iOS’ stock Notification Center has a lot of untapped potential
iOS has come a long way, and features we take for granted today were once new and exciting. Notification Center is one such feature, and while it’s only been around since iOS 5, it’s starting to show its age. Particularly so because Android, from which Apple more or less directly copied Notification Center, has put some noticeable work into that part of the OS lately.
It’s also easy to see how much untapped potential there is in Notification Center once you jailbreak your device and start looking around at all the Notification Center add-ons available in Cydia. There is just a ton of different add-ons, allowing you to put a whole lot more than just notifications in the Notification Center. Music controls, currency converters, app shortcuts, battery info, quick reply to messages, settings toggles, contact shortcuts, and a ton of other things are available at your fingertips once Apple’s lockdown is lifted. In fact, you can tweak the Notification Center far more than you can tweak the notification bar in Android, which is a bit ironic.
The image shows a few different Notification Center add-ons I use along with a tweak called MountainCenter, which moves Notification Center from its drop-down position and into a side panel that you can set up ways to reveal, as if it’s hidden “underneath” the rest of the OS all the time. This mimics how Notification Center works on Mac OS X Mountain Lion, and is a beautifully animated tweak that I think makes more sense than the pull-down version, at least for the iPad. I’ve set mine to activate with a two finger swipe in from the right, and I then remapped the pull-down gesture to turn off the screen instead.
Notification Center feels to me more like an actual thought-out part of the OS when located on the right like that, rather than something that’s just thrown on top. All I’m missing now is an updated, iPad-compatible tweak for putting the multitasking switcher in Notification Center, and I’d be rid of the stock switcher- which I don’t much care for- for good. With stock iOS, you have one pull-down notification bar for notifications and some widgets, and then a separate multitasking bar that’s activated in a different way, has a second page you have to swipe to (despite the fact there’s a ton of room for it above the multitasking switcher), and has toggles and controls that you wouldn’t really expect to find in a multitasking switcher at all. I think it would make much more sense to put all of that in Notification Center, place Notification Center off to the side like on OS X Mountain Lion, and add more toggles and settings to it. It would add more features, but still feel more intuitive, if you ask me.
Another thing that jailbreak tweaks allow you to do is put Notification Center widgets on the lock screen and/or home screen. This is very popular with a lot of users, as it allows you to do so much more directly from the lock screen. That particular feature pales in comparison to what you can do with a lock screen Android, so I’m not as excited about it, but as far as iOS goes it’s quite nice.
A lot of what jailbreaking allows you to do is about adding features that Apple apparently thinks are too advanced or complicated for the average user. That’s often the case, but other times the things you get with jailbreaking actually improve the user interface in a way that makes it more intuitive and easier to use. I think the Notification Center tweaks available are great examples of that, and I hope that Apple has a few jailbroken devices lying around and is keeping an eye on what’s being done in the jailbreaking community. In the end they’re playing for the same team, where both parties want to improve iOS, and I find it a bit silly that Apple is being beaten by small scale developers on things that are so very “Apple” in nature.