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27 Aug 2020

How to banish annoying notifications on iOS and Android

Our top tips will help you manage notifications so that you're only seeing messages from apps you care about

Pop-up messages generated by apps can be useful - but too many can be maddening. If you think you're spending too much time every day frantically swiping away pointless alerts, it's time to take a look at your notification settings.

Whether you're using a smartphone or tablet, you can significantly reduce your screen-on time just by making a couple of quick adjustments. You can silence specific apps, or use 'Do not disturb' mode to take a break from your device entirely.

Read on, as we round up the best ways to manage notifications on iOS and Android gadgets.

Which? Tech Support - our experts will help you tame your tech

Notifications on iOS

How to view recent notifications on iOS

Notifications are shown on your iPhone or iPad screen as soon as they arrive. If you miss one, you can review it in the Notification Centre (shown below left), which is accessed by swiping down from the top of your screen.

If you've received a bunch of notifications from the same app, these will be grouped in a stack - tap the top one to reveal any other notifications beneath. Swiping a notification to the left will send it on its way.

Image: Apple

Partially swiping a notification to the left reveals some extra options. If you tap Manage, you can change the notification settings for that app (shown above, right). Selecting Deliver Quietlymeans the notifications will appear in Notification Center but not on your lock screen - they won't make a sound when they drop by.

Alternatively, you can tap View to open the app or Clear to dismiss the notification.

How to manage notifications on iOS

You can take a look behind the scenes by tapping Settings, then Notifications.

At the top of this screen, tap Show Previews. Here, you can choose whether notification previews are displayed Always, When unlocked or Never. Since notification previews can show private information, such as calendar appointments, you might prefer not to have them always displayed.

Image: Apple

Under the Notification style menu, you can tap an app to manage its settings individually. This is good news if you want one rule for your most-used apps and another for those ones you rarely interact with.

At the top of this page (shown above), you can toggle notifications on and off using the switch next to Allow Notifications. Under Alerts, you can customise the type of notifications you'll see for that app - untick Lock Screen, for example, if you don't want notifications from that app to appear on-screen when your phone or tablet is locked.

You can also tinker with Sounds and Badges (the red blobs that sit over icons if you have an unread item), or tap Show Previews and select Always, When unlocked or Never for that specific app.

Do Not Disturb mode on iOS

If your device has a home button, you can open the Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. On a device with Face ID, swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen.

By tapping and holding the crescent moon icon, you can select a duration and choose when your alerts start beeping and buzzing again (shown below left). Give 'Do Not Disturb' mode a try if you want to enjoy your lunch break without having to glance at dull work emails.

Image: Apple

You can also try tapping Settings, then Do Not Disturb (shown above, right). Toggle the Scheduled switch on, for example, then select From and To times to automatically switch to Do Not Disturb at a specific time each day.

Selecting Dim Lock Screen on the same page sends all your notifications to the Notification Centre, when in Do Not Disturb mode, rather than displaying them on-screen.

Notifications on Android

How to view recent notifications on Android

The way in which you access notification settings varies depending on the device you're using and the version of Android it's running. But most devices work in a similar way.

In most cases, notifications will appear at the top of your screen when you receive them. Review recent notifications by opening the notification shade - this is usually done by swiping down from the top of the screen (shown below).

Image: developer.android.com

You can dismiss individual notifications by swiping them away. On newer Android devices, long-tapping a notification will bring up some quick settings, including the option to turn off notifications for the app entirely.

On older devices, partially swiping a notification to one side will reveal a cog icon - tap this for similar quick settings.

How to manage notifications on Android

To get started, tap Settings, then Apps & notifications, then Notifications. From here, you can manage notification settings on a per-app basis, by tapping See all from last 7 days (new models) or App notifications (older models), then tap the app you want.

At the top of this page, you can toggle all notifications for any app on or off. Depending on the app, you might be able to enable or disable specific types of notifications.

Hit Settings, then Apps & notifications, then Notifications for some further settings. By default, all notification content will be shown on your lock screen, but you can choose to limit those if you're concerned about privacy.

On newer Android models, you can disable Sensitive notifications or tap Notifications on lockscreen and choose Show alerting notifications only or Don't show notifications if you'd rather block them all.

For folk using older Android smartphones or tablets, tap on the lock screen and choose Hide sensitive notificationcontent or Don't show notifications if you prefer.

Do Not Disturb mode on Android

You can quickly enable or disable Do Not Disturb mode on most Android devices by opening the quick settings tray - this is usually done by swiping down from the top of the screen, but you might need to swipe down again to view the full selection of quick settings icons.

Tap the Do not disturb icon. On older devices, you might be offered the choice of three different modes: Priority only (shown below), Alarms only or Total silence.

Image: developer.android.com

For further options, go to Settings, then Sound, then Do not disturb (or Do not disturb preferences on some models). The options will depend on your device. In all cases, you'll find options to set your phone to Do Not Disturb mode automatically at specific times.

On newer handsets, tap Schedules. On older ones, scroll to Automatic rules.

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Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.