With iOS 5, Apple introduced a major update to how notifications are handled on the iPhone. If you are using an iPhone 4S or have upgraded your iPhone to iOS 5, then you’re likely familiar with the process of swiping down to reveal your notifications. This is a very powerful and useful section on your iPhone. With some tweaking, you can improve your experience with notifications. Here are some tips for how to best utilize the Notifications Center in iOS 5 on your iPhone.

Notifications iOS 5

Badges, Banners and Alerts
These are central to managing your notifications. When an event occurs that requires your notification,  you can choose the ‘Alert Style’ to be None, Banners or Alerts.

Alerts in iOS 5

Banners appears briefly at the top of the display and then disappears. Alerts are good ole’ fashioned alerts that require your attention to dismiss or act on. From the lock screen, you can swipe through the alert and iOS 5 will bring directly to the app or message.

Alerts in iOS 5

None simply means that while you won’t receive a visible alert, you can still find information regarding the event in your Notifications Center. These options are available to all apps that support Notifications.

By default, the Notification Center will display both the weather widget and stock widget.  These can easily be configured or removed. If you make changes to stocks you’d like to track within the Stocks app, the stock ticker will update those particular investments. If you have multiple weather locations, your iPhone will default to your current location. At first glance, you’ll notice the weather conditions including the current and high/low temperatures for the day. If you swipe across the weather widget to the left, it will reveal the five day forecast. Tapping on the widget will jet you over to the Weather app. If you’d like to visit the Yahoo website, tap on the impossibly small Yahoo icon that appears to the right. This applies to the stock widget as well. If either of these widgets are not useful, they can be removed permanently:

Settings > Notifications > Weather Widget > Off
Settings > Notifcations > Stock Widget > Off

Another default iOS app is Mail, but Apple chose not to enable this by default. My guess is that it can get pretty congested within the notification center and fast given the amount of emails people receive on a daily or even hourly basis. Apple didn’t skimp when it came to providing us with options of how Mail notifications work. Head over to Settings>Notifications> Mail(Badges) to enable them. You can select the number of unread messages displayed from the choices: 1, 5, 10.. You also have options to toggle on/off for the following:

  • Badge App Icon
  • Show Preview
  • View In Lock Screen

You’ll start to notice that 3rd party apps are also granted access to the Notifications Center. In some cases, this is fantastic news, especially for those who enjoy social networking apps such as Facebook or Tweetbot. You might start to notice that your Notifications Center will start to get crowded, making it difficult to glance and go. Tending to your notifications should be effortless and not require endless scrolling. You can take an inventory of apps that are enabled for Notifications and disable those which might not be as important. Toggle those unwanted apps to ‘No’ and they will be shuffled down to the ‘Not in Notifications Center’ area. You can always turn these on at a later date and iOS 5 makes it easy to keep an inventory of apps that while supported, are not enabled.

Another way to effectively manage this section is to take advantage of how it sorts apps. By time simply displays the last notification and sorts apps in reverse of the time they occurred. For many, this will do, but there is the manual approach. When you select ‘Manual’, you have the option to sort that long list of apps. Select the ‘Edit’ button and it will reveal a set of three dashes next to each app. Touch and hold the dashed area, then move the selected app up or down on your list. If you want your Phone notifications to be at the top of your list, regardless of time, then set Notifications to Manual and make sure it’s at the top of the list. If you get a ton of notifications, you might want to opt for Manual. Important phone calls should be at the top versus your recent GameCenter notifications, or vice versa depending upon your affinity for gaming.

Notifications Center brings some much needed improvements to how iOS handles notifications. While we’d still love to see improvements, perhaps in iOS 6, this is still a major step forward. Hopefully this guide on how to best manage your notifications on your iPhone has been helpful. Have questions or an iPhone tip? Let us know in the comments. Register now to post a question.

How to best utilize the Notifications Center in iOS 5 is part of our continuing series of iPhone How-To guides, tips and tricks. If you need iPhone help, please consider joining our iPhone forums. Membership is free and it’s easy to ask questions and find iPhone help.