iOS vs Android vs WebOS: Who's Doing Mobile Notifications Right?

By Wesley Fenlon

Apple's pop ups, Android's notification bar: is either a good solution?

We love notifications. You love notifications too, right? They keep us up-to-date on every email, text message, app update, and tweet to hit our smart phones. Notifications are one of the basic building blocks of a mobile OS, but there’s no consensus on how to properly implement them. Apple’s notifications pops up over the entire OS, blocking access to apps and the home screen. Android’s method is less obtrusive, but the notification bar across the top of the screen can quickly fill up with a mess of icons.

custom iOS solution is making the rounds, claiming to be iOS notifications done right. But is it really? A perceptive blog from an interface designer says no, and points to another platform’s solution as the smartest on the market: webOS.

The Cocoia blog takes Apple to task for its screen-disabling notifications, specifically citing layers of notifications that make international roaming a hassle. Android’s problem, he says, is the issue of priority: an icon for the phone’s USB connection shouldn’t share the same priority as a missed call or a new email. The “junk drawer” at least gives users a chance to choose how they organize notifications, but is that as good as a perfect implementation in the first place?

Android Honeycomb has changed up notifications and brought them to the bottom of the screen--perhaps that will carry over to the phone version in future updates. As for the iOS MobileNotifier: Cocoia blogger 
Sebastiaan de With isn’t too impressed. He’s worried that the notifications will obscure too much of the screen and could easily flood the entire display with updates.
Still, as a free beta, at least MobileNotifier presents an attractive and useful alternative to Apple’s implementation. Perhaps we’ll get a taste of something new in Apple’s iPad presentation tomorrow. Out of the current generation of mobile operating systems, who do you think does push notification the best?