by Jason Snell
Live Activities, Push Notifications, and iMessage on airplanes
A new version of the excellent flight-tracking app Flighty was just released. I can’t endorse this app enough, but its support for Live Activities (and the Dynamic Island) on iOS 16 has made it even cooler.
As pointed out by Flighty’s Ryan Jones, if you’re on in-flight Wi-Fi (just the free version many airlines offer, which lets you access iMessage), the Live Activities will keep updating:
Everyone’s asking how @FlightyApp’s Airplane Mode works:
1. Plane WiFi allows iMessage
2. Guess what else uses that protocol? new Live Activities
3. So, send LA updates (max 4kb payload!) and have app load *that* data
Presto! The app updates via Live Activities 😎
– by @ifrins pic.twitter.com/oThVYDBna7
— Ryan Jones (@rjonesy) November 21, 2022
The secret here is that Apple uses the same pathway for iMessage as it does for its push-notification service. I fly on Southwest Airlines a lot, and while I don’t pay for their Wi-Fi, I do activate instant messaging so that I can send texts using iMessage. For the duration of my flight, I don’t just get iMessage texts—I also get push notifications from every app I use that uses Apple’s push-notification service, even if the app doesn’t have access to the Internet.
This is because all remote push-notifications have to come from Apple’s notification servers—it’s the law. And since iMessage uses the same pathway, it means that an app like Flighty can receive Live Activity updates even when the app itself can’t reach the Internet. Which is extra helpful for an app whose users are on airplanes a lot of the time.
And when your favorite sports app adds Live Activities, you should be able to keep tabs on games in progress without paying for airplane Wi-Fi, so long as your airline lets you connect to iMessage.