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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.

Abusing the privilege

We suspect that for many people, the most annoying thing about notifications is developers who abuse the system, using notifications not to alert you to important information, but to annoy you with incessant banners reminding you to — the most-common example we've seen — come back and play their game. (This one ties in nicely with the previous item: If you knew an app would be spamming you like this, you never would have allowed it to use notifications.)

Currently, short of being irritated enough to delete the offending app outright, your only recourse is to manually go into Notification Center settings and disable notifications for the app. (We recommend also leaving an appropriately worded review on the App Store.) It would be great if you could instead disable a particular app's notifications right from within Notification Center, perhaps by tap-holding on a notification and choosing the option from a popover. (Heck, though we acknowledge the problems it could cause, there are times we wish we could actually delete an app right from within Notification Center.)

All, missed

If the responses from our Twitter followers are any indication, iOS 7's attempt to divide Notification Center into Missed and All lists didn't quite hit its mark. The All pane, for the record, is supposed to contain all of your notifications, while the Missed pane contains only those you haven't addressed in the last 24 hours. But neither seems to work quite as designed: For many people, the Missed pane is always empty, while for others — us included — it often displays notifications that we've not only seen but have actually acted upon.

The easiest solution would seem to be merging these two views back into a single list. For example, Apple could take a cue from a tried-and-true interface: the Recents pane of the Phone app. Give us a list of notifications in reverse chronological order (either by app or intermingled, depending on your preferences) and highlight the ones that we might have missed. Simple, easy to read, and proven.

Miscellanea

There are also a few minor tweaks we'd like to see that would make Notification Center more useful. For example, we'd like to be able to specify only particular calendars to be included in the Today view — we don't really need to see our sports-team calendar subscriptions each time we open Notification Center. On the other hand, we often do want to see all-day events in the Today view, but these events aren't displayed. How about a simple toggle in Notification Center settings for choosing whether or not they appear?

It would also be nice if notifications were a bit longer. As one of our Twitter followers pointed out, Notification Center could be perfect for keeping an eye on Twitter replies without having to open your favorite client ... except that many tweets get cut off, forcing you to launch that client just to view the three words you couldn't see.

Admittedly, it's unlikely that Apple will choose to address all of these issues in a forthcoming iOS update, but with all this room for improvement, we certainly hope a few of them might find their way to top of the priority list.

 

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