Android’s New Notification Feature Is a Decade Overdue
Add these and it’s a so many Of the apps that took the liberty of sending me notifications, until I was annoyed enough to tell them no. Some of these I can (and should) uninstall, but others I need to keep on my phone. I just don’t want them spamming me to let me know that the developer has updated their weird photo management desktop app that I will never use.
To make matters worse, notification categories are created only by the developer. But developers don’t have to play nice. For example, Amazon only uses three categories in the Android system (“notifications”, account authentication, and Alexa) but continues to refine them within the app itself. If you try to mute or disable push notification ads, you may be disabling shipping notifications by mistake. (And, in the past at least, Amazon has Charity donations depend on receiving personalized promotional notifications.)
Even if developers — including Google — follow the system’s rules, it’s easy to create new notification categories to revolve around those that users have silenced. The core Google app on Android has 30 different categories of notifications, which now include things like “Tips and tricks,” “Suggestions,” and “More.” Good luck understanding all they mean. Oh, and they are always changing.
Force the app to ask for permission before Sending a notification won’t fix all of this. People will probably still allow Amazon to send notifications, just stuck with some ads getting through because, well, they still want the updates to deliver. However, being able to cut off some junk before it arrives would be better than hunting it down after the fact.
The problem is that because of the way Android updates work, even these small but necessary changes will take years to take effect. Android updates take quite a while to release for most users. As of May 2022, only 28.3% of Android devices on version 11 or later. Android 11 was first released in 2020. In other words, it could take years for your phone to support the feature.
Even if you are one of the lucky few to own a phone (be it Samsung or Google Pixels) will support it soon, developers will not be obligated to support it. It might be mid to late 2023 before apps are required to target Android 13, and in doing so, you’re required to ask for permission before sending notifications. Maybe earlier for some apps, but others can hold off for as long as they can.
Given how long it will take for the Android ecosystem to catch up to this change, how important such a fundamental right is, and especially given how much Google cares about its notification system… Surprisingly, this happened so late.
When I first bought the T-Mobile G1 — both me and the First Android phone — notifications are one of the things I’m most excited about. It’s a handy little to-do list of all the things I need to stay at the top of my phone, and over time I can even do some of those things without ever thinking about it. now leave the shade.
These days, Android notifications have become a little bit of a nightmare. I had to uninstall apps that I was going to use just because I was too tired to search for all the junk notifications. I no longer trust that if my phone rings, it must be something important. And the time I need to spend just making sure the apps work the way they should have evolved considerably. I’m glad Google finally asked for permission instead of forgiveness. I just wish it had done so much earlier.