How to understand the new iOS 11 Notification Center

By on Oct 10, 2017 in Mobile Design | 0 comments

One of the larger changes in iOS 11 is the Notification Center, which has been overhauled yet again on Apple’s new mobile operating system into a somewhat confusing design.

Apple is taking a different — we’ll charitably call it “unique” — approach to notifications in iOS 11. Under Apple’s logic, notifications live on your lock screen, where they pop up for you to address as they come in. So why not make your Notification Center more like the lock screen? In fact, why not just make them one and the same?

Confused? Then read on. We’ve done our best to explain Apple’s new system below.

Less is more

The thing to remember with the new Notification Center is that, instead of a separate pane, now, no matter where you are in iOS, swiping down will take you back to your lock screen — or at least the interface of the lock screen. That means that the giant clock, the “now playing” music widget, and even your wallpaper (if you’ve got a different one) will show up, along with all your notifications.

Much like on the lock screen, new notifications will be at the top of the shade, while older ones that have already been seen — but not yet interacted with — will be found in an “earlier today” area below. Continue scrolling and you can go back in time to previous days, which is the only sorting Apple applies to your notifications. Each day also has a small “x” on the top right corner, which can clear that day out. Pressing down with 3D Touch brings up an additional option to clear all notifications.

As for notifications themselves, you’ve got three options now: either tap on them or swipe right to open them in the app; swipe left to open up additional “view,” which expands the notification and offers any options; or “clear” actions. The expanded view can also be brought up by a Force Touch, assuming you’ve got a 3D Touch device.

And just like the lock screen, swiping right will take you to camera, while swiping left brings up your pane of widgets.

A lock screen by any other name

That said, there are a few differences between your actual lock screen and the notification shade. First up, the notification shade isn’t actually locked, so swiping back up from the bottom of the pane will take you back to your current app. You can generally tell where you are if there’s a small lock icon at the top. (If one is present, you’re on the lock screen and need to unlock your phone with Touch ID or a password.)

Additionally, the lock screen will only show you new notifications by default, instead of older ones. To get to those on the lock screen proper, you’ll need to scroll down, which will cause the rest to appear.

And since the lock screen is supposed to be, well, locked, tapping on a notification to go into an app will bring up a request to unlock your phone instead of just launching the app as it does from the notification shade.

A glimpse of the future

While the new Notification Center is a bit confusing for the iPhones of today, it’s important to note that it’s very much something that feels designed for how iOS 11 will work on Apple’s upcoming flagship iPhone X.

While the iPhone X isn’t out just yet, it seems to further blur the line between the lock screen and Notification Center. The same “swipe up” gesture will be used to go back to the rest of the operating system (unlike current iPhones, which use 3D Touch). With Face ID, it’s possible to unlock the phone but remain on the lock screen to interact with notifications.

So if you don’t like the new Notification Center, it might just be because it wasn’t designed with your phone in mind.

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