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What is the Notification Shade?

An advantage that smartphones have is the use of native applications. These apps can become even more powerful when they are allowed to perform tasks in the background. At a certain point, an app may want to alert you of various things. This is called a notification and it will sit in Android’s Notification Shade until it’s dismissed.

Similar to both the Home Screen and the Lock Screen, notifications and the Notification Shade are common across multiple mobile operating systems. Anyone who has moved from iOS will already be familiar with notifications and the concept of a Notification Shade (although, I’m not sure that is what Apple calls it).

Notifications come in from applications (and even the OS) throughout the day and are normally displayed as an icon somewhere in the Status Bar (typically on the left side). You will usually see a brief summary of what that notification wants to relay to you but it’s the Notification Shade that you usually go to see all of it.

Notification Summary
Expanded Notification

For example, a notification that just came in may just want to tell you that you are now connected to a VPN but we learn more (and are sometimes presented with actions) when we go in and expand that notification.

Access the Notification Shade by Swiping Down from the Top of the Screen

So, as you see your notification icons sitting up there in the Status Bar it makes sense for you to access them with a swipe down from it. We do this with just a single finger swipe from the top of the screen (or from the Status Bar) and that will reveal the Notification Shade to you.

It doesn’t even matter if you have notifications waiting for you or not. Swiping down from the top of the screen will reveal this part of the user interface. Now, if you don’t have any notifications then the shade will be blank and you’ll see that, along with quick access to select Quick Settings Panel icons.

I’ll be talking about the Quick Settings Panel soon. I simply felt it would be best to keep it separate from this due to it being completely different.

It’s called the Notification Shade because most people reduce its opacity for visual effect. So, if in fact, you do not have any notifications waiting for you then most OEMs will still show you what is behind the “shade.” This could be your Home Screen (like the screenshot shows below), or an application you’re currently in.

The Notification Shade Holds All of Your Current Notifications

This is really what it all boils down to. I wanted to give you a brief overview of how notifications worked in general because not everyone comes from iOS. Some people are coming to Android from a feature/flip cellular phone with Symbian or even less common of an operating system.

But at the end of the day, what Android users call the Notification Shade is where you go to view your current notifications.

Now, I say current because it’s not going to show you a historical log of all the notifications you’ve ever received. By current, I mean the notifications that you have on your smartphone right now that has yet to be dismissed. So until you swipe those notifications away they will sit in the Notification Shade.

So what we have here is my Pixel 2 XL sitting at the Home Screen. A single, one-finger swipe from the top of the screen gave me this result (with some notifications for demonstrative effect). At the very top, we have the Status Bar and this sits right above the handful of Quick Settings tiles that I mentioned above.

Pointing your attention to the bottom of the screenshot and you’ll see what I meant about it being a “shade.” You can still see the parts of my Home Screen that aren’t covered by notifications. If there weren’t any notifications in this screenshot then you would have gotten to see more of my Home Screen.

So again, it’s just a UI layer that has been put on top of whatever you’re currently doing.

The blank area of the said layer will have its opacity dropped down for a visual effect (but not all OEMs do this). Now, what we have in the middle is still the Notification Shade. It’s just the part of it where my notifications are being displayed. The area below it is still considered to be part of the Notification Shade.

I just wanted to highlight how and why it looks different when you have notifications waiting for you or not. I have put a green mask over the area that is just the notifications, but again, the area below it is part of the Notification Shade as well. When you swipe down to trigger this, the majority of the screen is covered by the shade.


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