By Stephen Schenck | December 12, 2013 10:45 AM
I have a love-hate relationship with my Android notifications. They’re an absolutely key part of how I interact with my phone, yet when it comes to actually working with them, I find myself frustrated time and time again by little issues with Google’s implementation.
It’s not any one, big problem, but just an ongoing combination of having too many notifications to pore through, and not being able to deal with them as effectively as I think I should.
As for having too many notifications, well, there’s not much I can do. After all, I want to be alerted when an email, text message, or tweet comes in, and it’s hardly the system’s fault that there’s so much noise for me to wade through; I invite these kinds of notifications upon myself, and just have to deal with them.
But as for that “dealing with” component, here I think there’s actually a lot of room for improvement.
All day I’m looking up at that notification light, tapping the power button, and swiping down to see my notifications (remember, I don’t use a lock screen). Tap, swipe, dismiss, tap, swipe, dismiss, all day long.
You’d think by this point I’d have build up some nice muscle memory and would be going through those motions without thinking twice, but there continues to be something a little awkward about the whole process. If I had to try and nail it down, I’d argue my issue is centered around all these interactions occurring right around the top edge of my phone.
Maybe a five-incher just isn’t cut out for me, as I continually find myself contorting my hand in unnatural manner as I I try to reach around to all corners of my handset’s display. With my normal grip, the bottom two-thirds are easy pickings, but that top bit – with the notification shade – just isn’t super convenient.
Can I live with it? Absolutely, and I have been. But having this public platform that I do offers me the opportunity to voice issues like this, so why keep my frustration to myself any longer? Wouldn’t it be absolutely lovely if we could reposition the notification shade?
Because honestly – any place seems more convenient to me than that top edge.
Easily the best option that comes to my mind would be giving users the ability to configure the notification shade to be “pulled up” from the phone’s bottom edge. After all, I don’t really use Google Now, so the current swipe-up-from-the-virtual-home-button mechanic is going unnecessarily unused.
My first thought was that Google might let users either disable that action altogether and replace it with one that draws up your notifications, or allows you to swap it with the notifications up top, so you’d access Google Now much like you currently open your notification shade. But considering how Google likes to do things (and how it probably wants to keep Google Now as prominent as possible), I’ve got another idea:
Why not bake the Google Now experience right into the notification shade? Let users swipe it onto the screen from either the top OR the bottom, displaying any pending notifications, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to initiate a Now query.
Or if not the bottom, what if you could pull over your notifications from the left or right? Sure, there’s the risk for troubles with input, confusing in-app side-to-side gestures used to navigate through content with gestures intended to access notifications, but that might just be worth putting up with – think what we could get with something like Peek on BlackBerry 10.
Maybe all this sounds pretty stupid and unnecessary to you. I’ll concede that it’s a bit of a minor issue to give this kind of attention, but this is Android; it’s all about empowering users to do things their own way. Even if that top-mounted shade is preferred by four out of five users, let’s give me and the rest of you twenty-percenters the freedom to march to the beat of our own drums.