5 ways to take charge of Android and iOS notifications

ios notification tip block app notifications 4
Image: Ben Patterson

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Android and iOS notifications can get out of hand fast. For example, it seems like the notification light on my Android tablet is constantly pulsing, and no—I really don’t need to know that there’s a new episode of “Big Bang Club” available on the CBS app for iPhone.

Luckily, there’s an alternative to completely silencing your phone using, say, iOS’s Do Not Disturb mode, or Priority mode on the latest Android handsets. Both Android and iOS offer plenty of other options for deciding which alerts and notifications will pop on your display—and perhaps more importantly, which won’t.

Read on for five ways to take charge of your Android and iOS notifications, starting with...

1. Turn off the notification light (Android)

android notification tip turn off notification 1 Image: Ben Patterson

Is the notification light on your Android phone always blinking? There’s an easy way to turn it off—for good.

The little notification light above my Nexus 7’s screen always seems to be flashing—to the point where it’s practically meaningless.

For pre-Lollipop Android handsets: Tap Settings > Display, then uncheck the Pulse notification light box.

For Lollipop devices: Tap Settings > Sound & notification, then flip the Pulse notification light switch.

2. Move notifications for specific apps out of Notification Center (iOS)

ios notification move app notification 2 Image: Ben Patterson

With a little bit of work, you can make the alerts that show up in iOS’s Notification Center a lot more meaningful.

The pull-down Notification Center for iOS has (for me, anyway) started to get as useless as Android’s flashing notification light. It can easily get jammed with too many alerts, all thanks to a few too-pushy apps.

Luckily, there’s a way to decide which apps can add alerts to Notification Center. You can also set which app’s alerts go first, and how many alerts each app gets to display.

Tap Settings > Notifications, then scroll down to the Include list—basically, a list of all the apps that get to send alerts to Notification Center.

For any app, you can tap it, then tap Show in Notification Center, and pick an option—anything from No Recent Items, which nixes an app’s alerts from Notification Center altogether, or 1, 5, or 10 recent items.

To change the order in which app alerts are displayed, go back to the main Notifications settings screen, tap Sort by Time, then tap the Edit button in the top corner of the display.

See those little handles next to the name of each “Included” app? Tap, hold and drag to rearrange them. Feel free to drag an “Included” app into the “Do Not Include” section.

3. Priority mode: Choosing alerts (Android Lollipop)

android notification tip priority mode 3 Image: Ben Patterson

You can decide precisely who can reach you when your Android device is set to “Priority” mode—and who can’t.

The latest “Lollipop”-updated Android devices boast the new Priority mode—that is, a mode that silences your phone or tablet save for important alerts of your choosing. Just tap the Volume button to toggle Priority mode on and off.

By default, calls from your contacts can get through, as well as calendar reminders and alarms. To customize what makes the cut, try this: 

Tap Settings > Sounds & Notifications, then Interruptions.

To prevent calendar events from interrupting your Priority time, flip off the switch next to Events and reminders.

You can shush calls and messages completely by flipping off the Messages switch— although doing so would basically turn Priority mode into “Complete Silence” mode. Instead of flipping the Messages switch, tap Calls/messages from and pick an option: Anyone, Contacts only, or (if you only want an elite group of callers) Starred Contacts only.

By default, app notifications are blocked in Priority mode, but you can let a few select ones get past the velvet rope. Go back to the Sound & notifications screen, tap App notifications, select an app, then flip on the Priority switch.

4. Block all of an app’s notifications (Android and iOS)

android notification tip block app notifications 5 Image: Ben Patterson

You can control the notifications from any Android app using the Block setting in Lollipop, and the Show notifications setting in prior OS versions. 

Got an app that’s particularly pushy when it comes to alerts? If so, it might be time to muzzle it for good.

For pre-Lollipop Android devices: Tap Settings > Apps, tap the Downloaded tab at the top of the screen, tap the app that’s giving you too many alerts, then uncheck the Show notifications box.

For Lollipop Android handsets: Tap Settings > Sound & Notification > App Notifications, pick an app, then flip the Block switch.

For iOS: Tap Settings > Notifications, tap an app, then flip off the Allow Notifications switch.

5. Get VIP alerts via email (iOS)

ios notification tip manage vip list 6 Image: Ben Patterson

Tap the little 'i' to manage your VIP list in the iOS Mail app.

Long ago, I decided against having my iPhone’s display light up every time a new email arrived—which, as it turns out, is once every few minutes or so.

But what about email messages that really are important—like those from your boss, or your better half? To make your iPhone buzz, beep, or otherwise make a fuss, do this.

Launch the Mail app, back up to the main Mailboxes screen (the one that lists all your mailboxes and mail accounts), then look for the VIP mailbox. Tap the little 'i' there, just to the right.

Here, you can see a list of all your email VIPs. Tap Add VIP to pick new people from your Contacts list, or tap Edit to manage your existing VIP list.

Now tap VIP Alerts to jump to your VIP notification settings, where you can decide what’ll happen when an email arrives from someone on the list. You can set a special VIP sound, for example, or allow VIP alerts to appear on your iOS lock screen. Keep in mind that any VIP alerts settings you pick won’t affect your regular Mail alert settings.

Bonus tip: You can also set special Mail alerts for specific email threads. Whenever you compose a new email message or reply to a new one, try tapping the subject line, tap the little bell that appears, then tap Notify Me. You can manage your thread alerts by tapping Settings > Notifications > Mail > Thread Notifications.


Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon