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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.

Silent mode revisited

The iPhone and iPad make for great gaming devices — until you're in the middle of an intense bit of action and a notification pops up on the screen. Even if it's just a banner (which appears at the top of the screen and then fades out), rather than a modal alert, it's still distracting. And even on the latest Apple devices, with all their horsepower, Notification Center banners still seem to bog down the device for a second or two.

Similarly, we suspect that many reading this article have been in a situation where they were using their phone for navigation in the car and were interrupted by a modal notification right smack in the middle of the screen. This one's not only annoying; it's also dangerous, as you have to take your eyes off the road to dismiss the alert if you want to be able to glance at the screen for navigation help. And it's just as annoying — if not as dangerous — when notifications interrupt your movie-watching sessions.

iOS offers a convenient Do Not Disturb mode that silences incoming calls and alerts. And if you've enabled (in the Do Not Disturb screen of the Settings app) the new Silence: Always option of iOS 7, you can temporarily prevent notification interruptions by manually enabling Do Not Disturb mode using Control Center. But this silences notifications and calls, and it requires that you remember to manually enable Do Not Disturb before every activity (and to manually disable it after each activity is finished).

Though we suspect this approach would be too "fiddly" for Apple, we'd like to see an API that developers could use to let you disable, within an app, notifications while using that app. We'd even be happy with just a device-wide setting that would let you disable notifications when using particular categories of apps, such as Games, Entertainment, or Navigation.

Delayed decisions and default settings

If an app offers notifications, you're asked, the very first time you launch the app, if you want to allow it to use notifications. The problem is that you may not know if you want notifications from that app until you've used it for a while. We're not sure what the perfect solution would be here, but there's got to be a better way.

On that note, when you do agree to let an app send you notifications, you're stuck with a particular set of notification settings — unless you really want, say, banners, app badges, and sounds, you have to manually change those settings for each app. We'd like to be able to choose default settings for allowed apps so, for example, apps don't use audible notifications unless we explicitly tell them to do so.


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