Are push notifications pushing your buttons?

August 22, 2012
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You reach excitedly for your phone, which just flashed or vibrated or chirped an alert to grab your attention. What will it be? A new email about that job you want? A text message from the object of your affections? Maybe a Facebook invite to a party?

No, it turns out that there’s a new music track available in AutoRap.

Hands up if you’re sick of useless push notifications. I’m going to assume that the majority of you raised your hands, or at least thought about it and then decided it would be pointless because I can’t see you anyway. As Sarah Perez pointed out over at Tech Crunch recently, app developers are abusing push, and it has to stop. The list of potential push notifications is extremely long and only a very small percentage of them offer any value to the user.

What is it this time?

Do people care that they have a new follower? Do they need an alert every time someone responds to something they posted? Do they care that there’s new content available? Do they want to know about free trials? Do they want to be pestered for reviews?

The answer is generally no. There may be a few exceptions, but we’d like the choice to dictate what those are. The trouble is app developers don’t always make it easy to turn notifications off. There’s a reason why Android 4.1 Jelly Bean allows you to track and block notifications from individual apps. It’s because notifications have gotten out of hand and we need an easy way to stop them from bothering us.

More spam

Email already plagues us with spam. Notifications are like a second layer on top of that. The trouble is that some apps don’t offer an option to turn off notifications at all. If you don’t have Android 4.1 yet then your options are limited. It’s often easier to just deny apps the ability to send push notifications in the first place, but not all of them ask for permission.

Having to uninstall apps that you would like to occasionally use, simply because they won’t stop spamming you, is a real shame. This pointless self-promotion doesn’t serve app developers. It’s about time they thought about what users want instead of what they want.

Are you sick of notifications? What’s the most ridiculous one you’ve received? Got any tips for killing them off on pre-Jelly Bean phones? Post a comment.

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