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Notification lights are overrated

By Adam Doud March 20, 2014, 7:00 am

I received my Nexus 5 just a couple weeks ago and one thing I completely forgot about was the fact that this sucker has a notification light. Woo hoo! That’s something that I’ve totes been missing from the Windows Phone experience and it’s awesome (or maybe not, read on…)!

It takes me back to the good old days of webOS. Almost too much so since I often find myself pressing the notification light to turn on the phone (If you don’t get that, I’m sad for you). Not surprisingly, it’s not supposed to work that way.

I haven’t dug deeply into the features here. I’ve noticed the notification light is different colors for different notifications, so that’s awesome. If I happen to be across the room and look up and it’s merely a blue light for a Facebook update and not a coveted white light for email, I can continue chopping broccoli and not have to worry about washing my hands and checking my phone.

(--sigh--) Dammit...
(–sigh–) Dammit…

Wait just a minute…

But then I realized something. That’s about the only use-case where the notification light is really useful to me. I mean it is useful in some situations for some people. Heck, I used it a helluvalotta times back in the webOS days. The GSIII also had an insanely bright notification light. That light often made me think there were police cars outside my bedroom window when someone tweeted me at 3:00 in the morning.

But then I started thinking about it. How often do I do any of the following:

a. Chop broccoli
b. Leave my phone across the room from me
c. Care what notification comes in if I have left the phone across the room from me.

So I’m not going to go all anti-notification light here. I’m sure they’re fine and great for lot of really smart people. But for me, I think I’ve really kinda gotten over them. They’re not a sought after feature any more and I’m almost tempted to turn the Nexus’s notification light off at this point, if that’s possible.

phone hand cuff

To be or not to be

For me a phone is all about being connected, or not connected. When I’m connected, I’m interacting with the phone or have it very close by so I can react quickly to something my phone demands requests I do. So in those cases a notification light doesn’t do me any favors, because if I’m connected “correctly” (for lack of a better word) then I’m already aware there’s a notification so, you know, get out of my face.

If I’m not connected, I do not care what notifications come in, nor should I. These are times when I’m chopping broccoli, or finger painting, or bathing the kids or whatever. In those cases, a notification light is not doing me any favors because at best it’s calling me back to a place that I don’t necessarily want to be at the moment.

Pants on fire

Not to mention (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) I’m convinced my notification light lies. It’s not that it blinks when there’s no notification. Oh no. There’s always something going on when that puppy is pulsating. No, I’m talking about the times that my notification light is not blinking, and I check anyway. You know you’ve done it too. It’s true, I haven’t caught the phone in the act as of yet, but it’s really only a matter of time before I catch that lying liar.

So, to me, it’s an overrated feature that I’ve grown quite comfortable being without in Windows Phone. I mean, heck, in Windows Phone, we don’t even have notifications, let alone a light to tell you something is waiting.

windows phone notification

What’s that knocking?

And there’s a lot of opportunity for Windows Phone here, especially since it’s dropping physical buttons for capacitive buttons. I once thought it would be hellacool to have a Windows logo at the bottom of the phone that glowed with a certain color depending on what notification was waiting in that shiny new notification center coming to Windows Phone 8.1. Of course, Windows Phone has a limited selection of tile colors, so I’m not sure how well different colored notification lights would be implemented. But that’s a different conversation.

But my time with Windows Phone has shown me the light (pun intended). Notification lights are not necessary for a well-designed and well functioning phone. They’re not a horrible thing to have, but my attitude leans toward the “thanks but no thanks” end of the spectrum. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say, I don’t want Windows Phone to implement a notification light. It’s R&D money and time that could be better spent elsewhere.

So what do you think, readers? Are you pro-light or are you with me and say “Rip them out of their sockets?” Sound off below and let us know if you’ve seen the light like me, or if you’d rather see the light.



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