Google is busy preparing Android 8.0 “O” (hoped to be “Oreo”) for a public release, and is expected to be made available on Google Nexus and Google Pixel devices at the end of August 2017. Google is implementing a number of changes to notifications, boosting what is already a traditional strength of the platform. Although not very glamorous, notifications are at the very heart of what makes a smartphone functional. After all, what good are dozens of good quality applications on the device if we are never told when something interesting has happened? Let’s take a look at some of the new features.
One of the more subtle changes in how Android “O” deals with notifications support for notification dots in the launcher. These appear on the corner of installed applications with something to tell you. Some custom launchers already support this technology, and they work great as a subtle reminder if you have already swiped the alert away. Holding down over an icon with the notification dot brings new features and relevant shortcuts, which is a reason why Google is encouraging app developers to upgrade apps ready for Android “O.”
The notification shade has also received some attention with the ability to snooze notifications straight from the pull-down shade. In the developer preview, the default is fifteen minutes, but this may be extended for up to one hour: perfect for giving you the chance to finish whatever it is that you are working on before you deal with that Tweet, email, or message.
The final improvement is Notification Channels. This is the ability to group sets of notifications from an application, and for developers to hand over notification controls to the operating system (and the user). It means users can fine tune how an application lets them know of something, and these options can be changed by holding down your finger on the application notification in the shade. Luckily, existing applications not written for Android “O” and the new Notification Channel feature will still work as they do on Android Nougat and older platforms.
From a productivity perspective, Android “O” has the promise of finer, granular control over notifications. I’m most excited about the ability to finely control how an application lets me know of something interesting going on via Notification Channels. It will mean I can have applications present some notifications by a subtle dot over the application, others by a sound and notification shade, and configure other options too. With a little set up time, I should be able to set up device notifications exactly how I want it, whereas currently there is an element of compromise.
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