One of the first iOS 8 features I wrote about last summer was actionable notifications. Basically, this feature allows notifications to have buttons that let you respond to them without even opening the app. When I first saw this feature, it was in the context of banner notifications on the top of the screen. I thought this was definitely a cool idea, but not quite an earth-shattering one. However, once I realized that these actions are also available on the lock screen, I realized how much time this feature would actually save me.
Let’s go through a hypothetical situation here. Let’s say I’m sitting in class and my phone is buzzing off the hook. I’m not going to look at it in class, so when it ends, I have a bunch of notifications. Let’s say I’ve got a text from my brother, asking me a question about church tonight. I’ve also got 16 texts from a group message, a notification from WordPress that someone linked to my post, two emails about my scout troop, a Twitter mention, two Instagram likes, and a Snapchat. (Of course, I rarely open my phone and see notifications from all of these apps at once, but for the sake of this example, I’ve named lots of apps which have notifications I can act upon.) Let’s go through each of these one at a time:
First is the text from my brother. Since Messages is an official Apple app, it can have much more functionality than Apple would allow a third-party app. Because of this, I can swipe right on this notification and tap reply. A keyboard then pops up right on the lock screen, allowing me to respond to the text (rest assured, random people who find your phone can reply to your texts only if you’ve turned this feature on). The only thing that’s annoying about this is that iOS won’t let me use SwiftKey on the lock screen, because that keyboard requires full access, and I guess they don’t want it to run unless I’ve put my passcode in.
Next are the group texts. If it’s not something I want to reply to, I can just read them all right there on the lock screen, and then swipe right and dismiss the most recent one. Now the cool part happens: I don’t have to dismiss every text. If I dismiss one text from a thread, all texts that came in before that also clear. The assumption is that if you’ve read the most recent, you’ve read them all. This is great, because sometimes I open my phone to 50 or more group texts.
After dealing with all the messages, I’ve got a WordPress notification. Since most of my pingback notifications are from my own blog (which is a whole different can of worms I can gripe about), I just want to approve them right away. Fortunately, I can swipe on the notification and tap “Approve.” The only annoying part is that this doesn’t mark the notification as viewed in the WordPress app; messages, in contrast, are all marked as read when you dismiss the notification.
Now come the emails. I was a Boy Scout for seven years, but I aged out last fall. I’m technically an Assistant Scoutmaster, but I don’t really do anything in that post. That being said, most of the troop emails don’t apply to me. With actionable notifications, I can swipe on each notification and tap “Mark as read.” And they’re gone. This is also nice because, while my read states do sync between devices, this process can take a while. So if I read an email on my iPad, then see it on my phone, I can easily mark it as read.
Now on to social media. More than likely I want to favorite that Twitter mention, and I can do so right from the lock screen. As for the Instagram likes, I can just dismiss them. Like WordPress, these don’t mark as viewed in the Instagram app, but I can just clear them next time I’m there.
Now all I’m left with is the Snapchat. The difference here is that you can’t do anything to Snapchat notifications on the lock screen (besides clear them), so I have to unlock my phone for this. Since Snapchat focuses on pictures, there’s not much they can do with actionable notifications. However, I’ve just gone from 24 notifications to 1, without even unlocking my phone. That’s a major boost in efficiency, and even better, one that I can use every day. ••