(Android) Notifications: Useful Apps and Extensions

Android Notifications

Just another day at the Android 4.3 notification office.

Notifications are the one thing that Android has always done better than iOS. Even Android 1.0 from 2008 had status bar notifications, a feature that the iPhone et al did not get until the addition of Notification Center in iOS 5 in late 2011, at which point Apple opted for the familiar pull-down gesture that was already widespread on the seas of Gingerbread and Froyo phones.

iOS 7 has a lot of promise in its revamped approach to notifications, but Jelly Bean raised the bar and has kept Android in the lead on this score at least. Expandable notifications gave a user a window into rich content and enabled an endless array of quick actions. Want to type out a quick text without opening the SMS app? Want to archive an email instantly? Want to view a list of items? There’s an app notification for that.

In a way, I think that Google’s insane focus on notifications was the first step toward bring Android at least level with iOS in quality. The system notification UI – so neatly grouped in that pull-down menu – provided a common framework from which a user could interact with apps without having to actually enter the apps as much, hence mitigating annoyances like aesthetic gaps between iOS and Android versions or the shittiness of garbage collected languages (read: Java) on mobile and in the hands of devs who don’t do manual collection.

Here are twelve apps and two Chrome extensions that can up the notification game.

Eye in Sky

What it is: A top-shelf weather app.

Notification perks: 1) persistent, regularly updated temperature figure in the status bar; 2) Dashclock extension; 3) expandable weather notification with customizable icons and forecasts.

Sleep as Android

What it is: A handy sleep tracker app that catalogs your deep and light sleep percentages and also features an alarm clock.

Notification perks: 1) sleep tracker toggle in notification bar

Notif Pro

What it is: A custom notifications app.

Notifications perk: 1) expandable; 2) lists; 3) alerts; 4) photos

PushBullet

What it is: An app that can receive pushed images, files, and/or lists from its accompanying Chrome extension.

Notification perks: 1) Dashclock extension; 2) expandable notification for lists and image previews

Desktop Notifications

What it is: a way to connect your Android notifications with your desktop instance of Chrome or Firefox.

Notification perks: shows all Android notifications in a popup in the lower-right in Chrome or Firefox. I love using this on Chrome OS with its extension.

Battery Widget Reborn

What it is: A battery conservation and tracking tool.

Notification perks: 1) expandable notification with usage chart/time remaining estimate; 2) Dashclock extension; 3) Daydream; 4) lockscreen widget

Sliding Messaging Pro

What it is: An SMS client and a huge upgrade over stock (and it gets updated all the time)

Notification perks: gee, where to begin: 1) Dashclock extension; 2) multiple widgets; 3) persistent quick text notification in status bar; 4) expandable notifications with read/reply options for new messages; 5) scrollable widget that can be overlaid inside of any app.

Spotify

What it is: A music streaming service. I assume you’ve heard of it.

Notification perks: 1) expandable notification with forward/backward/play/pause control and add to playlist button

Pocket Casts

What it is: A podcasting client.

Notification perks: 1) expandable notification with rewind/fast forward (not just forward/back) and play/pause controls

DashClock Widget

What is: A lockscreen notification center which I’ve written about here.

Notification perks: Out-of-the-box compatibilty with Gmail, SMS, weather, Google Calendar etc. Customizable with numerous extensions.

ActiveNotifications

What it is: A way to bring the Moto X’s distinctive (and somewhat intrusive) notifications to any Android phone

Notification perks: 1) screen wakes with specific information about each notification’s content.

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