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10 ways Apple could make iOS's Notification Center great

Dan Frakes and Dan Moren | April 17, 2014
When Notification Center arrived in iOS 5, we greeted it with a sigh of relief. No more alerts lost to the ravages of time, easy access to all of our notifications in a single place, and even a handy way to get a look at the weather or stock info.

Let me clear that for you

Since so many of our frustrations appear to be connected with clearing items out of Notification Center, let's take things a step further: What if Notification Center could automatically let certain items "roll off" as they no longer became relevant? After three weeks, that to-do item that you ignored probably isn't a high priority; nor is that week-old text message or email.

While not every item would be a candidate for auto-clearing, there are plenty of places where it would help avoid the build-up of outdated cruft. Allowing certain types of notifications to have expiration dates would greatly simplify managing Notification Center, not to mention making it more relevant by focusing on only the most pertinent items.

Moreover, iOS could be a bit smarter about connecting the dots to determine when notifications can be cleared. For example, if I read a text message or email, chances are I no longer need to see its notification. The same goes for Twitter mentions, Facebook status updates, and the like. In general, if I've opened an app, I no longer need to see its notifications. Having to mark things as read within an app and then again in Notification Center is both redundant and ridiculous.

The same goes for notifications that pop up on multiple devices. Apple's already working on cross-device notification syncing with iMessages, FaceTime calls, and even email. But it would be nice if there were a simple way for every app's notifications to be cleared, on all our devices, once we've dismissed them on one.

Better settings

We'll just come right out and say it: Settings > Notification Center is a bit of a mess. While we appreciate the capability to manually arrange the order in which applications appear in the notifications list, "no order" is not an acceptable organizational scheme for the settings screen itself, especially now that many users have a plethora of apps.

Currently, finding a particular app and tweaking its notifications requires slowly scrolling through the app list — and if you miss the app, well, it's back to the top to start the process again. If alphabetical order doesn't work (because of the manual sorting option), then at least throw us a search or filter field so we can find the item we're looking for.

The situation's little better within each app's entry. Turning off all notifications for a particular app requires multiple taps to deactivate banners/alerts, turn off app badges, deactivate sounds, and remove from Notification Center and the lock screen. A single option to deactivate all notifications for an app would be much appreciated.

And while we're considering turning off notifications for an app, perhaps iOS could give us a helping hand by letting us know exactly which apps are sending notifications. An indicator in the Notification Center app list showing which apps have recently sent us notifications, like the one in Location Services that lets us know which apps have requested our location in the past day, would be very handy indeed.


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