January 11, 2013 at 10:34pm

Concept: iPhone notification light

My S3 has a notification light, so did my old Nokia 5530 xm and I firmly believe that notification light is an important element on the phone; it’s informative, provides an instant alert without even there being a need to switch on the screen and can be customized to display any color according to the notification type. My S3 shows yellow light when I get a message on whatsapp, blue in case of a SMS/email, white when I have a task coming up on GTasks and so on. Apps like Lightflow provide an even more control over the LED light. 

iPhone does not have this. It has no notification light at all and that, in my opinion, sucks. So I present here my concept of notification light on the iPhone, with the help of my below than average image editing skills. 

Do note that I have never owned an iPhone but I have played around with few of them. 

Placement of the notification light  
The Galaxy S3 (white) has the notification light on the top left of the phone, placed right next to the speaker grill. When not active you cannot tell that a light is there. It only is visible there is a notification. Neat and minimalistic; no unnecessary clutter. I love it. 

But, on the iPhone placing it on the same location as the S3 would not make much sense because the iPhone already has a great place where the notification light area won’t be unnecessarily visible when not lit up. I’m talking about the home button.
The square with rounded corner design within the home button can easily be replaced with an LED light which would light up when an event happens and the rest of the time the home button looks just like it does right now. 


Different colors for different notifications  
The lights would be more useful if the LED can be set up to light differently for notifications triggered by different events; exactly like the way it happens on Android devices. By default, the light color should be white. 


'Smart' lighting  
The only complaint I have heard about notification lights is that they are way too bright during the night. You know, when you are trying to sleep and the phone lights up like a light house? My approach to that issue is that by default, the intensity of the light should change as the day progresses; bright and highly intense during the day and dim at night. This switching is done automatically but the time frame for bright and dim light can also be changed by the user. Along with that, the intensity of the light too can be changed through the settings. 

That’s it. If I were to put a notification light on the iPhone this is exactly how I would do it. 

And of course, this technique can also be applied to the iPad and the iPad mini as well. 

Also, this is the first time ever I have worked on a concept like this.   

Image source: apple.com

This concept got posted on TheVerge forums! Needless to say, it got quite a lot of attention and most people agreed that the iPhone needs some kind of notification light system. 

One comment that was really critically constructive was of certain votshtoy

The iPhone can already be set to use the LED flash to indicate a notification appearing. I don’t think it repeats continuously though. It’s somewhere in accessibility settings.

Not sure about the concept. It would be confusing if you were already using an app, to have the Home button flash. Pushing the Home button wouldn’t reveal the notification, just take you to the Home screen, so it’s kind of a weird place to indicate that event. If it was set to only flash when in sleep, in which case the Home button is the first step, you’d have to be careful how that meshes with the rest of the notification system. For instance, would you indicate new notifications that don’t appear in the lock screen, so you press the Home button and there’s no immediate clue as to why you were brought over? Or if you restricted the flashing Home button to lock screen notifications, how would you explain to the user that’s how it works? They may expect some notifications to be indicated by the light and not understand why some don’t.

He brings up a really good point about users getting confused about the light, specially because it is located on the home button. So I’ll explain the concept a little more, in context of the above possible problem.

First, the light would flash only in when the phone is in sleep mode. If the screen is switched on, the user will come to know of the said event through the notification centre. But, like in Android, if the user does not check his notification before switching off the screen, the notification light will flash until the user removes the notification from the notification centre.
Now that the notification light crops up only when the phone is sleep mode, votshtoy points out that pressing the home button will only bring the user to the lock screen which can make it confusing as the user will be expecting some information on the screen regarding the notification. Again, I take the cue from Android. All the notifications get stacked up in the notification centre and stay their until not checked. That’s how it works on Android. And it works flawlessly.

In short, notification light should work in synch with the notification centre.   


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