Smart Notifications

Notification alerts are part of everyday life. The ding from your phone results in a Pavlovian response to pull out your phone to see what is going on. A text from a friend, a calendar event you forgot about, and many other things that you want to know the instant it comes in. Notifications are extremely useful but are unfortunately pretty dumb in their current state. They alert us an in-opportune times, we receive alerts from multiple devices even when they are right next to each other, we receive them at inopportune times, and we can receive multiple alerts for the same thing. This is how I would change notifications to make them more intelligent.

5 Texts in 10 Seconds

I am sure you know somebody who texts like this:

bring

“Hey”

bring

“Man”

bring

”What’s up?”

bring

“Want to hang”

bring

“Tonight?”

This problem wouldn’t exist if your friend didn’t text like an idiot but that won’t happen anytime soon. So why doesn’t your iPhone intelligently realize that you don’t need to be notified 5 times in 10 seconds when the messages are coming from the same person? A simple timer on a person by person basis would be set and if the message was delivered within 10 seconds of the last one you aren’t notified.

Alerts From Multiple Devices Right Beside Each Other

If you have a Mac, iPad, and iPhone you probably have experienced them all go off at the same time in a cacophony of alerts. They are sitting literally right beside each other but they aren’t smart enough to only notify you on one device. You should receive on notification on the device you are using. A default would be chosen If you aren’t using any of them and it would alert you there. For things that alert you multiple times, like SMS, it would alert you on a different device the second time.

Multiple Alerts For The Same Thing

If you download a new email, or calendar, app you will get two alerts for the same notification. Why can’t my iPhone figure out that it is the same notification from two apps and only show me one. There should be an option in settings to choose the default app for giving you notifications for alerts like calendars and email.

Location Awareness

iBeacons and location data would be a great way to set up “silent areas” where your ringer is set up to shut off automatically. Schools could set up iBeacons in classrooms to shut off ringers when students are in class. Students would just connect to the schools iBeacons and set their phones to go to silent mode when in range.

Other places, like doctors offices, could set an alert to be presented on your phone when you enter the waiting room. It wouldn’t shut off your alarm automatically but it would give you three options: off, vibrate, do nothing.

Ambient Noise Awareness

I am sure you have been sitting in a quiet room with a bunch of people and all of a sudden the pocket next to you starts blaring some terrible song. They pull out their phone and start yelling into it and the whole room can hear their conversation. Making everyone think ’What an asshole.’ For the non-hearing impaired, their phones should take a quick listen of the ambient noise before they are alerted and if the room is very quiet it lowers the volume of the alert. Conversely if you are in a loud environment it doesn’t even try the ringer, it just turns on vibrate.

Acknowledging Notifications

Why can’t I acknowledge that I saw a notification from the lock screen? Why do I have to unlock my device to stop a second SMS notification? I should be able to tap the notification to acknowledge that I have seen it.

Siri To Acknowledge Alerts

Siri could be activated for a few seconds after a notification comes in so you could immediately interact or dismiss it. Saying “Hey Siri” would mark the notification as seen but you could also say things like “Reply, blah blah blah.” (You can use Siri simply by saying ‘Hey Siri’ in iOS 8)

I would also like to see Siri activate and listen for 15 seconds after a timer or alarm goes off so you can just say: “Siri, shut off alert.” It would work great for timers but it probably shouldn’t be able to fully shut off an alarm, just snooze it. (“Siri, shut off alarm.” And then you go straight back to sleep.)

Do Not Disturb

A very useful feature but it too isn’t very smart. Why can’t I turn Do Not Disturb on for all my devices at the same time. I should be able to say to Siri: “Do not disturb me for 20 minutes.” Which turns on Do Not Disturb on all of my Apple devices for 20 minutes.

I should also be able to set certain apps that when I use automatically turn on Do Not Disturb. If I forget to turn it on when I use meditation or writing apps, I am routinely interrupted.

Apple Addressed A Couple Notification Issues With iOS 8

These are a couple of things people have been complaining about for years that Apple finally addressed.

Group Messaging

If you are part of a group conversation that has a lot of people sending messages your phone is constantly notifying you of new messages. Apple fixed this in iOS 8 with a specific Do Not Disturb for each message group. (Or you can now easily leave the group.)

Reply From Notifications

The ability to reply from a notification without switching apps has been long possible for those with jailbroken phones with BiteSMS. Apple has finally added this feature in iOS 8.

Last Words

I am confident that with the maturing of mobile products we will see more little improvements, like smarter notifications, become a priority for Apple. I guess it just isn’t a hot topic with customers but Apple is the king of giving the customer what they don’t know they want, so let’s get on with it Mr. Ive and crew.


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