Notifications: Better than Apple, Worse than Palm

When Apple introduced its notification system on the iPhone, I was pleased. If you’re using your phone and you get a SMS, a little bubble appears on the screen and you get to read/dismiss the SMS:

That was three years ago. The iPhone can do a lot more now and the notification system is beginning to show its age. It’s annoying if you’re trying to do something else with your phone and you keep getting notifications. And it doesn’t scale well to getting tons of notifications, you’re just shown the most recent with no indication of what came before it.

Palm improved on Apple’s system by claiming a line or two of screen real estate and displaying notifications at the bottom of the screen. It was far less intrusive than Apple’s method but still gave you the same functionality. If you wanted to see more, just tap the notification bar and you see more of the message. This works for IMs, text messages, etc...

Notifications on the Palm Pre at the Bottom

Google takes a similar approach to Palm, although you don’t lose any additional screen real estate. The upper left hand corner of the screen is reserved for notifications. It’s a part of the status bar so there’s no screen resizing at work. If you get a message, missed call, IM, or anything you get a preview in this corner. The entirety of any message is displayed here; if it can’t fit on a single line, the message appears piecemeal.

Notifications can build up over time. Here we have a missed call, USB connection message, debug mode message and Pandora running in the background all at the same time:

Kinda crowded, right? Here’s where it gets awkward. To see all of your notifications simply place your finger at the top of your screen and drag down. You’ll reveal all of your notifications in list form:

It feels awkward if you’re used to using any non-Android phone. It’s functional, it gets the job done, but it’s just a strange UI construct. In fact, Android is riddled with such things.

The Keyboard: Form Factor vs. Speed Enter the Snapdragon


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  • Antioch18x - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    Not only that but I didn't see mention of using a background task killer with "auto kill." (But, granted, I didn't *read* the whole article as I already own a N1 and didn't need to see your impressions of it). Due to the Android's method of multitasking, many times you don't actually exit an app when you think you do - it continues running in the background. You really do need a background task auto-killer to get the best battery life. This is one flaw, I think, in Android.

    Anyways, keeping this in mind I find that your battery life tests may be off. I get better battery life on my N1 than the old iPhone 3G.
  • spideryk - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    There are alternative keyboards available for the android. as of right now swype keyboard is the best available means of entering text on a smart phone. once you get used to swype, you only need one hand to type and most of the time do not need to look at the keyboard to type. a must have on android. Reply
  • bob1939 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Great review as usual but you missed something I consider critical. The lack of support for hands free bluetooth dialing.
    Where I live it can cost $180 if you are caught using a handheld phone while driving, so Hands Free dialing is a must.
    Worse Google insists in calling his shortcoming an enhancement and shows no sign of fixing it in the near term.
    For me this is a showstopper.

    Bob Benedetti
  • dvinnen - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Not sure what you mean by blue tooth dialing but there is certainly voice dialing. The whole voice integration in Android is really fantastic as Anand said in his review. Reply
  • bob1939 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    I mean leave the phone in your pocket and press the button on the steering wheel, on the bluetooth speaker or bluetooth earpiece and say call whoever and the phone dials the number.
    My understanding of the N1 and other Android 2.1 devices is that you have to press something at least twice on the phone to operate the voice dial. Where I live that will cost $180 if you are seen by a cop fiddling with the phone while driving.

    Bob Benedetti
  • LongTimePCUser - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I have a Motorola Droid and a 2006 Toyota Prius.
    The Droid connects via BlueTooth with the Prius.
    I can dial a phone number on the Droid from the Prius touch screen.
  • joe6 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    1) Good: Nexus One has a microSD card slot. Big advantage in my book.
    2) Bad: Nexus One doesn't support Exchange/Outlook calendar sync without going through the Google cloud services. This is just silly and frankly, kills the deal for me. I think most Nexus One RMAs come from this bullet alone.
  • Pitne - Monday, April 05, 2010 - link

    There an app for this. How do you people miss the point that is android? Android is all about being open and not LOCKED DOWN like apple. So go download the more functional exchange apps and STFU Reply
  • Cali3350 - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Not sure if you posted it and I missed it or if you simply don't want to say in a public forum (which is understandable) but which do you , Anand, see yourself using in the future - the Nexus One or the iPhone 3GS? That sort of message says a lot about the current state of the platforms. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Sunday, April 04, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I'm torn.

    After the review I switched back to the 3GS because of the simplicity and the keyboard (I type a *lot*). In doing so, I miss the screen, form factor (ugh it was painful holding the iPhone to my head for an hour long phonecall vs. the Nexus One), some of the apps/features and the speed of the Nexus One. Today my answer would be the 3GS, but after using the Nexus One so much over the past few weeks I have to say that some aspects of the iPhone really do feel archaic.

    What I may do going forward is continue to alternate between the two to get a better feel for their respective strengths and weaknesses.

    Take care,

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