Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re in the middle of important work and your phone buzzes, along with a “ding”. You check it to see the notification — you don’t want to miss anything important, after all. You swipe down Android’s notifications bar and there it is: an annoying ad, a message from an app you don’t need, or something else just as useless. Let’s put an end to that, shall we?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Android notifications. They’re one of the most useful features of the operating system, when done right. In fact, I use Pushbullet to sync notifications to my PC. But app makers are now pushing unnecessary information, which is proving to be a real problem.
The Problem With Unwanted Notifications
In a study published this month, Florida State University researchers say that notifications are ruining people’s concentration, whether it’s a small beep or a persistent ring. The nature of the notification does not matter; it’s just as disruptive. And you don’t even need to interact with your phone.
“We found that cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupted performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants did not directly interact with a mobile device during the task,” the study says. The authors also say this behavior wasn’t restricted to “smartphone addicts”, but was found commonly among regular smartphone users.
Here’s the important line:
“The magnitude of observed distraction effects was comparable in magnitude to those seen when users actively used a mobile phone, either for voice calls or text messaging.”
Yup, a notification is as distracting to you as actually using a phone. It’s yet another scary example of what smartphones are doing to your body and mind.
Now, I’m not demonizing all notifications here. Some of them are important and necessary, so you might not want to turn off all notifications on all devices. But while you do need to see an important text, you probably don’t need to know that Amazon has a sale on kitchen items today! It’s time to get rid of the unwanted information and even build better smartphone habits. And it’s pretty easy too!
How to Block Notifications From Any App
Depending on the version of Android you are running, there are two ways to easily stop notifications from an app.
On Android 5.0 Lollipop and Up
The new Android 5 Lollipop has made notifications a whole lot easier for users by introducing its own section.
- Go to Settings > Sound and Notification > App Notifications
- Tap the app you want to stop
- Tap the toggle for Block, which will never show notifications from this app
Don’t concern yourself with Priority Mode here. Priority Mode is a new system from Android which lets certain “whitelisted” apps show you notifications when your phone is set to “Priority” mode, which is Lollipop’s version of “Do Not Disturb”.
On Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to 4.4 Kit Kat
If you don’t yet have Lollipop, don’t worry. You can still block notifications on your handset without much fuss, as long as you are running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or newer.
- Go to Settings > Apps
- Tap the app you want to stop
- Tap to uncheck the box for Show notifications
On Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or Older
Unfortunately, there is no way to disable notifications from an app in older versions of Android. Chris had a few suggestions the last time we talked about how to block notification ads, but the wisest step really is to upgrade your phone.
Find Where a Notification Came From
Now that you know how to block a notification, the question still remains about which app you need to stop. If you don’t know where that notification you see is coming from, there is an easy way to find out on any Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or newer phone.
Method 1: If You Can Still See the Notification
In case the notification is still visible, i.e., you haven’t interacted with it or dismissed it, you can find out the app quickly.
- Long-press the notification and you’ll see an “i” icon, as pictured. Tap that.
- This takes you to the app in settings. Tap to uncheck the box for Show notifications.
Method 2: If You Can’t See the Notification
In case you have dismissed the notification in a fit of frustration, don’t worry, you can still track it down. Digital Inspiration discovered a quick method to find your notifications history. It’s part of the default Android widgets on new and old phones:
- Tap and hold anywhere on your Home Screen to bring up the Widgets dialog.
- Tap Shortcut > Settings Shortcut > Notification log
- You’ll see a new Notification log icon on your home screen. Tap this to bring up your entire notifications history.
- Tap any app and you’ll be taken to it in the settings. As usual, tap to uncheck the box for Show notifications.
You could also download Notification History,an app that tracks and saves your notifications, but it seems unnecessary when there’s already a built-in tool from Android.
You Can’t Disable Select Notifications
Unfortunately, as of now, you can’t disable some notifications from an app while allowing others, unless the app itself has those options. For example, Google Hangouts, the best all-in-one messaging app, lets you control notifications separately for messages and video calls, within the app’s settings. But with a game like Angry Birds, it’s all notifications or no notifications.
For your most-used apps, dive into the settings and see if there is a way to control notifications. Most popular messaging and social networking apps offer more than an all-or-nothing option, so you should tweak it to your usage.
How Would You Improve Android’s Notifications?
I really wish Android had a way to control notification types for each app, so that I could tell it just what I want. Even if it learned my preferences smartly, that would be nice. For example, I want to get a notification from Amazon when my order has shipped, but I don’t want a notification about the upcoming sale on Friday.
Of course, there are times when even the notifications you want don’t show up. When that happens, try these fixes to get notifications working again on your Android phone. And if you want to silence notifications altogether at certain times, here’s how to set up and customize Do Not Disturb on Android.