Too many notifications make smartphones unusable
Notifications started out as a way for an app or the operating system to tell you something useful, but they’ve grown into so much more over the past few years. Reports suggest that we check our smartphone almost a hundred times a day. Notifications are no small part of that, and they’re starting to become a real problem.
How seriously people take notifications can vary. Personally, I treat unattended notifications on my smartphone as tasks and don’t delete them until I take action (similar to how people mark emails as unread). Due to the hundreds of notifications I get every day, attaching a smartwatch and charging it regularly just to manage them easily seemed like a good idea.
But as every aspect of our lives goes digital (booking taxis, buying tickets, ordering food, etc.), notifications have gone from helpful to sometimes an absolute waste of time.
For example, let’s take a task that most of us do on a regular basis: withdraw money from an ATM. Assuming you have your bank’s app installed, chances are you’ll receive a notification, an email, and an SMS – all about the same transaction. Pay a mobile phone bill online and the notification bar will be populated with at least four redundant messages (from carrier and bank). The same goes for any transaction you may have with any merchant.
It is understandable that service providers still want to send you transactional communications via SMS, as this is a medium that works without an internet connection. But the result is ending up with redundant notifications that need to be cleared every time you do anything.
Then there’s the inconsistent behavior of receiving the same notification on multiple devices. Modern computer operating systems like Windows 10 or macOS have their own “notification centers” which collect all incoming notifications in one place. Suppose you are using a service like Twitter or WhatsApp and you receive some notifications. You will address them on your computer, but unfortunately your phone will always have the same notifications, waiting for your unnecessary dismissal. Some services, such as Facebook and Slack, have a better approach, where if you start chatting on one device, it clears queued notifications on the other.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the deluge of promotional notifications that app makers are pushing in an attempt to engage with their user base. An easy way to get rid of it would be to turn off notifications for that particular app. But this app also uses the same notification service to send you important notifications like when that product you bought from Amazon or Flipkart is shipping. Another example is if you turn off notifications on a music streaming app like Saavn, along with promotional notifications, it also removes useful music controls that appear when a song is playing. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this, except for the very few apps like Cleartrip that allow you to turn off promotion notifications from within the app.
It’s time for companies to take the notifications they send to customers more seriously. As a customer, this can be extremely annoying and cause you to get rid of an application and stop using a service. App makers need to be aware that their services are accessible across multiple devices and they need to take this into account. Sooner or later, this notification overload is bound to consume typical smartphone users, and their choice may begin to drift towards a service that spams them the least.