Ctrl-Apple-Delete: AI can't fix bad design


Have you listened to the latest Ctrl-Walt-Delete podcast? Apparently, the new first world problem is excessive notifications.

I was left scratching my head as to what the hell Nilay and Walt were complaining about. And then I remembered one thing. Their experience with notifications is mostly likely shaped and influenced by iOS.

I'm not going to mince words. iOS has the shittiest notification system in any modern mobile OS.

Even though I have an iPad and an iPhone 6s+, the two main reasons I refuse to use any iOS device full time, for anything other than testing, are as follows:

  • the shitty notification systems; and
  • the inability to set default apps.

The day Apple fixes these glaring usability aberrations, I'll sacrifice a newborn lamb to the gods of sanity and common sense.

On Android, if a notification is bothering you (e.g. games that spam your with new deals and ads), hold said notification, tap on the info button, block the son of a goat. The UI presented allows you to configure how Android treats the notification henceforth.

You have the option to block all notifications from said app, adjust the priority of the notification, toggle peeking and privacy options. In Android Lollipop/Marshmallow, Google even provides three Do Not Disturb modes: total silence, alarms only and priority.


Priority mode allows you to filter all notifications except those from your favorite contacts. Other than contacts, you can filter based on time, day, calendar events, activities, etc. The automatic priority rules can be as granular, or as broad, as you want. And they work very well, without any AI, or Google stealing your data and haggling your privacy to the highest bidder (by the way, Amazon has great deals on tinfoil hats).

On Android N, I believe you can configure the importance and priority of the notification right from the notification shade. On N, the notification options are granular and seemingly endless.


Since iOS 6, I just made a habit of turning off all notifications, except the ones from Hangout. Because iOS notifications just piss me off to no end. The good news is that iOS 10 has some interesting new notification features that gives me hope for the future.

I've just never found excessive notifications to be a problem on Android, because Android gives you all the tools you need to manage them at a very granular level. There are even third party apps in the play store that even give you even more uber control over how you'd like notifications to be filtered and handled based on almost any context.

Can AI, or Machine Learning, solve excessive notifications? Or are excessive notifications a symptom of an inflexible, or poorly designed, notification system?