Android 5.0 Lollipop: How to Tame Notifications

Businessman with a megaphone

Android 5.0 Lollipop: How to Tame Notifications

Android has always done notifications consistently well over its various iterations. In Android 5.0 Lollipop, notifications have gotten even better, giving users specific, granular control over notifications for every application installed on your device.
In recent Android versions, notifications have resided in the status bar. Swipe down from the top to see your notifications, tap on each to open the application, swipe to dismiss, etc.

Lock Screen Notifications

In Lollipop, notifications are still accessible from the status bar, but they’ve also moved front-and-center to the lock screen. You can double-tap on a specific notification to open the app (you’ll have to unlock your device first) and swipe to dismiss as usual.

You can also expand your notifications by pressing and pulling down, while tapping the bottom-right “clear notifications” button still makes everything go away.

Aside from this new functionality, Lollipop incorporates some really solid, new notifications options.

The Awesome New Notification Settings

If you swipe down from the status bar, then press the gear icon at the top, you can quickly open the general settings.

When the settings open, tap “sound & notification.”

The resulting page has four options under the notification heading. We won’t to bother with notification access settings, and the notification light setting is self-explanatory.
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If you tap on “when device is locked,” however, you see three options. By default, Lollipop will show all notification content on your lock screen.
You can completely disable all notifications by tapping “don’t show notifications at all.”The ability to turn off notifications lets you restore a bit of privacy from technology’s creep; it’s nice that you can simply check the time and not be reminded of e-mails and texts awaiting replies.
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Tap “hide sensitive notification content” and you will no longer be able to see what’s playing on Pandora, what people are saying in instant messages and texts, who is sending you e-mail, and more. It’s a transparent privacy feature, allowing the device to notify you of things that need your attention without revealing what it says or who wrote it.
Compare the image below, with the one following it.

You can see that we’re listening to Pandora, but the song isn’t displayed, and that we have messages without revealing any content. Similarly, we know we took a screenshot, but there’s no hint of what it was.
So, that’s how you affect notifications on the lock screen, what about the actual applications creating all those notifications?

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Turning Off Notifications App by App

Some applications are already notoriously insistent about getting your attention. Facebook has a gazillion notifications that you can thankfully turn off, but Messenger’s notifications can only be muted for up to 24 hours.

Android Lollipop brings a little sanity and reassurance into the scheme of things by introducing the ability to adjust notification settings on all your apps in one centrally-located setting.
When you tap “app notifications” you are presented with a scrollable list of all your installed applications. If we scroll to the aforementioned Messenger app, we can show you how this works.
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You can make fine-tuned adjustments on how an app bugs you. You can completely block notifications, so it exists on our device without constantly reminding you of that fact. And, you’re also able to mark these notifications as “sensitive” and/or “priority.”
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Sensitivity settings let us force some apps to hide their content on the lock screen, so if you actually want to see who is e-mailing, you can, but if you don’t want to see text or Messenger previews, you can specifically assign them to hide their content.
Priority interruptions pertain to what applications can notify you during quiet hours.
Let’s say we have a meeting from one to three every Tuesday and we don’t want to be disturbed by every app that would normally notify us. But, we’re waiting for an important message or e-mail. In the case of Messenger, we can turn on the “priority” notifications setting, which means that it can now notify us during our meeting. Priority interruptions are another new feature in Lollipop that we’ll cover soon.

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The Multiple Accounts Shortcut

Finally, if you have an application with multiple accounts, most notably Gmail, there’s a settings gear in the upper-right corner of its app notifications.

Tap that and you’re whisked to the Gmail settings where you can attend to adjusting the notifications for your individual Gmail accounts.

In this example, we can turn the notifications completely off for this one Gmail account, but the other two accounts will still adhere to the app notifications we assign to them.

Lollipop’s new notification settings add a great deal of flexibility over the way it alerts you across the entire system. You no longer have to open each app and then open its preferences for notification settings. You can still do that, but Lollipop’s inclusion of app notification settings means that you have systematic control over everything.
Conversely, the new lock screen notifications are a simple but elegant inclusion. It’s nice to be able to scroll through your notifications, casually flicking ones aside that don’t matter or tapping on something that peaks our interest. They’re a welcome new feature that demonstrates that Google is clearly thinking about how we interact with our devices and handle interruptions.
But, we’re interested to know what you think. At the moment, Android 5.0 isn’t available for all devices, so a great many of you don’t have it. We’re curious, are you excited to get it on your phone or tablet? And, if you do have it, how are you liking it so far? Let us hear from you in the discussion forum.

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