Though somehow missed in the Android O keynote, a big change coming to the Android O launcher is a new feature named “Dots.” From the user’s home screen, each icon can now create an icon notification. The user can access these notifications by long-pressing an icon with a dot on their home screen as seen in the following GIF.
As described by Google’s Dan Sandler at Google I/O, “We wanted to do the Android thing, and make [Dots] low-anxiety, give the user control over them, make them look nice, and orient them around our notification system.” Essentially this means that Dots are tied directly to the new Notification Channel API. So, in order to better understand how Dots work, let’s briefly dive into the new Channel Notification API.
The Google Android team has greatly enhanced the way Android O aggregates notifications. Developers are now able to access Notification Channels ranging from “Major Ongoing” to “By the Way (BTW).” Each of these ranked notifications allows the developer to carefully place notifications in the Android system drawer. As you can see, each channel is hierarchal based upon importance to the user. Mentioned at Google I/O, users care most about “People to People” when not performing an ongoing task. As such, these channels are ranked higher than “general” where everyday items should be placed. Lastly, BTW notifications should be utilized for items the user may care about, however doesn’t want to be annoyed with.
By the way…BTW channel notifications do not appear on the user’s lock screen, so this particular channel is a great place to put those recommended notifications or daily deal alerts. Side note: in devspeak, these are known as “channels.” However, to the user, these will be known as “categories.” Developers must specify which channel an app’s notification is published to when targeting Android O (API 26). If a channel is not specified, the notification will not be shown. Post notification, the user will be able to assume granular control over an app’s chosen channel. Once a user selects a new channel for that grouping of notifications originating from your app, that is your app’s new channel moving forward. This means an app that is abusing the “Major Ongoing” channel may get demoted to a lower channel or, even worse, uninstalled. Google has taken several major precautions to ensure these new Notification Channel API’s are not abused. To paraphrase Dan Sandler at I/O regarding notification channel abuse: “Assigning critical notifications to be tied in fate with speculative notifications will create a bad time for not only your users, but also for you.” Positive experiences are what we care most about creating here at Bottle Rocket, so be sure to consult with your UX specialist on proper categorization.
In summary, Dots and Channel Notifications are members of the same system. Developers specify which channel or channels will be shared with the Dots API. For instance, maybe your app has many channels but only one that your user should see a dot for on your home screen icon. This is precisely where that filtering will occur, at the channel level. As mentioned by Dan at I/O, “the user is in total control.” From dismissing Dots globally, to managing notifications through specific channels, even promoting or demoting channels, this new framework is to help the user get the most out of notifications on their device. Of course, if you have any questions regarding Dots or the new Notification Channel API, feel free to reach out to Bottle Rocket. We’ll get you in touch with one of our many experts to determine how your brand can best utilize the latest Android tech.