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
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
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?
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?
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!
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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.