One of the main strengths of the Android platform has always been the notifications system. Sadly some app developers seem to abuse it in order to spam you with promotional messages, enticements to fire up their app, and plain old pointless updates. The obvious answer is to uninstall the offending software, but what if it’s an app or a game that you enjoy using? There must be another way right? Let’s find out.
Updated on 01-29-2015 by Simon Hill: Added method for dealing with notifications in Android 5.0 and above, refreshed text, updated screenshots.
Turning off notifications in Android 5.0 Lollipop and above
The latest version of Android handles notifications a little differently and offers you a lot more control over the notifications you’ll see. For the first time you have a dedicated notification section, and some real power to discern what you do and don’t get bothered by.
When a notification pops up in your notification shade you can simply long press on it to bring up a link to the notification page for that app via the “i” icon. It’s a shortcut to the app notification page, which you’ll also find listed at Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications. Every app is listed here and you can decide if you want to turn notifications off by toggling the Block option.
You can also use the Priority option to ensure that notifications gravitate to the top of your notification list and still come through when you’ve turned on Allow only priority interruptions via Settings > Sound & notification > Interruptions > When notifications arrive.
If you use a PIN, pattern , or password for screen lock then you can also set notifications as Sensitive, which will prevent the notification content showing up on your lock screen. For example, you’ll get a notification about a new email, but it won’t display any of the content in the email.
Turning off notifications in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and above
If you’re rocking Jelly Bean or KitKat on your Android device, then feel free to dance round the room in celebration. Your task is easy. The fact that Google worked in a system for identifying the app responsible and turning notifications off forevermore is a pretty clear sign that notification spam is becoming a problem.
When an offending notification pops up, simply long press on it and App info will pop up. Tap on that and you’ll be taken straight to the app management screen where you can uncheck the Show notifications box and free yourself from spam. It does mean that all notifications from that app will be turned off. As the warning states “If you turn off notifications for this app, you may miss important alerts and updates.”
You can also go to Settings > Apps and slide over the All tab and run through each app, unchecking that Show notifications box for anything you don’t want bothering you.
Turning off notifications in older versions of Android
The horrible truth with older versions of Android is that you are at the mercy of the app developer. Each individual app handles its own notification system. To see whether you can turn off or customize your notifications you need to fire up the app in question and hit the Menu button. You should find a notifications option in Settings. There is no standard, so it could be anywhere, or it might not be an option at all.
Big apps like Facebook have a whole range of notification options so you can decide on alerts, vibrations, and choose ringtones, as well as dictating exactly what should trigger an alert. Some apps don’t have any notification options at all.
If you have the option to set a ringtone for your notifications within an individual app’s settings, then you can get around the main annoyance they cause, which is making you think something important has popped up on your phone. Set the same ringtone for non-essential updates and you don’t need to turn notifications off, but you’ll instantly know it isn’t that text you’re waiting for.
It is also a good idea to set different ringtones and vibrations for different things so you have a good idea whether it’s something you need to check or not. Most people have ringtone and vibrate for calls, and maybe just vibrate for texts and emails. You might find additional options depending on the phone you have. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S3 allows you to set up your own vibrate patterns and assign them to different contacts.
How do I know which app is responsible?
Some of the most pernicious notifications, which usually proclaim things like “Win a free iPad,” are not obviously from any specific app. If you’re getting spam like this, and you don’t have Android 4.1 or above, then you could resort to using another app to locate the offending spammer.
Try out the free AirPush Detector app and you should be able to identify which app is spamming you with those push notifications. You will have to uninstall the app responsible in order to stop the problem.
There’s also an app called Addons Detector, which allows you to check which ads and tools your apps are using. It can identify apps using push notifications and a bunch of other kinds of advertising as well.
Another good app to use is Lookout Ad Network Detector. It’s another free app that will scan your apps and identify any of them that are using common ad networks. You can find out what information is being gathered and what kinds of ads are being served and uninstall them if you don’t like the look of what they are up to.
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