How to manage and use iOS Notifications

Making Notifications Great Again

Apple, iOS, iOS 10, Notification Centre, Location, iPhone, iPad

Millions of iOS 10 users receive a millions of Notifications every day, but we can also configure these alerts to make them more useful, more productive, and secure. That’s what we’ll look at in today’s report.

What are Notifications?

Notifications first appeared with iOS 5 in October 2011, migrating to Macs the following year.

The system puts new and incoming information at the top of the screen, and also collates these into the Notifications Center panel which you access by swiping down from the status bar. Tap a Notification to open the relevant app, or swipe left and tap Clear to get rid of it.  

If you use a 3D Touch-enabled device you can sometimes get other options when you hard press the Notification, such as Snooze. When you receive a Message in Notifications you can respond to that item by hard-pressing the alert, rather than opening the app.

Notifications Settings

Notifications appear on the lockscreen by default, but you can change this behaviour. You can also control which apps create them, and how much information and in what form those Notifications appear. You do this in Settings>Notifications, but you must change these settings on an app-by-app basis.

Most apps provide notifications so it makes complete sense to review your Notification Settings regularly to make sure you are only receiving them from apps you actually care about. You don’t want to squander valuable battery power receiving and acting upon notification alerts that are of little or no value to you.

Typically, I like to receive Notifications from Maps, Weather, and Messages. I add support for other apps depending on what I am doing. For example, I’m using Duolingo to learn Portuguese at the moment in hope of eventually moving there, so I get notifications from that app to help me stay focused.

Tap on an app name in Notifications settings and you’ll be presented with a standard screen offering the following options. What they are and what they mean follows:

Allow Notifications: Green by default, toggling this setting to off disables all notifications from that particular app. I always disable apps I am not interested in using frequently using this control.

Show in Notification Center: Switch this off if you want to receive Notifications but don’t want them to be visible when you swipe down the screen.

Sounds: You can disable sound alerts as new notifications are received on an app-by-app basis using this toggle.

Badge App Icon: You will see the icon of the app beside the notification. The icon will carry a number in red that shows you how many notifications you have received for that app.

Show on Lock Screen: Notifications will appear on the lock screen by default. Security conscious users may choose to disable this feature if they use their phone in public spaces – do you really want your boss reading your messages from your partner?

Set the Alert style

There are three alert styles you can choose for each app: None, Banners, and Alerts.

  • None: means just what it says -- none.
  • Alerts: These demand that you respond to the notification – they will remain at the top of your screen until you respond to them, or clear them by swiping their notification up.
  • Banners: These are far more discreet – the appear briefly on screen and then disappear.

In both the latter cases you can respond to the notification by pulling down the notification in the window, which will either take you to a pop-up window in which you can work, or open the app.

Clearing Notifications

You can clear Notifications in Notifications Center by individually swiping right to left to access the Clear command; or by tapping the X to clear a day’s worth of notifications.

On a 3D Touch device you can clear up all your notifications by hard pressing the X of the most recent item and then choosing Clear all notifications in the screen that appears.

Location-based alerts

One of the most powerful ways to use Notifications is to create location-based alerts. These might be things like:

  • Remind me to get the milk when I leave the office
  • Using Find  My Friend to let you know when your son leaves home
  • Call Harry when I leave

How to set a Location-based alert

You can sometimes set these reminders using Siri. You can also create them manually as follows:

  • Open Reminders and create a new item.
  • Tap the information ‘I’ button to the right of the item when in the alert
  • You can now set date, time, priority, take notes, and use the Remind me at a location toggle.
  • Toggle the Remind me at a location toggle to on and you will be asked to choose a location or enter an address.
  • You can then choose to receive the Notification reminder ‘When I Arrive’ or ‘When I Leave’.
  • Once you decide which even triggers the alert you can also set the size of the area used to define the alarm, as explained below:

Setting the radius for location alerts

Tap and drag the black dot that appears on the map and you’ll see a blue circle appear – this sets the radius from the location that will trigger the alarm.  The alarm won’t happen until you leave or enter the area you define here. This control is very useful as it enables you to remind yourself to achieve a task, such as visiting the shop, before you get home.

Not every app is capable of creating such location-based alerts. You can also prevent apps from using location in this way in Settings>Privacy>Location Services, where you can control which apps are capable of doing this. You may want to read this extensive guide to using these settings, while if you want to squeeze even more use from these take a look at Apple’s recently-acquired Workflow app, and/or IFTTT.

I hope this helps some iOS users gain better control and better results from using Notifications in iOS.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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