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Android Oreo features you'll love: Notification badges and previews

Notifications. It's the first thing most of us deal with in the morning, and no matter what time of day, there's probably three or four of them sitting just waiting there. Unread badges have existed on mobile home screens since before Android to help remind us of things we need to take care of. Up until this year, they've mostly just been these awkward blobs in the corner of an app icon with an ever-growing number inside.

Android Oreo is looking to upgrade things with two new paired features: notification badges and notification previews.

Goodbye unread counts, hello notification badges

Dot dot dot

Notification badges work with notification channels to prevent "dot overload."

Notification badges or dots on an Android launcher use a notification access permission to see what notifications are in the notification shade at the moment and display a small dot in the corner of the app icon to let you know that you have a notification. Badges pull colors from the app icon in order to avoid looking too garish next to the app, which is useful.

Notification badges can be disabled on a per-app basis using notification badges, and app developers have the option of selecting what will and won't trigger a notification badge, or leaving the option up to users (this can be accessed by holding down on the app icon and tapping on the little i). Google Play Music has a litany of categories you can turn notification dots on and off for, should you desire. If a developer doesn't target Android Oreo in its code, that app will display a notification badge for every notification from that app.

Notification previews: bringing notification content to the home screen

Preview this

When you long-press on an app with a notification badge in Android Oreo, we get another new Android Oreo feature: notification previews. Notification previews put a condensed notification on your home screen in the same menu as your App Shortcuts. Notification Previews aren't meant to let you read a whole email or lengthy message, but they'll give you titles and senders, or a quick message and senders for messaging apps.

You can tap a notification preview to open the app and act on the preview, but there are no buttons or actions that display on a notification preview the way they do for the actual notification. You can't hit play or pause for your music like you can from the actual notification shade. So notifications let you look from the home screen, but if you actually want to do something with them, you have to swipe down from the top of the screen.

Which launchers support notification badges and notification previews?

Action's the place to test these out

Notification badges are a function of Android Oreo, but the biggest requirement here is launcher support. Google's Pixel Launcher supports notification badges, as does Lawnchair, the XDA born-and-bred launcher that tries to make a Pixel Launcher that's more customizable and awesome. A few of the more popular customization-geared third-party launchers, Nova Launcher and Action Launcher have added support for notification badges, and even backported it back as far as Android Lollipop.

Notification previews are likewise available on the Pixel Launcher on Android Oreo, Lawnchair, and on Action Launcher back to Android Lollipop, with Action Launcher allowing you to theme the preview backgrounds with Quicktheme. Nova Launcher has not implemented Notification previews yet. It's worth noting that while notification badges are relatively consistent among launchers and Android versions, notification previews do vary by launcher. For instance, Google Play Music will show up as both a notification badge and a notification preview for Action Launcher only when Play Music is paused, whereas on the Pixel Launcher Play Music's media controls notification won't appear as a notification badge or notification preview at all unless you turn it on inside the App notifications menu for Play Music inside the Settings app, which will allow you to see the dot and the preview whether it's paused or playing.

When can you play with them?

Preview Prettiness

Well, both notification badges and notification previews are already live for Action Launcher users and Lawnchair users on older version of Android, and Pixel Launcher on Android Oreo. Considering how much notification previews rely on launcher compatibility, it may take a while for that to trickle out to every launcher on the market, but they'll come to well-supported launchers sooner than Android Oreo will come to well-supported devices.

Which notification feature are you more excited to see? Or is this just one more notification feature you'll be turning off when you get Android Oreo? Shout out in the comments below!

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

17 Comments
  • Sorry...I've decided I hate the little dots. It's a different form of clutter that will drive me bonkers.
  • You should be able to turn off dots at the launcher level. Pixel Launcher, Action and Nova all have actions to turn them off. I personally prefer Dynamic badges, but to each their own.
  • I don't have change icon shapes in my launcher settings. Anyone else have this issue or is it somewhere else?
  • On the pixel launcher, I definitely got it with Oreo. Hold down your home screen to bring up Wallpapers, Widgets and Settings. Tap settings, and it should be the fourth one down.
  • Yeah. I've seen YouTube videos where it's there, but for whatever reason my Pixel launcher doesn't have it. Stock launcher on stock Pixel XL
  • Very strange. I'm on Pixel Launcher version OMR1-4113793 if that helps.
  • I just read in the AC forums that turning on developer options (tap build number 10 times) enables this feature. Not sure if it's true, but try it and let us know.
  • It's available in Pixel Launcher and coming soon to the other launchers listed in the article.
  • No beuno
  • So I contacted Google today about this issue. They confirmed that the Google now launcher does not offer you the ability to modify or even turn off the adaptive icon setting. So I'm stuck with square icons. hopefully just an over sight because my apps looks horrible now. Some Google apps support it and others don't. Honestly I'd rather just turn off adaptive icons cause why would I want the Google apps to have squares around them. It's looks horrible. Google support said they would escalate the issue. They haven't updated the Google now launcher in years so I think they are more focused on pixel even though we can't download it. Really hoping someone at Google updates now launcher soon or just allow us loyal Nexus owners to download the pixel launcher.
  • I really don't get how this adds any more value than just having the notifications on the notification shade. Why would you want to have to check each app for notifications.
  • I see the benefit from messaging apps for sure. It keeps you from having to swipe down and tap on the link arrow when you have multiple messages when you just want to see the gist of what someone said. The feature is very useful is iOS it kept from working about opening an app at times especially, in app where are read receipts but you don't want to leave the other person hanging while you're doing whatever it is you need to do before responding to their message.
  • I agree. iOS is still fairly home-screen oriented. I almost never visit my Android home screen once I've got the apps I use in my recents list. And I have my home screen set up with a few folders that hold everything. Opening those to see notification badges would just be an extra step. Of course, I use the notification shade all the time - so anything they can do there is welcome.
  • Are there any Android O wallpapers available for download?
  • Most of them are in Google's Wallpaper app, if memory serves.
  • The notification dots seem to be only for the pixel, Google now launcher on my 6p doesn't have them.
  • They're launcher dependant, and Google Now Launcher is getting retired so Google isn't adding these features to it.