Improving Android Notifications
Notifications are paramount to a modern smartphone OS and I believe that Android has the best notifications of any mobile OS currently out right now; from the Notification Tray to the Notification Shade to the available widgets and LED lights (particularly on Nexus phones), Android is extremely powerful due to its built in notification system and customizability.
I turn on my phone and I immediately see the icons for all of the apps that notified me thanks to the ever-present Notification Tray. One swipe down on the Notification Shade and I see more detail. I can easily see when the app originally notified me, and in cases that makes sense, the number of notifications per app, the sender (e.g. SMS, Email, Calls), and subject (e.g. email). And of course on Jellybean, notifications are expandable so you can view the details of notifications and even action on them (e.g. liking a Foursquare checkin).
Widgets have the capability to show notifications as well; one need to look no further than the fantastic new Lockscreen Widget DashClock. Besides that, widgets for Gmail, Email, SMS, Calendar, etc. exist that help notify you of new events.
Apps like Lightflow are required to unlock the full potential and of course, not all phones have a built in or multi-color LED, but this is a standard feature on Nexus phones it appears. I have custom notification colors and flash rates for various apps, and can even set a custom color/flash rate for specific contacts using Lightflow. This is incredible functionality as I have to do nothing more than look at my phone to know what type of notification(s) I have pending, and even from who. I can even prioritize notifications so that only the most important one will show so that I don't have to wait for it to cycle through. For example, I have SMS set to have an always on Orange light, which trumps Gmail (blinking red light) because SMS is more important to me than email. If I pull my phone out of my pocket and see that its an email, I can easily ignore. But if its Orange, I know its a text and can action on it.
I think of the other major mobile OSes and don't see much that can be improved.
- WP8 doesn't have a true notification center, but relies on a limited set of scattered features such as limited lock screen notifications (up to 5 only; only if the App supports it), Live Tiles, and toast notifications that disappear. My biggest problem with WP8 - you have to hunt for notifications.
- iOS/iPhone has various methods of notifications. First you have the lockscreen notifications that turn on the screen and show you a popup window for that notification (not very private). You can also choose the type of notification you receive: a toast, a popup window, and the notification center. You also have the red badges for apps. I think iOS is the second most mature OS when it comes to notifications, but Notifications are generally unpolished and a bit scattered; Contrary to Apple's "simplicity" mantra, notifications are far more complex than they have to be to set up. Also, there is not centralized place to view all of your notification types (like Android's notification tray). You can swipe down to get to all notifications, but iOS doesn't have a single place to focus your attention to know which apps have notified you.
- BB10 has Peek and Flow and an LED light, but your notifications can get "lost" since each new event (email, SMS, App notification) is a separate line item that can quickly push down your list of notifications. For example, if you receive hundreds of emails a day, your Notification Center is going to be mostly email, and any SMS or other app notifications can be easily lost. Also, there's no quick way to see a list of all new app notifications as I mentioned for iOS.