I've been thinking a lot about Android notifications this week.
It all started with reports of a revamped look for notifications that might show up with the Android "N" release this fall. That led to my mulling over how fantastic it'd be if Google were to bring an Inbox-style snoozing system into regular system notifications.
The present problem, I proposed, is that it's far too easy to brush a notification aside and then forget to deal with it later. Being able to snooze a notification and have it come back at a specific appropriate time or place (like what you can do with messages and reminders in Inbox) would be a brilliant way to improve an already excellent system.
Splendid as that notion sounds, of course, it's little more than a fantasy for the moment -- one that may or (more than likely) may not turn into reality anytime soon. So for now, I offer you a less satisfying but nevertheless more realistic way to enhance your notifications and make them less ephemeral.
In fact, I've got two options -- one somewhat limited in function but actually a (hidden) part of Android itself and the other a more robust setup that requires a third-party app to work.
Notification booster option #1: The simple but limited shortcut
Few folks know it, but Android's actually had a built-in way to view past notifications for a few years now. As long as you're using a device with Android 4.3 or higher (and if you aren't, for the love of Goog, go get a new phone already), it should be hidden on your system and just waiting to be found.
All you need to do is follow the normal process for adding a widget to your home screen (usually by long-pressing on a blank area and then selecting the Widgets option). Search through the list for the item called "Settings shortcut," and add it to an open space wherever you'd like (probably by pressing and holding it and then dropping it somewhere on your home screen).
Once you do, you should see a menu of available options. Find the one labeled "Notification log," and tap it. That'll give you a humble little icon on your home screen that looks a little something like this:
Tap the icon, and you'll get a log of all the recent notifications that have come through on your device:
"But wait!" you say. "That hardly has any info on it, you handsome hooligan! Where's the actual notification content -- like, you know, the actual text from the messages?"
Astute observation, my eagle-eyed friend. (Also, kudos on being able to send your thoughts so quickly through the screen. I don't know how you do it.)
As you so keenly noted, the native Android notification log is something, but it sure ain't much. And that's why I'd steer you more toward our fully featured third-party alternative...
Notification booster option #2: The power-packed solution
The great John Lennon wisely said, "All you need is love." As it turns out, his words from all those decades ago apply perfectly to our present conundrum. You just have to swap out "love" for "an app called Notif Log that makes it easy to view the full contents of past notifications." (Close enough, right?)
Notif Log does exactly what you'd think -- and, uh, what you'd expect Android's native notification log function to do, too: It gives you an easy way to look back at all of your recent notifications in their entirety.
Notif Log even lets you interact with certain old notifications via their action buttons. The app actually has its own internal snooze function for setting reminders about past notifications, too -- a neat workaround, to be sure, but really not that great of an experience in this sort of out-of-the-way and multiple-step-requiring context. To me, the ability to go back and look through past notifications is the real value to be gained here.
We'll hang onto the dream of an actual native system for snoozing notifications in Android -- hope, damn it, hope! -- but in the meantime, this is the next best thing.