Android O Feature Focus : Notification Channels

Notifications. The one thing that comes to mind whenever you want to prove Android is better than iOS. Without falling into that debate however, we can all agree that Android handles notifications better than the competition. And lately with each update to the OS, Google has shown committment towards making that gap even larger. With the first developer preview of Android O, even as things seem mostly the same, some small little things that have been added to the notifications can make a lot of difference. 

One of those features is named Notification Channels, which are essentially notification groups defined by the apps themeselves. This gives users control over what kind of notifications they wish to see from an app. For instance, instead of blocking all the notifications from the Facebook app you can just block the “Likes” notifications that are bugging you.

Or consider a news app such as Google News & Weather, you can choose to receive notifications only about Technology news or news about only your favorite sports team. This is not a new revolutionary feature, since quite a few apps have previously had similar features. Google itself has previosly implemented a similar feature on Gmail which allows a fine-grained control over what kind of email users get notified for.

But it has never been a universal and centralized feature on Android before. As of now, you’d have to keep guessing which app would allow such control and dive into individual app settings. With Android O, you don’t have to — given that the app implements them of course.

Apps also have the ability to add or remove notification channels at any time. For example, consider a messaging app that creates a new channel for every new conversation thread, that you can turn off notifications for on an OS level. Perfect for silencing those annoying WhatsApp groups that you’re a part of but secretly wish you weren’t.

snooze_notifications_android_o

Alongside that, Android O also brings the ability to snooze specific app notifications for a certain amount of time right from the notification tray. And this one does not need app developers to support it.  Currently, you could turn on the Do not distrurb mode but that would block all notifications unless you whitelist all the other apps. Granted, one can block an app notification from the noification tray too, but that’s more like a permanent thing and if you want to just silent the app for a while, tough luck.

Notification Channels have the potential to greatly improve the user experience and user control over notifications, but it will all come down to how app developers implement them.

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