OnePlus has absolutely spoiled me: Every Android should have an 'Alert Slider'

There's clearly a lot about the OnePlus 3 that impresses me. It's fantastically built, offers great performance, has a solid camera and perhaps best of all undercuts flagship competition by hundreds of dollars. And though the OnePlus 3 doesn't offer as many whiz-bang features as the competition, it does have one that no other phone has: its Alert Slider.

Yes, that little three-stage switch on the left edge of the phone that lets you quickly toggle between notification priorities. Such a simple thing, and yet no other company is doing it. As soon as I opened the box on the OnePlus 3 I was brought back to my days of joy using the Alert Slider on the OnePlus 2 — and I think that every phone should have some sort of switch like this. It should be no different than having a power or volume buttons on the side of your phone, if you ask me.

OnePlus 3 and iPhone 6 alert sliders

From the first moment I used Android 5.0 Lollipop's calamitous notification priority system, I wanted to have a hardware switch that coordinated with the all/priority/none paradigm of notifications. When OnePlus introduced the Alert Slider in mid-2015 with the OnePlus 2, it just felt natural. Later in the year the OnePlus X had a handful of issues, but the Alert Slider wasn't one of them.

An Alert Slider should come standard on every Android.

And now with Marshmallow — which has admittedly improved on the priority notification system — and a few extra software tweaks, the OnePlus 3's Alert Slider is still one of its magnificent unsung features. The simple slider lets you choose whether your phone rings for all notifications, just high-priority notifications or none at all, and a pivotal part of this is the ability to granularly control just what alerts you in each position — for example, muting the media volume when the Alert Slider is set to "none," or enabling alarms but not reminders when in "priority."

Sure you have the option of all-software features from numerous manufacturers — and Marshmallow's built-in settings work alright as well — but the ability to reach down and toggle a switch on the phone without ever turning on the screen or even looking at it is extremely reassuring. It's something that iPhone users know about and love, and OnePlus does it a step better with its three-stage key versus a simple on/off switch.

Will other Android makers turn up and launch new phones with their own take on the Alert Slider? I sure hope so, but I'm not all that confident it'll take any sort of priority. But perhaps the next time they consider doing something weird like put the volume keys on the back of the phone, or include a mostly useless physical camera shutter key ... they'll consider putting in an Alert Slider instead.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Yes, they should. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Only thing I miss from having a oneplus.
  • The only problem I would see is that Google likes to arbitrarily change stuff for just for the sake of change and they could change how the sound settings work which could make a slider like that not function the way it was designed. I suppose any oem would make sure to fix something like that before shipping an update though, hopefully... I do like the idea of it though. Just slide it to the position you want. Manufacturers are always trying to cut cost though and additional switches and components usually don't fit with that. In my case I'd love to have the bottom position be everything silent except alarms, middle position would be everything vibrate but no sound and the top position would be everything make sound (and vibrate if you want it to also vibrate). If this phone was a little smaller and had T-mobile wifi calling I would definitely buy one.
  • Well if Google changes something in an update or new OS, the OEM would obviously have to make tweaks tailored to the device and would address such an issue of how the slider would work with the new way the notifications would work. The nice thing about One+ is they usually give the device owner options on how they want it to work. I dont think this would be much of an issue though because every OEM will have to sift through any update/OS upgrade and test before being pushed out.
  • OnePlus handled the move from Lollipop to Marshmallow well with the Alert Slider. Sure things could change a bit again in N (though they haven't yet) or the next version — but that'd just require a few tweaks on their side to fix up. This isn't a very big worry for me.
  • Also, from what I understand, this slider means you can't schedule automatic DND because of the switch. I'd rather have the automatic schedule rather than the switch if I had to choose, buy that's just me. Knowing me, if forget to switch it at night and get woken up by random notifications. Posted via the power of my mind
  • Wouldn't Software overide the switch? Just like if you adjust it with Androids software slider.
  • I can't say for sure, but seems to me if the physical switch was in the "silent" position, then no matter what, it should be silent. I may be wrong, that's just my thoughts. Posted via the power of my mind
  • I agree Andrew. Every OEM should have this... or at least a hardware toggle switch (like Apple *gasp* does) to toggle between no sounds, to all sounds from notifications setup by the user. Either way, give us the simple option.
  • You know what's something even better than alert slider? Brightness slider :)
  • I thought by now some manufacturer would copy this feature. When I used an iphone I loved the mute toggle. I think the 3 position slider is even better. Why turn on your phone JUST to change notifications when you can use a preset slider?
  • What about while using android wear? Does the slider work since AW overrides your phones notification/sound settings?
  • It does the opposite actually. I use a moto 360 gen 2 daily with my OP3 and the slider setting on the phone controls the watch. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agree 100% with you, Andrew. I use the alter slider far more frequently than the actual volume buttons. It works brilliantly.
  • Please stop crediting Apple with this "invention" Palm did it on the treo ages ago and we've missed its omission ever since. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Some Windows Mobile phones that were rocking 5.0 had it too...
  • He didn't credit Apple with inventing it, he merely stated the fact that Apple phone users already know how useful of a feature this is. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yeah but apples implementation was worth a damn. Posted from my cracked Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • You got that right. Posted via the power of my mind
  • I knew the Palm guy would show up eventually Did I credit Apple with the invention of this? No I did not: "It's something that iPhone users know about and love, and OnePlus does it a step better with its three-stage key versus a simple on/off switch."
  • > I knew the Palm guy would show up eventually I lol'ed. :) It's true though, no mention of the Treo on this particular topic makes us old-ish farts sad, although not as sad as not having our beloved switch back.
  • Fact is that just because Palm did it "first" (but not really actually first) doesn't mean that the Palm's implementation of this feature is the best-known version. That'd go to the iPhone by far.
  • Heh. One of the handspring/palm treo's best features. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Andrew, you reinforce the notion that young ppl hate palm lol Posted from my cracked Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Yeah but Palm never took off.
  • Where exactly did he credit invention? You must not read very well. He stated Apple iPhone has a physical button, not that they invented the idea.
  • I just don't use those priority mode. All I want is just to mute/unmute the phone and using the volume keys already do the job. And to me, physical camera key is much more useful for launching the camera to catch the precise moment. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed. I Iove the idea of an alert slider, but not QUITE as much as I loved the two-stage shutter button on my old Z3. Posted via the Android Central App
  • With the ubiquity of double-press power (or home) buttons to launch the camera, I think that ship has sailed. Physical camera keys just introduce tons of camera shake when taking photos as well ... it's very awkward to hold a 7mm thick phone and try to use a camera key.
  • I never use the camera button. I tried to like it. Posted via Xperia Z5
  • I enjoy the volume buttons for shutter buttons enough. Those make it to where I don't miss a physical shutter button. I'll agree though that the software shutter button sucks regardless of what phone it is. Just doesn't feel right Posted via the Android Central App
  • I use the voice shutter on my Lg all the time. So handy to just say "smile" Posted via the power of my mind
  • The home button to launch camera already does this for most people, so unless it's a camera enthusiast phone design, your never going to see this on a mainstream phone.
  • Every android should get rid of the stupid ugly navigation bar!
  • No
  • Yeah, remember the good old days, when there wasn't 1/2" of dead space below the screen? On-screen buttons are stupid, especially when there is physical space below them, and especially when the buttons are basically static anyway. You don't need that much space for 3 buttons. Windows has a task bar at the bottom of the screen, but your running programs appear there, and you can pin shortcuts to it. Android gives you 3 buttons, and you can't even customize what they do (on most phones, at least.)
  • Blame the stupid OEMs for not trying to minimize the bottom bezel on their phones. The Nexus 6 had it perfect; the bottom bezel was as tiny as it could realistically be. It was just large enough to house the bottom speaker. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oh, I do blame the OEMs, and I basically don't even consider buying phones anymore that don't have capacitive buttons. The OnePlus gets this exactly right -- capacitive buttons for people who want them, on-screen buttons for people who like wasting space.
  • I dunno. The button on the Oneplus 3 looks just about as big as the on screen buttons on my Nexus 6. I'd say it's a wash. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
  • If they design the phone hardware properly, software buttons can be better than capacitive because they can slide away out of sight until needed.
  • The original Moto X is the only phone ever to have done that -- had a chin so small that capacitive buttons just wouldn't fit.
  • I agree :) Oneplus 3 - Posted via the Android Central App
  • I would take a phone with all 3.A physical mute/unmute switch,a dedicated camera button,and yes,I'm one of those,I actually like volume and power buttons on the back. Posted via the Android Central App With the mute switch and camera button on the sides of course,with power/volume conveniently on the back.
  • I have my OnePlus 3 setup where I double-tap the capacitive home button to open camera, works easily. Oxygen ROM has button customization that Google and Samsung doesn't have.
  • You can set the home button on stock to open a multitude of apps. This isn't unique to OnePlus
  • That volume on/off switch is what I miss most about my iPhone 4 days. It's brilliant! Why don't more (or any from what I've seen so far) Android phones use it?
  • Yep Posted via the Android Central App
  • It adds to the cost and complication of designing a handset, and it merely performs an action that you can already perform numerous ways. Sure, you could save 1/2 a second by just toggling a switch, but you could say the same thing about a lot of things. Why isn't there a hardware key that takes you right to email, for example?
  • My S6, depending on how it's feeling that day, can take forever to unlock. If I had that toggle switch I could easily turn the sound off without having to wake the phone up, saving much more than that 1/2 second you claim it takes to turn off the sound. Sure if the screen is already turned on it's not necessary to have the hardware key. Saves battery too.
  • My S6 sometimes takes a second to recognize my finger, but you don't need to unlock to mute. Put a gun to my head and I could turn on the screen, mute (it's in my quick toggles), turn off the screen, and have the phone in my pocket in about a second, and this isn't even a task I regularly do.
  • Some people just enjoy doing things the hard way
  • On Samsung, the physical volume keys don't work with the screen off? That's weak. I can't imagine needing to wake the screen to turn a phone down.
  • They do, but only if there is audio playing. You can't turn the phone to silent. It's exactly the same as stock Android in this regards.
  • I like the hardware silence slider too - silence without needing to look at or touch screen. Surprised Daniel B's write-up on the OnePlus 3 vs. HTC 10 was dismissive of this feature.
  • I love it as well, my only "issue" is that because it slides the way it does I have occasionally had it change modes from going in or out of a pocket . . Not a deal breaker for me, but this is where how apple does it seems to prevent that from happening. . . Posted via the Android Central App
  • iPhone has had this for quite long time and users love it. I am not sure why none of the android OEMs ever cared to include this. So, good work OnePlus.
  • Personally, this is the one part I hate of Oneplus, since they ruined timed Do not Disturb -mode for slider. I rather like my DnD going on and off automaticly when needed, without having to remember to re-enable.
  • ^^^ this. Personally, I'd love to see all mobile OSes include the feature to "mute during a calendar event", which old school Windows Mobile had, iOS has NEVER had, and that Android can have with an app like "Calendar Mute". A slider is easy to mute/unmute, but for those of us who are on-call 24/7 (for work or whatever), forgetting to "unmute" the ringer can be a serious issue. A lot of OSes have a "family circle"-type feature that allows certain people to breakthru even if on mute, or for calls to ring if they occur multiple times within "x number of minutes", but those rules have failed me in the past for varying reasons. What works VERY well is having calls automatically mute when I'm in a meeting, and then automatically unmute when I'm not. I much prefer that method.
  • Motorola had "mute notifications during meetings" as part of their moto assist app suite with the 2013 moto x. One of the reasons why I stuck with moto phones till now. They've since dropped the feature in favor of Android marshmallows "automatic rules" in the DND settings but I still think moto did it better (same goes with their active display vs ambient display). What I find funny is the phones that usually are disrupting the meetings I'm in are the iphone users... guess they haven't figured out that switch themselves
  • What do you mean by DnD settings?
  • You can use some automatic profiles app to do that and much more. I use Llama to put my phone to quiet mode sat work, and mute it completely during work calendar events. Works like a charm:-)
    Also, with a 3rd party app, it counts my work hours based on geolocation
  • Moto Assistance has been a life saver for these features, but I'm on the droid turbo, so I'm not sure about the latest Moto phones.
  • Apple iPhones seem to have a mute switch and timed DnD mode. Soo.....
  • Totally agree. The lack of scheduled DND time on the Oneplus 3 is a dealbreaker. The alert slider in its current implementation is something I hope other smartphone brands do not copy.
  • Easily fixed with this app.
  • I've always wanted a catch-all button. I think there's a phone now that has it where you can assign shortcuts to it. I love the idea of being able to assign shortcuts or settings to single, double, and triple-presses of a button. All phones should have that.
  • Agreed, all phones SHOULD have that. Galaxy S7 and S6 active have that feature. Customizable button for 1,2, & 3 presses. Posted via the power of my mind
  • Don't most Android phones let you set the home button to open an app? If I double tap, or hold & slide I can set apps for it to open
  • I have it and so far I hate it.. No night mode, no set time for DnD.. Alert slider could be fine as addition to DnD, this way it is only destroy system which really works.
  • I would like it to be all, vibrate, none. There should be an option to customize between. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes, I'd like the hardware switch to be there. This is something that I love about the iPhone, being able to mute the entire phone by just flicking the switch. OnePlus delivers an experience similar to that and I wish others would do the same.
  • BUT THINNESS ZOMG /S Posted from my cracked Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • I've never felt this was needed on my end. Guess I'm just used to doing things the way I do them Posted via the Android Central App running on my Galaxy S7
  • And that's fine Posted from my cracked Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • The only time I even need to mute my phone is when I go to a movie theater, which is like once a year. To me, it's not a problem to turn on the screen, swipe down, and hit the mute button in quick settings.
  • Lucky you, but for those of us who go in and out of meetings all day and have to mute our phones constantly, an alert slider is a godsend
  • I guess the point that I'm making is that muting your phone "the slow way" takes 0.2 seconds, and there are probably a lot of things that you do with your phone even more often than mute/unmute that don't have physical controls. Like, what about physical camera button? Why not a button that takes you directly to Gmail? Either of those buttons would likely see a lot more usage, so why not just add physical buttons for everything?
  • Blackberry phones were famous for their keyboard shortcuts, which likely were among the features that kept hardcore users clinging to their BBs. Although the now ubiquitous touch-based UIs have many advantages over a "fixed" button-based UI, I don't think efficiency is one of them.
  • That's exactly my point: though a phone with a ton of buttons and/or switches might be more slightly more efficient that a touch-only device, but you're trading off simplicity. If you're going to add a switch for a rarely performed action, like muting the phone, why not a physical sliding mechanism for screen brightness (which I'm always fiddling with), or a hardware key for copy and another for paste? I copy and paste all the time, and buttons sure would make it easier!
  • No, I hear ya. In addition to simplicity, touch-only UIs provide greater flexibility and, of course, screen real estate. That said, I think the iPhone and Steve Jobs fostered a "buttons are bad" mentality, which has dominated UX and industrial design regardless of merit. Buttons not only can be useful, but also can be better than their software counterparts for some use cases. I think Blackberry really missed an opportunity to reimagine physical keyboards and UIs built around them. The Passport was a nice, albeit late, step in this direction with the capacitive keyboard. The Passport should have been the device Blackberry released with BB 10. But, there was still room for more innovation, such as having keys that change which character or symbol they display based on what's on screen. When composing a message, it displays a language-appropriate keyboard. But when on the home screen, it might display icons for the email app, web browser, etc. I think some companies have experimented with this.
  • You can always use the built in Android feature to automatically mute your phone based on meetings set in your calendar..... why use a smartphone without taking advantage of the smart features?
  • Put it on vibrate and keep it in your pocket. Easy. I never have my volume on except in the car (through the car audio, hands free setup). You can make the vibration pattern different for family or work stuff in some phones, so you know who's on the other end without taking the device out if your pocket.
  • If you'd ever used it on an iPhone, you'd realize just how handy it is. It's a time and battery saver.
  • I always disliked them because when pulling things in and out of bags,pockets, the slider gets clicked
  • As a former iPhone 5 user that never happened to me but alas the OP3s switch is thicker Posted from my cracked Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • That just shows how crappy Android's notification management system is...... Posted via the Android Central App
  • What's funny is that it's junk in one update and then great the next. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Seriously miss the silent switch when I try out an Android phone. It's one of those little things that Apple and now OnePlus just get right. So nice to just be able to put your phone in silent mode from your pocket without even having to take it out. 
  • Really.
    You couldn't at least preface this article with "this is a paid for promotion from Oneplus"?
  • I've never used the alert slider on the phone.
  • I could personally take or leave an alert slider, but I do think OnePlus should allow this slider to be used for other purposes.
    Being able to quickly switch the screen from outdoor, indoor and night mode levels might be handy for some or perhaps preset volume levels etc.
  • U don't even use that sh*t on my One plus. I either put my phone on vibrate or sound on or turn the phone off at night Posted via the Android Central App
  • Glad there's no extra buttons on any of mine
    Mines either full volume our silent and I have volume control for that
  • I never want buttons on the front or sides of a phone again. Posted via the Android Central App
  • +1 My now antique Palm Treo has a mute slider, and that was probably the thing I missed most when switching to an Android device.
  • Andrew, just a suggestion: maybe you could ask someone from the product teams at other OEMs whether they have considered this feature and, if so, why they haven't implemented it? That's the type of stuff I would like to see AC do more of. But anyway, I suspect the main reason the switch isn't included is due to increasing manufacturing complexity. However, I wonder if OEMs also feel the feature is somewhat redundant to functionality available via the IR sensor, such as to mute the phone when placed screen-side down. Obviously the control is not as granular as with a notification toggle, but it does address some of the "afraid of forgetting to turn notifications back on" scenarios. For example, when you're going into a meeting, you put the phone face down, and when you're back at your desk, it's face up.
  • Google likes to implement features via software, I.e. DND scheduling for automatic silencing and priority notifications. A hardware switch would probably interfere with the software. That IS a good idea about turning your phone face down during a meeting for instant silence, but remember, we also have the option to wake our screen, say "okay Google, silence phone". It works, I just tried it to be double sure. How's that for quick and easy? Just speak. Posted via the power of my mind
  • And from what I am reading, nexus users can create a rule to schedule DND during meetings and such. I guess it uses their Google calendar data to do that, I'm not sure. There seems to be so much automation available. It's like they don't want us to lift a finger. Posted via the power of my mind
  • Good point about using voice commands. And regarding meetings and what-not, I think there's a ton of opportunity for automatic GPS-based rules. For example, the phone could know when you enter a conference room or perhaps even your boss's office and automatically silent itself. GPS data for building interiors is a current challenge, but definitely not an insurmountable one. And there are still plenty of scenarios that don't require interior GPS data: the phone could silence itself when you're at a doctor's office or movie theater; it could automatically switch to airplane mode when on the tarmac, etc.
  • One thing I forgot to mention, IFTTT has the capability of muting my phone automatically when I drive to where we have our business meetings at. I set it up for mute and unmute via location, along with turn vol up, down, or mute via text in case I ever lose it. So yeah, many automation solutions to be had. Posted via the power of my mind
  • Moto Assist has these features for automatic silencing or priority notifications based on location, time, or data (calander appt, etc). I thought Google was implementing something similar into Android.
  • I agree so much! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Kind of annoying that it overrides the rules. Instead of automatically going in and out of DND mode during a preset period, I now have switch the slider every single day.
  • Listen. The Sony Ericsson P910i 5 - way scroll wheel will come back. Scroll up / down, forward / back, click in.
    Best thing since sliced bread.
  • Ou yes, alert slider is a really good feature. I hope that all phones will have it. On the same side of course (but probably samsung place it on other side like buttons) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hello, my m8htc ran out of battery earlier today at work and turned off, so when I got home, I plugged it into my charger and turned it on a few minutes later (i.e. once it had about 10% charge or so). When it loaded, I unlocked my phone, and it attempted to load my home screen, but an error window showed "Unfortunately, HTC Sense has stopped." When I clicked OK, my phone just repeated the same thing with the same result
  • Andrew, I think you might look up the word "calamitous". I don't think it's what you meant, because you seemed to like prioritized notifications in Marshmallow..
  • I used to love that toggle on the iPhone. I miss that having switched to Android full time. I wish more manufacturers would implement it. Does anyone know why Google/Android won't support 3 button mics on earphones? This is another place where the iPhone is far better than Android.
  • All phones should have this.