The notification system on iOS is in dire need of an update. Luckily, rumor has it that this is coming in iOS 5 along with widget support. What we don’t know is how these new notifications are going to look and behave. Apple is known to make everything as easy-to-use and pretty as possible, and we are sure the new notifications will be no different. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities:
The LockInfo Concept
The picture to the left is a concept that’s been floating around of what new new notifications might look like. We’re going to dub this one “The LockInfo Concept” because it’s very similar to the existing jailbreak notification solution LockInfo.
This concept by itself resolves one of the biggest qualms many people have with the iOS 4 notifications, which is the stacking. If you have five notifications that come in while you’re sleeping, they will all show up on your lock screen on top of each other and you’d have to dismiss them all one by one, in reverse of the order they came in. That’s not exactly useful, so the LockInfo concept simply displays your lock screen notifications together in a box on your lock screen. You can tap the notification to be taken to the app to deal with it, and when you go back to your lock screen the others are still there. This is a simple fix that would greatly improve the stock notifications in iOS.
WebOS Style Notifications
We know that Apple has hired Rich Dellinger, the man responsible for the Palm Pre’s WebOS notifications, as its Senior User Interface Designer. This brings up the possibility that iOS 5 will have notifications similar to the system used on the Palm Pre and Pixi. With this system, instead of harassing you with a popup window every time a new notification comes in, the notifications are stored in a little pop-up area, similar to the multitasking popup already present in iOS.
You can expand and collapse this popup to see notifications, and when a new one comes in, it automatically pops itself up for a few seconds, but doesn’t interrupt what you’re already doing. It works very well and definitely could be a way to improve the iOS notifications with a few little tweaks.
Android Style Notifications
While it’s unlikely that Apple will directly copy the notifications system from its main competitor, Android does notifications right and Apple could perhaps borrow a few of the concepts when designing its new system. Android employs a pull-down menu for notifications, alerting you of their existence with icons in your status bar, which you pull down with a swipe to see the notifications in a list. You can tap the notification to be taken to the app, pretty easy stuff.
The truth is, there are many ways to do notifications correctly and Apple’s current method is not one of them. Notifications need to be available when you want them, but not obtrusive and disruptive. It’s likely that the final iOS 5 notifications will be somewhat of a mix of all three styles mentioned here, and will put Apple ahead of all the other players for the time being. Finally, notifications will no longer be iOS’ big weak point.