A Sidenote on iOS Notifications
A lot of speculation is brewing over the impending overhaul of notifications in iOS 5. The entire focus appears to be on the software end, but that is only part of the equation. If you keep an iPhone docked silently on your work desk, you too have probably felt the need for a better visual cue of notifications. Currently, you rely on strangely spaced reminder intervals, or compulsively checking your screen when you return to your desk. Neither method addresses email notifications.
A new lock screen would go part of the way to addressing the issue: Return from a meeting/coffee/toilet break and press a button to trigger the lock screen. It also fixes the problem of silent email alerts. The other blindingly obvious solution is to provide a new area of visual feedback, not linked to the main screen and its limitations. The power drain and risk of component failure are fairly straight forward reasons such a feature should never be built into the main screen (excessive size aside).
A second screen is certainly not a new concept. “Clamshell” phones have been running external displays for a long time, but they’ve always been far from seamless. Cheap and nasty plastic is broken up by an equally lo-fi LCD screen. My old Motorola KRZR was probably one of the better attempts, burying both the surrounds and the display beneath coloured glass. It did an okay job in softening the difference in materials. Others were less than ideal:
There were some more serious attempts that still looked pretty lo-fi, namely the LG Lollipop/dLite. I never saw this one in person, but the effect seems to be replicated outside of the press shots. Other clamshells like the Sony Ericsson z750 weren’t too shabby either.
The challenge should be clearly defined, it “simply” becomes a matter of implementation. Can Apple source a low power colour display capable of blowing back to near invisibility? Will this component fail all the time like the iPad 2 screen? Is the only other solution an etched screen backlit by coloured LEDs? Should the user be able to configure what icons are represented (Twitter, Facebook, IMs etc)?
The options, you can only have two:
- Configurable information/icons
- "Always on" display
- Colour display
If it were an LCD screen, it could lend itself to a range of possibilities including the time, the weather and all kinds of jailbreak goodness. Retail and enterprise implementations could be quite inventive too.
One thing is certain: the icons should completely disappear when not in use.
Not "as long as you’re facing it front-on they should be mostly invisible".
Not "as long as they’re not in full sunlight they should be mostly invisible".
Regardless of implementation, this is something I’d be really keen on seeing in the iPhone
5, 6. I’m also pretty certain that somewhere in 1 Infinite Loop, CA, this concept exists and sits in a room full of other Jobs-spurned prototypes. And it’s a damn shame really. ■