5 Biggest iOS 5 Notification Center Failures
Let me start by saying that none of the items mentioned in this list are new discoveries. All of the gripes below could have been noted months ago, after Apple first introduced iOS 5. If not then, it could have been revealed by reading the numerous descriptions of Notification Center from IOS developers and other users that installed one of iOS 5's many beta versions. Instead, I plodded along ignorantly, happily enjoying the world of jailbroken notification handling (via programs such as LockInfo and Intelliscreen), assuming that when Apple released iOS 5, I'd have all the intuitive, useful goodness I'd been enjoying for so long built right in. Boy, was I wrong.
Apple seems to have taken a good idea and executed it surprisingly poorly. Concepts which seem as though they'd be simple common sense are simply ignored. Instead of feeling complete, the Notification Center implementation seems rushed, with obvious needs overlooked.
While there are other complaints, here are what I consider to be the 5 biggest oversights with the new iOS 5 Notification Center.
1. No Notification Center on Lock Screen
This is by far the worst offense. Without question, the strongest feature of iOS 5's new notification system is the Notification Center. Though it still has its shortcomings, the notification center allows you to view all your unhandled notifications in one place. This is the master control center for notifications.
For years, I've been using the jailbreak community's equivalents (i.e. LockInfo) for handling notifications properly. In these systems, the master control center for notifications takes residence on your lock screen. Not only is this the best place for this control center, doing otherwise is borderline counter-intuitive.
iOS 5's Notification Center displays a wealth of information and allows iOS device owners to interact with their notifications (albeit in a limited fashion, as is detailed below) from one central location. Why would Apple choose to limit this interaction to the pull-down interface accessible once your device is unlocked and not simply let the Notification Center take residence on your lock screen? Since it's inception, Apple has held to the premise of keeping the lock screen information-free (and thus useless). With the release of iOS 5, Apple has loosened the reigns on this premise, but only slightly. What results is a half-useful lock screen that undoubtedly is leaving many iOS device owners wanting more.
Certainly, if replacing the lock screen with Notification Center isn't the only thing to do, it should at the very least be a configurable option.
2. Dismissing Notifications Works Really Poorly / Not at All
First off, you can't dismiss notifications from the lock screen. Well, not really. The only way to dismiss notifications from the lock screen is to unlock the screen, thus dismissing all notifications. And you haven't really dismissed them, you've just dismissed them from the lock screen. If you want to really dismiss them, you need to pull down the Notification Center and do it there. Here again, a ridiculous limitation -- if you want to dismiss a notification, you have to dismiss all notifications of that type (i.e. all Words with Friends notifications) -- you can't simply dismiss a single notification.
3. No Real Ability to Interact with Notifications
Whether you're talking about working with your notifications from the lock screen or from notification center, there's little ability to interact with them. As explained in #2, dismissing notifications is crippled at best. To make matters worse, without going into the application that relates to that notification, you're left with no ability to interact with that notification.
The real hurt here is in regards to email alerts. With LockInfo, I'm accustomed to being able to do the following with my email alerts: 1) mark email as read (thus dismissing alert) 2) delete email (dismisses alert) 3) quick look email (dismisses alert) 4) reply to email (opens mail app, dismisses alert).
I can't do anything but dismiss my email alerts with iOS 5's email notifications, and that's only from the pull-down Notification Center. And since, as mentioned in #1, Apple chose not to provide access to the full strengths of iOS 5's Notification Center via the lock screen, I can't do anything with them at all from the lock screen, not unless I fully jump into the mail app.
Toss in no SMS quick reply. This is honestly worth mention as it's own item, but we'll stash it here. You can't reply to text messages from the lock screen, and you can't reply to them from within other applications. What's the point of unobtrusive badge alerts if I have to quit what I'm doing in order to interact with them?
4. Badge Alert Display Time Isn't Configurable
The new iOS 5 badge alerts are great. They are unobtrusive, elegant and damn pretty. I love them. Unfortunately, even for me, who prefers things not to linger -- they just don't hang around long enough. Now, for what good reason can't I decide how long I want them to linger? Surely if someone wants them for 3 seconds and someone else wants them for 10, what's the harm in letting the user decide?
5. Still No Status Bar Icons?
For what seems like years now, jailbroken iPhones/etc have had icons in the status bar (at the very top of your device's screen) to show you when you had unread email, text messages, voicemails and more. This has always been, and remains to be, a mind numbingly obvious simple addition that greatly improves the usability of the iPhone. Yet, with an iOS update that is geared heavily towards improving notifications -- improving the amount of information presented to iOS device users in an easily accessed, usable way -- this simple addition remains absent from iOS 5 and it's new and improved notification system.
The absence of this item is only compounded by the dearth of information on the lock screen.
Apple got off to a great start with the new Notification Center, but the "finished" product feels like it is anything but. When Apple announced iOS 5, it took a lot of heat from the jailbreak community for copying Notification Center. At the time, it seemed obvious. Surely Apple had, at the very least, derived inspiration from the many successful jailbreak apps in this genre, no? Evidently, not. If Apple had used the long held standards for notification handling in the jailbreak community as a model for iOS 5's Notification Center, it seems hard to imagine that so many usability-crippling concepts would have been overlooked.
See more information about installing and configuring LockInfo for improved notifications. You can even add weather to the lock screen and set up notifications to allow a quick text message reply from within any app using QuickReply.