Home What’s Next for iOS? Better Notifications

What’s Next for iOS? Better Notifications

Apple has always been known for its clean, elegant user interfaces and designs. iOS is no exception, expect for one problem area – notifications. Its notifications are terrible. If you’re in the middle of doing something and you get a push notification, you have no choice but to deal with it or dismiss it and possibly forget about it.

According to Mac-centric blog Cult Of Mac, “Apple is working on a new notification system for iOS and will be buying a small company to build its technology into the operating system.”

As Cult Of Mac notes, the iOS notifications system has long been considered a blemish on an otherwise well-kept system and it only stands out more in the light of recent announcements.

Apple’s pop-up notification system for new text messages, voicemails and the like has often been criticized as one of the weakest parts of the iOS. Notifications are intrusive, modal and often cryptic. It’s a mess.

HP/Palm’s webOS banner notification system, on the other hand, has been widely praised for its utility and ease of use. And from this week’s preview, it looks to be getting better.

The report quotes an anonymous source, who told Cult of Mac that Apple is “now trying to buy a small app developer to fix [notifications]” and that this developer “already has an iPhone app in the App Store.” It goes on to speculate that Boxcar, a known player in the iOS notifications space, is one candidate.

Boxcar CEO Jonathan George didn’t have any comment when we asked about any potential acquisition, but he offered some insight on the state of iOS notifications today.

“iOS notifications are broken and Boxcar fills that space.  Notifications should be aggregated for the user and optionally interruptive.  No one enjoys having their Cat Piano time interrupted!” said George. “It’s more than just aggregation though, it’s also about allowing any website on the internet to deliver messages to mobile devices, without needing an app. We give users and developers what they need to make push notifications useful.”

This idea of “optionally interruptive” is the key flaw with Apple’s current notification system. Imagine if, anytime something happened on your computer, that program stole focus and wouldn’t give it back until you dealt with it. Even worse, when notifications get backed up you end up having to tap through them one at a time. It’s a mess. That’s the state of iOS notifications and, indeed, it is broken. As Cult Of Mac notes, HP showed off its updated notifications at its launch event the other day. It showed an asynchronous, non-obtrusive system that waits for your attention rather than demanding it. We hope to see Apple follow suit.

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