A Guide to Lollipop Notification Settings

Lollipop changed the notification settings we all knew and loved but in a rather unintuitive way. It's so unintuitive I felt the need to write this guide.

In short: you can do (almost1) everything you used to be able to do and more! It's just confusing how it was setup.

Accessing Notification Settings

There are two possible ways to access notification settings:

  1. Use the volume rocker.

  2. Go to Settings -> Sound & notification -> Interruptions.

The latter gives you full access to all settings; the former is a quick view of the different interruption modes.

Interruption Modes

There are four modes for how Android handles notification sounds:

  1. All - All notifications make an audible noise.

  2. All (vibrate) - All notifications vibrate (but make no sound). This mode is accessible by turning the volume down to zero in the All mode.

  3. Priority - All notifications are silent by default... with exceptions. Alarms are always an exception. In addition, you can configure other exceptions in the Interruption Settings (for example, whether a starred contact's phone call should still ring).

  4. None - No notifications make any sound, period.

Priority & None can be set indefinitely or for a temporary amount of time. In addition, you can setup Priority to work at regular intervals (for example, bedtime each night).

Upgrading to Lollipop

The main point of confusion happens because pre-Lollipop you had three modes (all, vibrate, silent) and post-Lollipop it looks like you have three modes (all, priority, none). If you're like me, you mapped the three modes from the previous version to the visible modes in Lollipop, but that doesn't work because there are actually four modes in Lollipop.

The mapping is actually this:

  • All -> All
  • Vibrate -> All (vibrate)
  • Silent -> Priority

In past versions, silent mode was never actually silent - it had exceptions, like alarms. Priority just embraces this paradox by allowing you to configure which exceptions still make noise.

"None" is a new setting that did not exist pre-Lollipop. It can be considered true silence.

Issues

Just because you can recreate the settings from previous versions doesn't mean it's all sunshine and daisies. I still take issue with a few behaviors in Lollipop's notifications:

  1. These settings only apply to notification sounds. That means apps can still make sound, even if you're set to None. This is unintuitive at best and explains why some apps still make sound despite your settings.

  2. Visual notifications always appear (regardless of your settings) and they come down and block the top of your current app. This interruption is problematic when you need access to the top of the app.

  3. Well, all visual notifications appear except LEDs, which now turn off with priority mode. An unfortunate missing feature, since the rest of the settings are about sound alone.

  4. If you're in a game, playing music, or doing any other activity that uses the volume rocker, you can't quickly change your notification settings without stopping what you're doing first.

  5. "Priority" is the worst name for silent-plus-exceptions ever and is probably the reason why everyone is confused.

In Conclusion

The Lollipop settings are difficult and confusing. I actually had to run experiments to determine the information above. The previous versions of Android were less configurable but worked in an intuitive manner.

Hopefully, in future versions of Android, Google will tighten up the messaging so that it's more clear what each mode does.


1 As has been pointed out, former LED behavior cannot be replicated at this time. Hopefully that gets resolved in the future.

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