or fullscreen messages, by taking only a portion of the screen and not fully interrupting the user from their current task. Example uses include informational messages, news alerts, or promotions that do not deserve a full user interruption.

  • Modal messages take over the user’s screen, compelling the user to interact with them. Modals are typically used to prompt users to reply to a question or make a quick decision. The message window is smaller than the full width of the screen, superimposed on the app with a translucent background, assuring the user that the interruption is temporary.

  • Fullscreen messages are similar to modal messages but take over the entire screen, providing more real estate for your message.

Email notifications are based on templates. If created from the dashboard, there are three layouts to choose from, or you can provide your own HTML when creating email templates via the API. You may also enter a text-only version for email clients that do not render HTML.

Display Timing

The display timing of a message varies per message type, but messages typically become available to recipients:

  • Push notification: Upon receipt.
    • Silent push notification: Not displayed.
    • Web push notification: Upon receipt, as long as the browser is open..
  • In-app message: Upon opening the app.
  • Message Center: Available in the app’s Message Center.
  • Apple News notification: Upon receipt.
  • Email notification: Upon opening the message.
  • SMS notification: Upon receipt.

You can choose to send a message immediately, schedule its delivery for a certain date and time, or send at Optimal Time. Scheduled messages may also be delivered per time zone.


Automation is a set of conditions that your audience must meet before they receive a message. Triggers determine what event must occur before Airship will send your message. You can set automation to send messages immediately, on a schedule, or during an available window. In-App AutomationMessages that are cached on users’ devices and displayed when your users meet certain conditions within your app, such as viewing a particular screen or opening the app a certain number of times. Messages sent using in-app automation can be styled as a banner, modal, or fullscreen. does not have delivery settings.

Display Location

Message alerts are handled natively per platform and according to user preferences. The display location of the full message content varies per message type:

  • Push notification: Any screen on a mobile device.
    • Silent push notification: Not displayed.
    • Web push notification: A desktop/laptop’s top right or bottom left corner.
  • In-app message: Within an app only.
  • Message Center: Within an app’s Message Center inbox.
  • Apple News notification: Any screen on a mobile device.
  • Email notification: The recipient’s email inbox.
  • SMS notification: The recipient device’s native SMS client.

See descriptions and links to detailed documentation for each in Message and Composer Types.


Persistent message content remains available even if the alerts for the message are dismissed. For example, Message Center, Email, and SMS content can be viewed in the app’s Message Center, email inbox, or the device’s native SMS client until the message is deleted by its recipient. Non-persistent message types become unavailable when users dismiss them. A message’s linked content, e.g., a web link, deep link, an Apple News story, remains available as determined by the source host.

Creating Messages

To get messages to your users, you need:

  • An Airship account.
  • An app or website.
  • A project to contain your messages.

Learn more in How Messages and Passes Work, and follow the steps in the messaging project tutorials to get started.


Try sending messages now, using our 1st Flight app. No development required!