Notifications and the Notification Center

At first glance notifications on a locked iOS device appear to be simply restyled. Instead of a blue popup with white text you get a black popup with white text - and an app icon. Unlike previous versions of iOS however, multiple notifications now appear in a list on the lock screen rather than simply replacing the notification that was there previously.

 

  

The list of notifications can get very long (we didn't test to see if it would ultimately stop, but you can now display at least 30 notifications on the lock screen) and iOS 5 allows you to scroll through them:

 

This feature alone is worth the upgrade to iOS 5 as it's a huge improvement in usability. You can now quickly get the gist of any SMS conversation and ensure there are no urgent emails that need tending to with a quick glance at your locked phone. Interacting with notifications from the lock screen is also improved, you can now slide over any notification to address it specifically:

 

While you’re actually using the phone, notifications are delivered via a small banner at the top of the screen, rather than the pop-up that would interrupt what you were doing. You can tap the banner to launch the app associated with the incoming notification, otherwise you're free to continue to use your device as if nothing happened. The banner notification eventually folds away if left untouched. It's significantly less intrusive than anything we've seen previously from Apple.

The older popup notification style is still available through the Notification Center settings page. You can now choose, on a per app basis, how you want notifications to appear: via alerts or the new iOS 5 banner style.
 
Apple offers a good amount of customization for notifications. You can choose whether or notifications appear on the lock screen, if a preview should be shown and if the associated badge app icon should appear. You can toggle all of these options, again, on a per-app basis. 

  

 
System notifications, such as those asking you to join a wireless network and those alerting you to low battery life, continue to use the “alert” style and are unchangeable.
 

Swiping a finger down from the top of the screen reveals the new Notification Center, where your active notifications are all listed (some apps, like Weather and Stocks, can also display permanent widgets here if desired). Notifications are listed by app, and will disappear from the Notification Center once addressed or cleared manually by the user. 

Pulling down the notification shade in a full screen app is a two-step process: pull once to reveal a tab and pull twice to reveal the shade. Apple does this to avoid any accidental shade activation.

The number of notifications per app in the Notification Center is customizable:

On the iPad, Notification Center works mostly like it does on the iPhone - although obviously occupying less of the screen:

The impact of the revamped notification system is arguably even more pronounced on the iPad as the previous system was a significant burden to productive use of the tablet.

The verdict? None of these features are exactly new to smartphones (Android users, especially, will note many similarities to the notifications shade) but the implementation is smooth and it really goes a long way toward making iOS more pleasant to use - the best software upgrades make you wonder how you got by without the improvements they bring, and the notification improvements achieve that goal.

Introduction iMessage: Apple's Own BBM
POST A COMMENT

89 Comments

View All Comments

  • simi13 - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I could swear I am on 9to5mac.com (I read anand and that daily), hahaha. A very nice review, though. Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    It does fail to mention a glaring omission in the OS, though: repeating, AUDIBLE notifications of MISSED CALLS.

    This was inexcusable in version 1, but after five or six years, Apple's phone still lacks an important, common-sense feature that was found on cell phones in the '90s. Aren't people sick of missing time with their friends and families because they didn't find out they called until the next day?

    Your phone is on its charger on your dresser, and you're taking a shower when someone calls; the phone gives one little chirp immediately after the call and never again. WTF? If you missed the call, it stands to reason that you're going to miss a single noise right after it. The thing should (OPTIONALLY) notify you periodically that someone called, until you cancel the notification.

    Even more bafflingly, Apple added repeat-notification controls for TEXTS. So if there's an emergency in my family and my parents want to get in touch with me, we're assuming they'll TEXT me? Brilliant, Apple. You have to wonder what kind of retards make these decisions over there.
    Reply
  • eallan - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I hope Apple adds the option for people that want it, but man, that is one specific complaint.

    I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax
    Reply
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax"

    Sorry man, but it IS a big deal. Who in the hell would want to wake his phone periodically? Don't you realize how stressful this is? You'll never get to 'relax' knowing someone might have called or texted you etc. You'll be constantly checking out your iPhone and over time this will drive you crazy. Not a small matter by any means and surely not 'niche', since every freaking user suffers from this.

    If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator for missed events and sufficient options to customize alerts, but they would be off by default so idiots wouldn't complain that their iPhone is bugging them. Leave it disabled by default, that's fine, might even add a warning before activating alerts, but this feature just needs to be there, man.
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    > If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator

    Agreed. It was only last weekend, when my neighbor was showing off her new 4S, that I realized you couldn't just look over at the phone to see if you have a txt/email/voicemail waiting for you. Something my Treo 650 used to do just fine.

    As great as new phones are, it is amazing how some of them have taken steps backwards in many little ways.
    Reply
  • robco - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    That's all well and good if you're home alone, your phone rings, you aren't available, you find out when you return. However, I do recall back in the day, being in a public place, someone's phone rings in their purse or jacket, they're off in the bathroom or in a meeting or something. Not only do you have to listen to their phone ringing, but then you have to listen to the audible beep every so often and that can get quite annoying. Convenient for you, not always convenient for those around you.

    Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds.
    Reply
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds."

    I'm more concerned with my personal psychologic wellness rather than with what irritates the others. Then again, why not include the feature but disable it by default? Morons won't even care to enable the cornerstone feature of any mobile device, but those who care - they will.

    You probably don't realize how retarded the 'quick tap' concept is, how extremely inconvinient for the user. Why should he or she pimp the damn square button every now and then? There is just no excuse for not really caring about end users.
    Reply
  • snuuggles - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - link

    Hmmm, I think you are too-quickly dismissing a valid point. I mean, there are actual laws about car alarms that go off repeatedly because they are so amazingly annoying. I think your repeated noise idea is along the same line. A dedicated light might be a better compramise.

    Honestly, you seem a little unhinged, I somehow doubt that adding this single notification feature will allow you to have better "personal psychological wellness."

    Maybe you should get rid of the phone if it's that important. Unless you are a doctor or the president, being reachable isn't *that* important.
    Reply
  • kezeka - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I am in medical school and I can personally vouch against doctors wanting to be within earshot. If we aren't on call (you would have a pager for this) then there is no reason to constantly check the phone. There are instances where I can see it being necessary.

    That said, I leave my phone completely silenced all day, every day and just check it periodically to see if anyone has tried to contact me. If they have, I call them back. It isn't worth breaking your concentration to be completely on top of things (insert link to any number of articles suggesting the human brain is horrible at multitasking here).
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I actually am with MobiusStrip here. Different people use their phones in different ways, and I'd appreciate a more aggressive reminding of missed calls.

    A similar problem (which I reported as a bug a year ago, but which is still not fixed) is audible notification of text messages. Suppose you have your phone connected to a BT headset or headphones, and a call comes through. The phone is smart enough to realize that it should still ring the phone speaker because you may not actually have the headset or headphones plugged in. But it does not extend that same level of intelligence to other notifications, most obviously text messages --- but I think also Skype or Viber calls.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now