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android lock screen notificationsAndroid is becoming increasingly popular with smartphone users, and most experts predict that it will leave iOS and other popular operating systems far behind in the future. In fact, it’s already doing that, as market data says that more Android devices are sold than all the other OS based devices (iOS, Windows, Symbian and the like) combined! This may be because Android phones are very cheap (the cheaper ones cost as little as $60) or it may be because of the huge number of apps available on the Android marketplace (over a million). Android also enjoys the backing of Google, which has poured a massive amount of money into developing the Google Play store and the operating system in general. Whatever the reason for its popularity, expect Android to continue ruling the roost in the future as well.

To give you an example of its popularity, about 1.5 billion apps get downloaded at the PlayStore each month. That’s  huge! If you’re interested in developing an application – a game, an educational app, a utility app or just a messaging app- you get access to this user base. Developing an app isn’t as hard as it sounds. However, to make your app popular, you do have to put in some effort into it. It has to be designed well, have interesting features and solid content. You can sign up for this course to learn how to build an outstanding Android app, or take a look at some of our tutorials on the topic.

In this article, we’re going to give you a brief overview of the different types of notifications you come across in Android apps, with some examples. You can combine these different types of notifications in your app to deliver a better experience to the app user.

Android Notifications

Notifications make up a very important part of any Android app. You can use them to keep the user updated with important activities or with important news. You can also tell the user to perform a necessary update through notifications.

Most applications use different types of notifications at different times. There are three important types of notifications in Android which should cover most of your needs: dialog notifications, normal notifications (push or otherwise) and toasts. Let’s take a look at all three, with examples. Before we go ahead, you may want to take this course on Android App development essentials to get a more holistic view of app development.

Dialog Notifications or Plain Dialogs

You must have seen a window asking you if you’re sure you want to quit the game you’re playing without saving your progress. That’s nothing but a common dialog notification. Dialog notifications show up in small windows and are generally used to get a user to double check an action, to enter information or to make a simple yes or no decision. They also sometimes used to display a progress bar to the user.

When the Android dialog notification pops up, the user won’t be able to work on any other activity until he deals with the dialog window. The dialog freezes the app until the user has made a decision or made a requested change. This functionality of the dialog notification helps protect the integrity of the information the user is feeding to the app. The user can be prompted to double check the information he or she has entered. It also allows the user to go back on a mistaken decision, like if the user presses the exit button on the app accidentally and doesn’t really want to exit just yet. A simple “Are you sure you want to Exit?” notification window will save your user a lot of hassle and let him continue using your app.

Take a look at the images below to get an idea of what a dialog notification looks like:

AndroidDialogNotification1To learn more about dialog notifications and how to set them up in your app, sign up for our introductory Android development course.

Status Notifications

These notifications appear outside the application’s interface, in the notification area. They are usually accompanies by an icon of the app, or, if the user is receiving a message, by a picture of the person who is messaging.

These are the most important kind of notifications, as you’ll be able to use them to keep getting the user to come back to your app. However, it’s important to not go overboard and annoy the user with needless notifications.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to really make the status notifications your app sends out different from those sent out by other apps, because Google has a strict policy against that kind of stuff. All notifications have to match a certain design and layout.


Take a look at the image above to get an idea of what status notifications look like. For example, if you receive a message from your friend, you will be told that a notification is waiting for you by an icon in the status bar (or notification area). Once you access the status bar, you will be able to see the details of the notification. If it’s a message from a friend, the name of the friend, his picture as well as couple of lines of the message may be displayed in the notification.

Some status notifications also let users perform actions. For example, say the user received a call from someone while he was away. The notification informs the user about this fact, and gives the user the option of calling back or messaging the person who called.

Some notifications are accompanied by ringtones and vibrations, and you can use that with the notifications your app sends out. While these are great ways to get the user’s attention, you should give the user the option of controlling these settings. Also, you can choose to activate the LED light on the phone (if the phone has it) when sending out notifications. This is another great way to get the user’s attention.

Toast Notifications

Toast notifications are simple notifications that pop up in the app window. For example, when you send a message to a friend, a toast notification might pop up saying: “Your Message has Been Delivered Successfully”.

Toast notifications don’t freeze the app, like dialog notifications. They are used to keep the user updated of the app’s activity and don’t interfere with what the user is doing in any way. They usually don’t occupy much space either.

The picture below shows a typical toast notification:


Emergency Notifications

While you can’t use Emergency notifications (or alerts) in your app, we thought we’d give you some information about them anyway because they are important.

Android now sends out emergency notifications if something you should know about is happening in your area. If there has been a natural calamity, for example, you will get an emergency alert on your phone. Your phone will flash, vibrate and generally be very loud until you receive the alert, whatever it is.

At the moment, there are four types of emergency notifications you can receive: presidential notifications, imminent extreme notifications, imminent severe alert and AMBER alert. You can turn off every alert except for the presidential alert.

To learn how to create these notifications and use them in your app, we recommend you take our Android development course. A well designed application will use a balanced mixture of the three different types of notifications available to you (dialog, status and toast notifications). The goal is for them to be useful and make your app indispensable to the user. You can learn more about how to design a good user experience with this course.

Page Last Updated: May 2014

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