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One UI 6.1 keeps messing with Android's best feature — I need Samsung to stop it

The iOS-ification of Android has gone one step too far, Samsung.

Published onApril 28, 2024

When I first got my Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, I was left scratching my head, looking at dozens and dozens of incoming notifications from many apps and unable to control the deluge. The problem? No notification channels. And now, Samsung has done the same thing for all phones receiving the One UI 6.1 update: It turned off notification channels by default.

There’s an easy fix, yes, but the fact that this is opt-in is a baffling anti-consumer move, especially when channels are — in my opinion — one of Android’s best features.

Do you use notification channels / categories on Android?

5315 votes

Why are notification channels so important on Android?

google pixel 8 pro notification channel deliveroo 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

When people ask me why I keep buying Android phones instead of iPhones, I have a list of iOS drawbacks ready to go: the inconsistent back gesture, the bad keyboard situation, and the confusing share menu. But the first and foremost argument is notification management. I’ve tried a few times; the way iOS manages notifications is abysmally poor. I can write page-long essays about everything wrong with it, but the main reason is the default all-or-nothing approach to notifications.

If you want to be notified of your delivery order from a merchant app, you have to accept all notifications from the app, which may include ads, deals, and unnecessary distractions. On iOS, the onus is on the app developer to do the right thing and create a settings screen inside their app where you can opt in or out of certain types of notifications. Twitter, for example, has a dedicated Notifications menu under its settings, which lets me allow replies and direct messages but skip alerts about new followers or retweets. So I can choose what merits my attention, and what doesn’t.

Notification management on iOS is abysmally poor. Android does it better thanks to channels.

The problem with this is two-fold: 1) it’s on the user to go dig in every app they’re using and see if it has a special notification settings menu somewhere, and 2) not all developers make an effort to implement it, to begin with. And it’s always the most spammy apps that take advantage of the situation. They know you need one specific type of alert from them (deliveries, transport, finance, etc.) and use the all-or-nothing approach to send you promotions and pointless stuff as well.

Android’s approach is different. Notification channels were introduced in Android 8.0 Oreo, back in 2017. The idea is that the moment you open an app’s notification settings, you can easily dismiss a particular subset of notifications — i.e. a channel — without much fuss. The channels are a default Android API where app developers can group different types of notifications. It’s taken a few years for most app developers to adopt this feature and not let everything go in one channel, but now, almost every app in my 100+ apps list uses them.

In Google Maps, for example, I can keep the notifications for directions and transit but disable the Q&As and recommendations. In Deliveroo (an UberEats competitor), I can disable ads and deals but keep order updates on. When I set up my parents’ phones, I can turn off any notifications I don’t want them to worry about or mess with while keeping the important ones streaming in.

google pixel 8 pro notification channel ds router 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Better yet, on stock Android phones, like the Pixel series or Nothing Phones, tapping on any current notification’s settings opens the list of channels and highlights the exact one it’s coming from — look at the highlight around the “Informative” channel for my Synology DS Router app above. This makes it easy for me to quickly pinpoint the culprit of a new deluge of spammy notifications and disable it.

TL;DR: Channels are one of the best ways of managing notification mayhem, and I can’t go back to a time before they existed. I like to be in control of what disrupts me and what requires my attention, so anything superfluous is just a waste of time to me.

How Samsung is messing with Android’s notification channels

samsung galaxy s24 ultra notification category galaxy store 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Samsung phones shipping with One UI 6.1 out of the box, like the Galaxy S24 series, for example, don’t offer notification categories — Samsung’s name for channels. By default, you can either fully opt into all of an app’s notifications or opt out completely. There’s no fine-tuning available.

One UI 6.1 disables notification categories for everyone, even if you had previously set them up.

Now, the same thing is happening on all phones being updated to One UI 6.1. Installing the update disables notification categories by default, so even if you had picked your preferred alert settings for an app, you can’t see or control those anymore. You’re either fully opted in or out.

Even worse, One UI doesn’t show the handy highlight when you tap a notification, so there’s no easy way to tell which category it’s coming from. It’s on us to figure that out (usually by digging into Notification history, but that’s another story altogether). Unfortunately, no regular user will ever know this.

How to fix notification categories in One UI 6.1

When I first noticed the issue on my Galaxy S24 Ultra, I pinged the biggest Samsung fan I know, Zachary Kew-Dennis, and asked him to investigate it. In an article on Android Police, Zachary figured out that One UI 6.1 now has a new toggle to enable or disable notification categories altogether, and that did the trick!

To turn it on, go to Settings > Notifications > Advanced settings and turn on the toggle for Manage notification categories for each app.

Once that setting is on, a new Notification categories menu will appear below the notification settings of any app. Check the example below for the Galaxy Store app. After turning on the toggle mentioned above, categories appear at the bottom of the screen.

In there, you’ll find the groups of notifications that a developer has created for their app. And you’ll be able to control each one individually.

In the case of the Galaxy Store, I immediately turned off the category of Instant plays and Events, because I don’t care about those. I kept the others on, but I can control each one individually, so, for example, I can keep the app update notifications silent because I don’t want them to interrupt me.

Just revert this change, Samsung

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is a bad move for Android. Hiding one of the platform’s most useful features is not good for users. It negates all the good Android has done in getting developers to adopt channels/categories and giving us more control over the dozens of alerts we receive each day. And I genuinely think it brings Android a step back.

Worse yet, making this an opt-in toggle and forcefully opting out everyone by default when they update to One UI 6.1 is just a baffling bad decision. Imagine you’ve set up your notifications exactly how you wanted them, and now you’re either receiving too much or nothing and have no idea what went wrong!

The iOS-ification of One UI 6.1 has gone one step too far. Bad, Samsung, capital-B Bad.

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