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Android’s Expanded Notifications Are a Missed Opportunity

The expanded notifications introduced in Jelly Bean are fantastic, but in my opinion activating them this a fundamentally flawed experience.

Look at the following screenshot, which contains two notifications that can be expanded:

How would anyone know which notifications can be expanded and which can’t? Currently the only way to find out is to:

  1. Swipe each notification to see if it can be expanded.
  2. Memorize which apps provide expanded notifications.

This is a silly situation.

The recent Android 4.1.2 release introduced a somewhat handy new feature that allows users to expand all notifications with a single fingered downward swipe. This is an improvement, but it still fails to address the problem of the UI not informing the user when an expandable notification is present.

Fixing this is easy: there should be some visual cue when a notification can be expanded. Some obvious options might include:

  1. Display a symbol indicating a notification can be expanded. A downward facing caret symbol (a flipped ^), ala descriptions in the Play Store, would seem an obvious candidate.
  2. Using a different background on the notification shade.

As it stands, it seems to me that the Android team have gone to tremendous effort to provide a very useful feature, but by making the existence of expandable notifications so obtuse, they have effectively dropped the baton at the finish line.

Filed under a better android coder ux

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