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How to get started with iOS 5's Notification Center

The iOS alert system has always been rude, annoying, and pretty inconsiderate. No matter what you are doing, alerts would always interrupt you at the worst time. In iOS 5, Apple has redone the notification method of iOS, making it less of a hassle to deal with. Here's how you get started with the new Notification Center.

Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani
Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read


Notification Center is one of the most anticipated (not to mention long overdue) features in the upcoming release of iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Apple has completely redone the alert system in iOS 5, taking away those annoying and intrusive alerts we all had grown accustomed to on iOS. In this post we are going to show you exactly what to expect from Notification Center once iOS 5 is released.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Alerts are now queued in the Notification Center, which can be quickly accessed by swiping down from the top of the device's screen, no matter which app the user is in. This allows for quick access to any alert the device has recently received. No longer are users required to click through each pop-up, expected to remember each individual alert.

Tapping on a given notification will take you directly to that specific app, message, e-mail, or the appropriate section of an app. You can clear any pending alerts for an app by pressing on the X and then Clear, located next to the app name.

The number of notifications per app, as well as order of notifications, can be customized by the user in the Notification Center settings. Go ahead and launch your iOS device Settings app, then select Notifications--it should be the third item on the list.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

The first option you will see is the ability to either manually sort the notifications by app, or have them sorted automatically by time. If you select to sort them by time, the notifications will be placed in order of last received. If you decide to manually set the order of the alerts, you can do so by pressing the Edit button at the top of the screen.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

After pressing Edit, you will see three lines appear next to each app. The three lines indicate you can rearrange the order of the apps by dragging them up or down. The same order you place the apps in here will be the same order notifications are displayed in the notification center. Press Done when you are satisfied with the order of the apps.

In the Notification Center settings, you can also customize alerts app by app. Select any app you would like to customize, and tap on it.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Once you are into an individuals app's settings, you can control a slew of notification options for that app. The options include the following:

  • Enable/disable Notification Center
  • Control the number of notifications shown (1, 5, 10)
  • Type of Alert: None, banner, or the old style alerts
  • Badge App icon: The red badge with number of unread items that appears on the app icon.
  • Show Preview: You can now hide details of incoming messages, including e-mail.
  • View in Lock Screen: Notifications will only be shown while the device is unlocked and being used.

Once you are satisfied with the settings for the app, tap on the back arrow to get back to the previous screen.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

If you have turned off an app in the Notification Center, you will find it at the bottom of the app list in the Notification Center settings. You can turn the app's notifications back on by selecting it and sliding the toggle switch over to the on position.

The old notifications were ugly, weren't they? Luckily for Kai, dreams do come true. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

The new notification is a small bar that shows up at the top of your screen, no matter what you are doing. If you are playing a game, your game will not pause as it did in the past; instead it allows you to keep playing or tap on the alert to be taken to the message.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani

If you elected to allow app notifications to remain visible in the lock screen, you will see them listed in a similar fashion to the Notification Center drop-down. From the lock screen, you can't tap on a notification to open it; you use the same gesture you use to unlock your phone to open a notification.

To unlock your device and view a message, place your finger on the app icon and slide left to right. The icon should mimic the unlock slider behavior; once you get to the right side of the screen, lift your finger. Your device will unlock, taking you directly to the app and message selected.

Notification Center is a great new addition to iOS. Anything that can be done to improve the overall user experience on any platform is always welcomed.