The Annoyment Center

One of the biggest new features in iOS 5 is the revamping of the notification system — this has been long overdue. The problem with the new notification system, though, is how the centralized ‘Notification Center’ works.

As an idea it is great because now you can finally see all those past notifications. Except what the Notification Center really points out is that Apple had it right all along: old notifications truly are irrelevant and tend to be clutter.

Overall the new way that notifications are displayed while using the device and on the lock screen is excellent — if not perfect for my needs. The notification center, however, is far from being great — it’s not even good.

Calendars you want to hide

First every calendar that is in the Calendar app on iOS is shown in the notification center — your only options about this is to turn all off, or limit the amount shown. One would think this is ideal, but what if — like me — you subscribe to a calendar for your golf club that has multiple events every day?

Well, if this is the case, you are bound to have a bunch of meaningless events shown — all of which you can’t turn off without losing the ability to see real events. This drives me nuts.

The ideal situation would be for Apple to just not show subscribed calendars, or allow you to pick which calendars are shown. Until we get that feature, I must turn off all Calendar displays in the new notification center, or be presented with worthless information.

Old alerts

Once an item notification appears in the Notification Center it will not leave until one of the following happens:

  1. You directly act on the notification from either the lock screen or the Notification Center.
  2. Newer notifications push it out of the notification center.
  3. Days have past, even then I don’t know.
  4. The developer of that App has the proper APIs in place to remove the notification when you launch the offending app.

Do you see what I am getting at: overall the Notification Center just isn’t as smart as it needs to be, instead it’s much less useful then it could/should be.

This amounts to a ton of old and outdated notifications — essentially it is now clutter and cruft that must be scrubbed free. Keep in mind there is no ‘clear all’ function and thus you now must actually clear the notifications by application that they come from. Oh and that clear button? Yes, it is tiny.

Why you can’t set a default time for these items to disappear is beyond me — I have no reason to see some things hours after they happened — no reason.

Notification Center appears to be the one part of iOS that is attempting to solve a problem solely created by users — thus it isn’t nearly as good as the rest of iOS.

You don’t know when things are in there.

All of this really leads to the most annoying part of the new Notification Center: the fact that there is no indication, or notification anywhere that there are still notifications in the Notification Center.

The core function of a notification is to notify you of things. Notification Center doesn’t seem to understand this concept.

So here’s a common scenario for me:

  • While driving home from work I get notifications from OmniFocus, Twitter, Text Messages.
  • At some point during the drive I need to make a phone call, so I unlock the phone and make the call, using voice dial or Dialvetica.
  • I get home and use my phone to check Twitter and Email, but now all the notifications that were on the lock screen are gone because I unlocked my phone and made that call.

Therefore: I never see those notifications. I thought this entire system was designed so that I don’t miss notifications any more?

In the old iOS 4 and earlier days this was the end of hope for knowing what those notifications were. However, we are now rocking iOS 5 and have this fancy Notification Center — yet after I check Email I forget to check the Notification Center.


Because I have no reason to, I have no indication that there is anything sitting in there waiting for me to see. (I have been using iOS 5 since beta 1 as my full-time OS — I still haven’t grown the habit of checking the Notification Center.) And so a couple of days go by and finally I check the Notification Center, only to clear out a dozen or so out of date notifications that have become completely meaningless to me.

Thus, the Notification Center is really a Annoyment Center for me.

Likely it will be for you too.

Originally posted for members on: October 12, 2011
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