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Android O's notification coloring is an abomination

Not every idea is a good idea. And some good ideas aren't nearly as good as they sound once put into use. I'm not sure where the idea of colorizing media notifications in Android O fits into the "good" scale of ideas, but I know one thing. It's an idea that needs to change.

In case you're not up to snuff with what I'm talking about — even when launched Android O will take about a year to get on the majority of phones out there — the new version allows developers to build rich media notifications that include playback controls, album art and a different color template based on the album or video thumbnail. right now, Google Play Music and YouTube will give you these new colorized notifications if you're running the Android O beta.

And they are a mess.

The twitch level is off the charts when I see something like this.

Alone, they're not horrible. A notification that's not base gray with darker gray lettering (on the Pixel launcher, because that's different on every phone) is neat. A splash of color goes a long way and can help brighten things up. But eventually, you'll come across a colorized notification that's a color combo you can't read (Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedos (opens in new tab)) in Google Play will throw a pink notification with white lettering that refuses to show up in a photo of an AMOLED screen). I am on the lookout for a black on black notification, but so far even AC/DC has failed me.

It gets worse when you have two of the new rich colorized notifications or a normal notification and a colorized notification or any mix of either. The photos above demonstrate. This is not a good look.

The idea can be fixed if given a little attention.

OK, this is a beta. I know this. That means there's a chance the final product won't look anything like this, but that chance is slim. But I still want to give my feedback while there is time. Readability issues are easy enough to fix. Every color has a numerical value, and the software can be written so that certain numerical values won't ever be shown together. No more white text on light pink. But that still doesn't fix the fact that you might have one light pink notification beside (or above in this case) a normal one. Or one light pink one and one orange one. Or two brown ones with different color text.

And this is just the Pixel so far. Who knows how things will look on a Samsung or Huawei phone that has a pretty custom job going on up top for notifications. Which is part of the problem. Android can be too openy. It's cool that developers and users are able to change up how things look, but there needs to be a bit of control in some places. As mentioned in a recent episode of the Android Central Podcast, sometimes Google needs to stop suggesting how things are done and make a rule that needs to be followed. Especially for apps in Google Play.

Notifications with album art and controls are awesome. Can we make sure they look awesome?

The idea of having album art or thumbs in the notification is awesome. But they could be isolated from the rest of the notification area. Or something. I'm not a graphic designer, but I know at least a few work at Google. All I know is that no matter what phone I'm using, I never want to see the mess in the example photos.

A lot of people are going to disagree with me here, and that's fine. You should be able to have your stuff look the way you like. So should I. Let's hope there's an easy to find setting to kill the color when O makes its way into the world.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

69 Comments
  • I agree bad idea!
  • Was a big shock to me, but I see what they were trying to do in bringing the music art into the notification. But is messy.
  • I was waiting on someone to say this. Every Android O preview I saw kept saying "that's cool" or it's a "nice touch", and I kept thinking why would you want the notification to change colors to match the album art?
  • Yep - totally agree. Busy is busy - I think notifications should be immediately easy to read - otherwise they are a nuisance... to me anyway.
  • An attempt to solve a problem that didn't exist.
  • I've always thought the orange from Googleplay Music was waaay too saturated on my Pixel screen. Never noticed it before on my 5x before that- granted it wasn't amoled. Please- rid of the orange!?! Or take Ara's advice- dark mode!
  • I agree, that was one of the reasons I couldn't make it beyond the first month of a three month trial of Play Music a while back (also because the UI overall is atrocious!).
  • Yeah google music ui is horrible
  • Speak for yourself (and yes that's what you did ha) I personally love Google play music. The podcast section can use some help but otherwise it works great.
  • He said UI not the service
  • I agree that looks terrible. I prefer to keep my notifications with a black background with white lettering. It's already bad enough sometimes with the blinding white background especially in low lighting or a dark room (really dislike Material Design and the overuse of whites and garish colors. Rather have Holo back!).
  • Thats crazy, material design was the best thing that happende to android. In terms of design.
  • Well...it is an abomination...but no greater than Google's entire design lines of white backgrounds everywhere with circus colours and a vomit-grey tone to the notification shade itself. So...nothing new.
  • Agreed, although the pixels were a darker black/gray but the O preview has changed it to white. I've sort of gotten used to it but still prefer darker colors in the notification shade and system settings etc
  • I hope they keep it since it looks great. Anything any company does will always not please everyone.
  • i like it too
  • While there may be some horrible colour combinations out there (I've yet to see any) on the whole I like the new notifications. Each to their own I guess.
  • I just tried the Tom Petty example listed above and I can read it just perfectly. Asked a few people around the office and they said the same, so I don't understand that part.
    I agree that some minor tweaking of the Palette algorithms may be in need, but the idea in general is something I like and appreciate.
    If I'm listening to music, I like that the notification that I'm most likely looking to action on (the music notification) is front and centre and looks great with the colours and gradient.
    I hope that Google keeps this, but adjusts with minor tweaking as opposed to outright just cancelling the idea because it's a good start to modernizing the notification panel even further.
  • I swear they change things just for the sake of changing it.
  • All in the name of progress...I guess. Yes? Google is just being Google. Nothing that they do these days actually works. It's all half working or half implemented or it is a solution searching for a problem, etc.
  • Woof!
  • I read OBAMination and fell out laughing LOL hahahaahah this title is legendary "abomination" too fun knee
  • I guess I am in the minority here. I like the album art changing on the notification pull down.
  • What photos above?? I only one backdropping the header.
  • Exactly, I was asking myself the same question.
  • You have to open it in the browser to see all three images. AC spent too much time making sure ads show up in their app that they didn't bother making sure images displayed correctly in articles.
  • And this is so easy to address with a simple toggle to turn it off and leave them the old way. Too bad Google takes away stuff when they add new.
  • That's almost as bad as a black background with blue lettering for links!
  • It looks like they are setting up the reverse color setting to be the new dark mode. Yuck!
  • I too would like to see the consumer in control of how the notifications look. But that being said I have been happy with the notifications using Android O and the colors used. I'm running Android O on a pixel XL and have not had the issues described in the article.
  • This is horrible, I can't show you an example of it being horrible, but trust me it's horrible.
  • How about a proper dark theme? We've been asking for one in like, since we saw it in the MM beta before it got removed.
  • Wasn't it this way a few Android versions ago? I seem to have a recollection of album art and photos in the notifications.
  • here the album art will take over the entire notification, not just a small square in the corner. it will sort of THEME the notification.
  • As someone who already used colored notifications for my media player that already changed it based on album art, that this feels like an improvement over it, and it would just need to take a little getting used to. I for one, like how every app uses the exact same coloring, and style for media playback because of it's uniformity.
  • I must be one of the only people who actually like this change
  • Looks quite fine to me tbh.
  • Definitely not appealing... needs to be reviewed and changed for sure!! Or make it so that we can customize to each their own, standard, choice of schemes or other...
  • Yeah. This looks pretty bad. Let's stay with the clean an simple approach that Android has been heading towards.
  • Oh come on ! The actual notifications are dull and boring ! It looks like they are just not finished ! I hope the colors will stay. Fixing the problems where you can't read one that you point out should be the app designer's responsibility. But it'd be nice to finally have those colors :)
  • Maybe Metallica's black album will give a black on black notification?
  • I heard you talk about this during the podcast as well and almost wrote an email... 😋
    During the podcast I gathered that you thought it was something the developer could choose. As I've understood it that is incorrect. On Android O if there's a media control notification and it has album art then the notification might be colored. What I think they use for the color fetching is the Palette API which is also pretty popular on Android in general. The API looks at the image and gathers a couple main colors, complementary colors and colors for text that should be visible on the background color. What I'd hope is that the notifications are broken out from the system so that it can be updated from the play store. Also that the palette API gets updated so that the readability issue you speak of can be solved... For everyone. Still doesn't solve that some will think it is ugly 😉
  • The UX police need to arrest someone for this felonious idea. Unreadable, irritating and just plain ugly.
  • I would rather have each user determine the color of notification types they want to see. So: Music notification blue
    News notification green
    Text motivation red
    Also not the entire notification, instead just the first line or a dot placed before the first word of the notification
  • I like it a lot. The color is a nice enhancement to the notifications. To all you haters out there, don't upgrade.
  • I disagree, I splash of color is needed in the Android OS. And maybe the color inconsistencies will be removed in a future software update.
  • you get these kind of comments when you share your developer preview with the masses
  • sharing developer previews with end users and/or even worst with press is clearly a bad idea
  • the abomination is that google accepted to share a developer preview with end users and press and without ANY proper nda. especially with press.
  • They could give an option to just not have this feature enabled.
  • Looks fine to me.
  • Doesn't look like that big a deal to me. Just because Jerry doesn't like it doesn't mean it looks bad to everyone else.
  • Why is it an abomination?
  • Not it's not. It's beautiful
  • It's a Beta just chill.
  • I don't mind it, but I agree that there are some changes that need to happen. Just set it up so that only the top media notification is colored, and back off a bit of the coloring (like build in a pre-set range between the text and background colors). If the colors are too close, it should default to a different color scheme. There are ways to take advantage of this without mucking up the whole process... Hopefully Google figures that out ASAP.
  • I actually really like it as-is!
  • I actually like the colored notifications (though I'll admit it could perhaps use some continued "tuning" to make sure the selected color combinations are a little less garish). The real abomination is the removal of a "dark" mode for the system UI and no option to change it to anything other than stock white (that seems to be the case on the Android O Developer Previews for the Nexus 6P at any rate).
  • So instead of the dark theme we have been actually asking for they make Disney presents: Notifications, a fever dream....
  • I like it.
  • "even when launched Android O will take about a year to get on the majority of phones out there" I doubt it'll reach 40%, let alone 50%. They haven't been getting a majority in a L-O-N-G time.
  • yep. android N has been out almost a year and hasn't hit 8% yet.
  • That wasn't my point. Peak popularity tends to be around 35%, not over 50%.
  • Abomination? Really? No.
    The abomination is all the hyperbole in the tag lines for these articles.
    Jeez give it a rest.
  • Lol, yeah I agree a little bit exaggerated to say the least. A simple disable setting does need to be included though but I'm not worried I have the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and I already know Samsung will beautify it regardless 👍😊
  • Abomination? Absolutely.
  • It's hideous and distracting. Now it'll make drop down notifications harder to spot and read between all the colors. Android has been pushing the white color for all notifications for how long now and someone has this bright idea?
  • I actually like it. Though there might be days when I'd like to disable it.
  • The good news is that this is still beta. They can always change it and change it some more before your phone gets it.