For a long, long time, I hated unread counts on Android home screens. They were often inaccurate, they didn't always go away once you acted on them, and above all, they were unforgivably ugly on any home screen theme. These days, notification badges are a little less ugly and a little more consistent, but the notification badges on Android Oreo aren't the best to be found.
No, no, that honor belongs to Dynamic Badges on Nova Launcher.
Dynamic Badges came to Nova Launcher this past spring, and they have a few distinct advantages over Android Oreo's native equivalent. First and foremost, they're more vibrant. Oreo's notification badges pick a color for their badges from the icon that it'll be sitting on top of, which means that most of the time, these dots blend into the icon rather than standing out and reminding you to check your notifications.
Dynamic Badges will pull a color from the app's notification or pull an image from the notification, such as the profile pic of someone who messages you, allowing them to stand out against most icons, especially if you're using icon packs with limited color palettes.
This also means that notification badges can offer you information while standing out, by telling you who is pinging you before you open the notification shade or the app. I can see a dynamic badge from my boss and see that I need to reply to him quickly, or I can see a dynamic badge of a creeper I'm trying to avoid and ignore it. Dynamic Badges also work for media apps, giving me the album art of my currently playing song in Google Play Music or the thumbnail of the new video from one of my subscriptions on YouTube.
By being more vibrant and more informative, Dynamic Badges have helped me see the value of unread badges and helped me keep things clean and functional on my many home screen themes. If there is a downside to Dynamic Badges, it's that if you have multiple badges in a folder, rather than getting the individual pictures or colors, you get a mini-folder of app icons on your folder icon telling you which apps in the folder have notifications. It's a small flaw, but it's still far better than boring, basic dots.
Nova Launcher: The best launcher for theming your phone
Sign up for Black Friday email alerts!
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the Android Central team.
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.