Notifications are a huge part of the smartphone experience, and Android and the iPhone take wildly different approaches. Apple has made great improvements over the years, but Android notifications are still superior. I’ll show you why.
I’ve been using Android phones for over ten years, but recently I’ve been using an iPhone full-time. The notification situation is one area I have a lot of thoughts about. Android’s notification system has been more or less the same from the start, but still I think it’s better.
Lock screen vs notification center
Let’s start with perhaps the most frustrating area of iPhone notifications. With the exception of badges on the home screen, there are two places where notifications appear: the lock screen and the Notification Center.
The lock screen and Notification Center are treated as completely separate things. Technically you only see recently notifications – that have arrived since you last checked – on the lock screen. To see all notifications, you need to swipe up to open Notification Center, which is the opposite direction to opening on the home screen.
Let’s say you have a handful of new notifications. You tap one of them to view it and then lock your iPhone again. The next time you check your iPhone, those other notifications you didn’t tap will be gone. They have been moved to Notification Center, which requires an additional swipe to open.
On Android, there’s pretty much just one notification area: the “Notification Shadow.” It is opened by swiping down from the top of the screen. The lock screen essentially acts as an already comprehensive notification shade. The exact same messages appear in both places.
The above scenario does not happen on Android. If I only act on one notification, the others are still on the lock screen the next time I look at my phone. I don’t have to go to a separate section for “older” notifications. There is only one area for notifications and they stay there until I open or close them.
Now Android does have lock screen settings for notifications. You can choose to hide the content of notifications or hide the notification completely. However, once you unlock your phone, everything is exactly where you expect it to be in the one system tray. On Android, it’s a lot harder to miss a notification.
RELATED:Hide sensitive notifications on your iPhone’s lock screen
iPhone notifications are all or nothing
The second major philosophical difference between iPhone and Android notifications is how you decide which notifications you want. iPhone has an all-or-nothing approach, while Android has much more granular control.
What do I mean? For example, let’s use the YouTube app. There are different types of notifications you can get. New videos from subscriptions, replies to your comments, recommended videos, etc. To block any of these notifications on iPhone, you need to completely disable notifications for YouTube.
On Android, each of those different types of notifications can be turned off individually in the system settings. To do that on the iPhone, you have to hope that the app developer has included more specific notification settings in the app itself. YouTube happens to have those options, but not every iPhone app has.
RELATED:What are Android Notification Channels?
Taking action on notifications is not intuitive
Taking action on a notification without opening the app can save a huge amount of time. You can do this with both the iPhone and Android, but Apple’s implementation is not nearly as intuitive to use.
On iPhone, you can drag down a notification banner or press and hold a notification on the lock screen or Notification Center to see actions. For example, with Gmail, those options are “Mark as Read,” “Archive,” and “Reply.”
It took me a while to realize these options existed. There’s really no evidence that it’s possible. Android, on the other hand, has an arrow that indicates that you can expand the notification for more actions. Important notifications are often also automatically expanded for you.
Another little thing that is frustrating is the swipe gesture for notifications on the lock screen and Notification Center. First, you to have to swipe from right to left. Even more annoying is how you have to do a very deliberate long swipe to completely close the notification without the second step of tapping the “Clear” button.
Apple seems very concerned about people accidentally swiping a notification, but every iPhone user I’ve spoken to wishes it was an easier thing to do. I agree with that.
RELATED:How to manage notifications on your iPhone
It’s no secret that notifications on smartphones can get messy. That clutter can be caused by you or by poor design that makes it harder to keep tidy. In the case of the iPhone, I found it much harder to keep my notifications clean.
There are a number of reasons for this. One is the aforementioned lock screen and Notification Center debacle. It seems really easy to fill Notification Center with notifications because they disappear from the lock screen.
The other part of it is how notifications are grouped and automatically cleared – or rather, how they do not clear automatically.
The iPhone groups notifications from the same app into a bundle of sorts. Let’s say you received messages from a conversation with a friend. Each message is its own message. Sometimes when you tap one of those messages to go to the conversation, the other notifications from that same conversation don’t disappear.
Android also groups notifications from the same app, but not as a bunch of separate notifications bundled together. For example, with Gmail above, you can see the senders and some text from the emails together as a single notification, then expand it to see more.
Android notifications are easier
It feels a bit odd saying this, but I think notifications are one area where Android’s approach is actually simpler than Apple’s.
Having all notifications in one place is so much more fun and easier to manage. I didn’t even mention that with Android you can always see notifications in the status bar (if you want), which I also find very useful.
On Android, I know exactly how each notification will appear and it’s up to me to decide which one I want. The iPhone gives me a ton of options for where I’ll see the notification, and I’m hoping the app allows me to customize which one I want to receive.
All of this, of course, becomes second nature the more you use an iPhone, but taking a fresh look at things can reveal problems. Notifications on iPhone have gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go.
Are you already convinced to give Android a try? Start here.