Notification settings in messaging apps are a mess

Notification settings in messaging apps are a mess
These days, a huge part of people’s digital communication is done through messaging apps. And I’m no different. Different people have different preferences in messengers and sometimes a single contact is important enough to warrant a dedicated app for texting. All-in-all, I currently use 5 different messaging apps on my phone.

And although I’m not switching phones nearly as often as some other PhoneArena members (I’m looking at you, Peter!), I still have to do it more frequently than the average phone user. And when I do switch to a new phone, one of the things I dread the most is having to deal with the notification settings of those messaging apps.

We’re all very particular about the way we use our phones and I understand that catering to the needs of millions and satisfying all of them is impossible. But when it comes to notifications, I don’t think the problem is that complex.

Notifications aren't rocket science

There are basically three things users have to decide about the behavior of their phone when a message comes in:
  1. Do I want my phone to light up in some way?
  2. Do I want my phone to make a noise?
  3. Do I want my phone to vibrate?

Granted, most apps do give you the options to adjust all three, but they seem to insist on doing it in their own particular way which is very annoying. Let's look at some examples.

In WhatsApp, you can't just toggle off sound for notifications. You have to open the list of all the ringtones on your phone and find the Silent one. Not very intuitive and needlessly cumbersome. The app does let you choose between different types of vibrations, however, which is a nice bonus, potentially allowing you to differentiate incoming messages while the phone is in your pocket. I particularly liked the option to choose different colors for the LED notification light but for some unknown reason most manufacturers are getting rid of that useful feature.

Meanwhile, in the settings menu of Facebook's Messenger, you might think that toggling off In-app sounds means you won't hear a peep from it. But there's a catch! Notifications are technically coming when you're not in the app, so that toggle doesn't concern them. You have to go deeper, to Manage notifications, which sends you to the system settings of your phone. That's where you can make the desired adjustments.

But I'm not done yet!

Viber's menu isn't straightforward either. It has a submenu for Notification sound and a check box for vibration when there's an incoming call, but nothing about notification vibrations. That does mean you're not allowed to change toggle those on and off? You totally are, but that setting is in the Notification sound menu as well, duh! 

Meanwhile, Skype deems notifications for Tips & Tricks, polls and emoji reactions more important than sound and vibrations. For those, you're again sent to the system settings. There's a lot more I can say about Skype's notifications as a whole, but now is not the time for that.

As a breath of fresh air, Discord is upfront about its reluctance to deal with notifications itself. The app sends you to the system menu straight away. I respect that.

A basic standard for notifications is in order

It's almost as if developers want to make their and our lives harder. Either just leave us deal with our phone's settings, so at least we get to use a menu we're familiar with. Or give us easy to understand settings in the appropriate places. Any advanced options and fine-tuning of the notifications, which are always welcomed by the way, can be put in additional menus for those that need them.

Yes, I know, you only have to deal with these minor inconveniences once and then you forget about them while using your phone. But still, if we don't raise awareness of these issues, how can we expect things to improve in the future? 

Now that I got this first-world-problem out of my system, I can focus on more serious stuff. Stay tuned!

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