Some of you may have heard this tune before — but I've never been one of the privileged few to jump on a logically sound idea from the start.
Prior to owning my first iPhone, I was a proud owner of a Blackberry Curve. It was the 2nd Blackberry I've purchased; the first being the Blackberry 8700. In other words, I purchased these phones myself — neither of them were issued to me by my employers.
So what did I love about Blackberrys? Aside from an insanely loud ringer that could wake the dead, they were the phones for notifications. If you had everything set up correctly, you could be chiming with alerts that'll make others believe you're some kind of super-important need-to-be-in-the-loop-for-all-decisions individual.
However switching to an iPhone, that was not the case. There wasn't any kind of notification on the phone aside from calendars, emails, and text messages. At the time that I jumped into the iPhone foray, there wasn't an App Store yet.
All my dings, chimes, and whistles were gone. Things felt slow. My Blackberry was like a bird in the morning, tweeting to no end. This iPhone felt defiantly mute.
It even came down to jailbreaking my phone just to get some of the apps that were available unofficially and have them stay open in the background — since there was no push notification system. Everything was incredibly hack-y just to achieve some chimes in my life.
Now we have it.
We have apps that stay alive in the background. We have apps that show red badges whenever there was something you "needed" to know. We have apps that sync to a push notification server in order to flood you with score alerts for Sunday's game. Vibrating. Chiming. Modal. Banner. LEDs.
Prior to iOS 5, all those noisy alerts were easy to shut off. You would just simply jump into the Notifications area and turn it off. Beautiful silence. However, when iOS 5 came with the introduction of the Notification Center, silencing those notifications became more tedious. Instead of having a global setting to disable notifications, iOS 5 made it a per-app setting. Very frustrating when you have a lot of apps set to give off notifications.
Sure, I know I can decline the apps request to be hooked up to the Notification Center. But you know what's more annoying and frustrating? When you have to go back into your settings to enable an app to display notifications.
There are only a few notifications that I truly care about:
- OmniFocus geo-fenced and due date alerts
- Calendar reminders
- Downcast geo-fenced alerts (though not for the particular information, but for the comfort in knowing that it's checking and downloading updates)
- Mentions from Twitter from people I follow (just for the sake that conversations move extremely fast on Twitter and that without it, I may tend to jump into conversations 5 hours later)
The thing to note that aside from Twitter, every other notification that I have is purely controlled by me. I set the geo-fencing in both OmniFocus and Downcast and, aside from my wife, I am the only one entering appointments and reminders into my calendars. In other words, all of the non-Twitter related notifications were set by me (or my wife) — meaning its all information that I want to be alerted on.
I currently have this long ongoing iMessage chat between my close friends which have typically consists of shit-talking and images that you would typically see on an image BBS-type site. The volume of message alerts that I receive from that chat drove me, and possibly those around me hearing the alerts, insane. So I set their individual alerts to none and enabled LED notifications. So instead of having a constantly vibrating barrage with an aural onslaught of chimes, bells and whistles, I now have constant light grenades going off. While I do wish the LED flashes emitted were lowered in terms of intensity, this solution is much better, in my opinion.
The thing is, I loathe Mail.app. Out of all of the stock apps that I even bother with3, Mail.app is the worst in my opinion. The UI leaves a lot to be desired and the performance of the app is horrid. In my opinion, Sparrow has an excellent UI with an almost perfect experience. Though some people may complain about its lack of push notifications, but to me I say, "Welcome!".
While I do want to move away to another app with an on-par UI and UX as Sparrow due to its discontinuation of feature development, I have yet to find one worth investing on.
Since most of my emails addresses sit on Google's4 Apps For Your Domain service, Sparrow is where most of my emails reside. The only email account that I do have in Mail.app is my iCloud (or whatever Apple calls it today) account — and I honestly only use that account and toggle on push when sending one-off emails where I would like to be instantly alerted (Craigslist).
However, there are instances when I do want to be reminded of other things that are out of my controlled environment — such as a score change in a sporting event that I want to be reminded of or a text message from somebody who truly needs an urgent reply (though that in and of itself is an issue). However, iOS 5 makes it tedious to control those temporary notifications while still giving priority to that aforementioned apps that I do want alerts from.
Could you believe that in my notification-hungry days, I wanted to be alerted of RSS updates? Not for useful RSS alerts like a Craigslist search via IFTTT — but blog updates. The horror.
This reminds me a lot of that story of King Midas in which he wanted everything he touched to turn to gold. I, along with a lot of others out there, wanted alerts. The quicker the alerts, the better. Apple has now left us with an incredible push notification platform in which super-creative developers have made incredible use of. But I came into that situation where I got exactly what I wanted, and it turned into a nightmare. My phone would not shut up. On top of that, I have all sorts of red circles with numbers everywhere. Noise — utter noise.
Of course iOS 6 will be out probably within a week of this post going live, and with that, their Do Not Disturb feature — a feature I feel I will heavily use. However, I still long for a global setting to notifications for the times where I just want pure silence, a possibly an LED light-grenade going here and there.