In June, Wired wrote notifications were going to take over the phone interface. In the past few months, this has developed at a fast pace.
It used to be you had to check each app for new messages or events. Of course, app makers liked that: more clicks and engagement with their apps. You had to use their apps.
But notifications changes this. If there’s nothing new, you don’t see the app. If someone sends you a message, a photo, or a video, you get a notification. Luckily, you can adjust the level and type of notifications. In HootSuite (an interface for Twitter), I can choose which keywords trigger a notification and how often it checks for updates (5 min, 10 min, 30 min, hourly, etc.) WeChat also shows me when there are new messages from my friends.
Notifications bypass the “desktop” and the apps. If there’s nothing new, you don’t see those. Apps are a great idea… if there are only six of them. But when there’s 1.5m apps and you’ve installed dozens (and the cell phone maker has installed another few dozen), it’s a mess to look at all of those.
Another change is the trigger button. This is a small button that you put in the earphone jack. It lets you assign actions to button presses. Press once and the camera turns on. Twice to open Facebook. And so on. You can turn on the flashlight, video, voice recorder, WIFI, bluetooth, Pandora, or any app.
I first heard of these from Pressy which raised $700,000 in Kickstarter donations. It’s now available at PressyButton.com for $27 (plus shipping).
Xiaomi, the Chinese cell phone company, also released the same thing for $0.80 (yes, eighty cents). My sister-in-law in China gave me a handful of these. (A bunch of people are selling these for $2-5 in the US. See MiClick and similar.)
You put the button in your phone, download the app, and assign actions to the button. Very easy to use and it works great. To take a picture, I just press the button (otherwise, it takes three or four actions to reach the camera via the interface) (and that’s assuming you don’t use a password!) These buttons work only in Android.
I don’t understand why the Pressy button is $27 (plus shipping!) when the Xiaomi button is $0.80 (34X cheaper). As far as I can tell, they’re identical.
I expect programmable buttons will be added to smartphones so Pressy has a short future.
My Samsung Note 3 also has voice trigger. When the phone is asleep on my desk, I say “Hi, Galaxy!” and it turns on. I can follow up with “Send a text message”, “Play music”, “Set timer for 10 minutes”, and many more actions. I suppose other phones can also do this. Again, this bypasses the interface.