Notification Hell: Clearing Notifications is a Red Dot Whack-a-Mole

You download an app, and the app requests your permission to send you push notifications. Sure, you think. What harm could come of it? Then, finally, the package arrives, or the burrito is ready.

But then you download other additional apps, and they all require your permission to send you notifications, and before you understand it, your lock screen is awash with apps yelling for your attention.

The apps never close up. They’re starving for engagement. They want you to comprehend that your favorite items are on sale, that you haven’t rehearsed your Spanish today, that the delivery driver is five stands away, and that your child at daycare just held a blowout – all day, all at once. Welcome to a spot we all dwell in, Notification Hell.

We haven’t always remained here. For a while, companies like Apple wouldn’t allow app developers to run all willy-nilly with the power to request our attention anytime. Instead, they insisted that power should be used for good, not evil. That didn’t last long.

App developers can now send us marketing notifications as long as we’ve opted into them. And guess what: if you’ve decided to have any notifications, you’ve opted into many of them.

Moreover, the call is even arriving from inside the house now – Apple is upgrading its services in settings menus, and Samsung is attempting to market you a new phone… while using your Samsung phone. So there is nowhere to hide.

It’s not just ads that are the issue. Our phones’ digital assistants try hard to understand our behavior and predict our every move. Unfortunately, they probably don’t know what’s helpful or not because they’re robots.

Like when Siri sees that you have a flight on your calendar, it suggests a shortcut to put your phone in airplane mode. Immediately after that, it asks if you want to dial into the meeting on my calendar: my flight. The route to Notification Hell is paved with digital aides with good intentions.

It’s not an associate, but Google Photos frequently commits notification crimes. It’s always learning new tricks, like identifying a beer or a latte in a photo and then bugging you to look at how it can locate all the images you took of beer and lattes. It also wants us to know when it finds identical photos of my cat sleeping on additional pieces of furniture, getting them to attention unbidden, like a dog that located a stick.

The operating system developers aren’t indifferent to the suffering; they heaved us a couple of lifelines. On iOS, you can have non-time-sensitive notifications collected in a daily digest and delivered once a day. You can also fix up focus modes – the UI for which is its kind of hell – or have some apps offer notifications quietly unless they’re time-sensitive. But if you do that, you must solve a riddle first.

That sums up the situation: we are trapped in notification hell, and there will be no recovery. We own a couple of meager tools at our disposal, but the onus is on us to see our way out. So until you figure out my notification settings, you understand you are here for the long haul. For now, it’s just a comfort to realize that there are others with me, too, because misery values company.

Notifications Overview

A notification is a statement that Android displays outside your app’s UI to deliver the user reminders, communication from other people, or other convenient information from your app. Users can click the notification to open your app or take action directly from the notification.

This page furnishes an overview of where notifications appear and the available features. To start building your information, read Create a Notification instead.

See the Notifications design guide for more information about the design and interaction patterns.

Appearances on a Device

Notifications seem to users in diverse locations and formats, such as an icon in the status bar, a more complex entry in the notification drawer, a badge on the app’s icon, and paired wearables automatically.

Wear OS Devices

If the user includes a paired Wear OS device, all your notifications appear there automatically, including expandable detail and action buttons.

You can also enhance the experience by customizing impressions for the wearables’ notifications and providing various actions, including suggested and voice input replies.