Today my iPhone, iPad, and Watch are cluttered with notifications of all kinds because apps and Apple, the purveyor of fine applications for mobile devices, hasn’t bothered to update iOS so it handles the flood of notifications better.
Curator, Meet Curation
With ever more applications, and each one doing more than apps in the past, and with iOS growing in complexity and capability, we poor iPhone, iPad, and Watch users are being inundated with notifications, alarms, alerts and incoming clutter than perceived possible in years past.
Yes, friends, it’s a jungle in there. A quick look at the Notification screen on my iPhone reveals a long, long, and growing list of recent notifications that arrived just since my last meeting began barely an hour ago. There’s email from Mail and Spark (I use both), texts from Messages, weather alerts, sports scores, Instagram and Facebook, App Store, news apps, FaceTime and Skype, Flipboard and News, and the list goes on.
Yes, this is partly my fault because I’m a current events junkie with a few OCD genes so I like to stay apprised of what is goin on, and what better way to do that than Notifications. Open Settings on iOS, tap on Notifications, and tell me, what do you see? Almost every app these days has some kind of notification it wants to send to us. I have a PDF reader with notifications.
Does that mean all the apps on my Home screen or flipped to screens glow in the dark with red number badges? Well, yes, but it’s worse on the Notification screen. The first thing I do on my iPhone X is lift the phone to wake and flip up the lock screen. Yes, you can perform all three tasks to get to the Home screen in about a second. It’s called muscle memory. If you tap the screen just above the bottom during the Face ID unlock process you get the Notifications list.
And what a list it can be. If you’re not careful you can have dozens of notifications, alerts, alarms, and the like show up on the screen just waiting for you to, well, read. Or, prune. Or, close it down and take a lunch break. What’s the problem?
Notifications doesn’t scale.
That means Notifications doesn’t display a single Messages notification, or a single Mail or Spark notification, or a single of anything you get multiples of. It displays them all in the reverser order they arrived and if you haven’t checked your iPhone or iPad or Watch in awhile, the list becomes ever longer (thank you, Apple, for at least divvying it up by day).
Every notification in Notifications has the same value, the same weight, and if you only get a handful of them each day, it works. But Notifications works much like the Dock. It’s great for a few apps you use regularly, but if you have dozens of apps, the Dock just keeps getting smaller, and smaller, and less visible, and then, less valuable and useful.
Notifications works the same way. If you have plenty of applications and plenty of notifications and alarms and alerts, they all get stacked into Notifications until you have time to wade through the mess, do some quick pruning, and hope you don’t get the flu for a week because opening up Notifications a week later could put you into intensive care.
In Notifications, everything has the same value, weight, and, yes, priority. Amazon can send me a notice that my drill bits have arrived, and that’s good, but it has the same weight as the 14 email messages I get from Amazon trying to get me to buy more drill bits for what has obviously– to Amazon– become a collection of drill bits.
Is there a solution to the madness?
Yes. But Apple’s closed iOS architecture means Apple has to be the one to implement such a change. First, Notifications need to be customizable so the user can determine which ones from each app get stacked vertically, and which ones can be moved into a Notifications folder-like hierarchy which requires little more than a gesture to expand.
Second, Apple sells multiple devices and we’re buying and using them all at the same time, but I want to control which ones get which notifications, alarms, and alerts and when. Either none during Do Not Disturb, or on whichever device I’m using at the moment (Face ID knows) but not on all at the same time. But I want the options in my hands, not Apple’s.
Finally, Apple needs to anticipate user habits more than it does now. Apple makes and sells apps and embeds functionality into iOS and macOS, so the company’s famous user experience engineers should know we’re going to buy and use more apps and that means we need more ways to manage what they do.
For now, it’s just easy to hate all notifications.