iOS Notifications are a Toxic Hellstew

iOS Notifications are a Toxic Hellstew

Notifications on our mobile devices has become an accepted part of our daily lives. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems like Apple just can’t get it right and it bugs the hell out of me.

Let’s just face facts, Android got notifications right from the start. The pull down notification shade has become a default smartphone OS gesture that everyone just recognizes. Naturally this means that everyone else will copy this paradigm but the details on how notifications are handled is really what matters to the users.


While I don’t like a cluttered up UI, having a quick glance icon in the notification bar to see what apps have notifications for me is convenient. Every so often though it can be overwhelming. The one saving detail here is that this is the only area that notifications show up and dismissing them is just one easy swipe.

Windows Phone

The notification story on Windows Phone was sad until the 8.1 release came around. Windows Phone users had an issue dubbed “Ghost Notifications”. If you didn’t have the tile of the application sending you a notification on your Start screen then you didn’t know where the notification was coming from, just that your phone buzzed. Now with 8.1 they have also adopted the pull down notification drawer but they had to tie it into the Live Tile integration that was already so popular with Windows Phone users.

Thankfully the designers and engineers at Microsoft got this one right. When you have a notification that you don’t care about and decide to swipe it away (just like Android) the application live tile will also dismiss the notification so that you know everything is in sync. On top of that, you can even do this from the lock screen and if your showing that applications notification number on the lock screen it gets updated right away.


Back in 2012 Apple released iOS 5 which had the first version of what they called Notification Center. It was something that was actually available through the Jailbreak community for a while and Apple pretty much stole it and threw it in the OS. The problem was (and still is) that it was never really thought out.

When iOS launched it had what was a new notification system. Just a simple number badge on the application to let you know that there was something you should look at. This worked for many years and users never really complained because it was good enough. Then when Notification Center was thrown into the mix everything went downhill.

Applications were showing badges, and notifications with more details were being shown in the Notification Center. Problem is, if I clear a notification in the Notification Center the application doesn’t know about it and the badge still stays there. And the reverse is true as well. There is no consistent story for users and so you end up showing notifications twice which is incredibly frustrating.

Side Note: There must be some new API’s in iOS 8 because Pebble has a new feature which will dismiss a notification from the lock screen and notification center but it still doesn’t update the application badge. It’s a step in the right direction but there is still more work to be done.

Is this going to be fixed in iOS 8? Probably not. Apple has shown that major rework of a feature doesn’t really happen in their point releases. I just hope that with the Apple Watch coming next year they get their act together and have a cohesive story when it comes to my devices buzzing at me.