Android’s New Notification Feature Is a Decade Overdue
The year was 2009. There were only two Marvel movies so far, Avatar came out, and Apple was launching the iPhone 3GS. It had a brand-new push-notification system that, among other things, would require apps to ask permission before sending users a notification.
The year is 2022. There are now 29 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus an assortment of shows on Disney+. The second Avatar will be out in December. And Android 13 just launched a feature requiring apps to ask users’ permission before sending notifications. Overdue is an understatement.
Historically, Android has had a very robust notification system, notably a pull-down notification drawer, which Apple didn’t copy until 2011. Android has long had a ton of controls for selectively blocking certain categories of notifications as well. So if you want to be notified of, say, Instagram direct messages but not every single like on a post, you can block the latter in the app’s notification settings.
But all of Android’s notification controls come after the fact. When you install an app, it gets permission to send notifications by default. That’s it. There’s no initial prompt, there’s not even an alert that it’s happening. The act of downloading the app is, by default, consenting to whatever notifications an app chooses to send on Android.
In essence, Android’s approach to notifications is that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. And Android users have lived like that since its inception. In recent years, Google has at least made it easier to silence certain types of alerts. Long-press a notification, for example, and you’ll get the option to make that type of notification “silent” (meaning it won’t buzz or light up your phone) or turn it off entirely.
This setup has turned unwanted notifications into a game of whack-a-mole. Every new app you download is another chance to get spammed with junk, and not always immediately. One journaling app I downloaded (and promptly forgot about) was perfectly quiet for months. Until one day, the developer decided it would get more premium subscribers if it nudged users to write about their day. So, out of the blue, I got a notification that said, “Today is a great day to write in your journal!”
Assuming that users want notifications from an app they download is a relatively safe bet for major apps. You’d probably be pretty frustrated if you tapped wrong once and now you don’t get your Gmail alerts. But the problem gets worse when you apply it to random apps you might download for occasional use. On my phone, I currently have a half dozen apps I use to pair with various cameras or camera gear; a few more that I use for quick photo edits now and then; a couple of dating apps; some utilities for niche problems that only run in the background; and the odd educational app I keep insisting I’ll use more often.
via Wired https://www.wired.com
September 18, 2022 at 04:06AM