Lockscreen notifications in Android

Being able to see incoming notifications right on the lockscreen is a really convenient feature. iOS has it out of the box, Android can have it after a little tweaking. I tried to use several application which bring notifications to the lockscreen of my Galaxy S3 and here’s a brief overview of what I’ve discovered.

Note: I specifically left any of the fake lockers that mimic iOS behavior just for fun out of this article. Fun is great, but I was looking for my daily notification driver.

Test environment: Samsung Galaxy S3 i9300 running SlimROM 5.2 weekly (Android 4.4.2 KitKat) and Boeffla kernel 2.3 beta3. With every app I recieved a Gmail message and an SMS via Hangouts. Other events (like a new tweet in my feed) occured randomly.

DashClock

Source: Google Play

This is the first notifications related app that one can find at the Play Store. Also, several custom ROMs have it bundled. DashClock is a widget that can be placed either on the homescreen or lockscreen. It doesn’t do much by itself, its main advantage is extensibility. And that means a whole bunch of extensions has to be installed on the device to release the full DashClock potential. I have set up Hangouts, Gmail+ and DashNotifier extensions and this is the result:

dashclock1

User can open corresponding app by expanding DashClock (like on picture above) and tapping at notification. Deleting unused notifications is not possible. Looks nice and many users will be pretty satisfied. But let’s take a look at the RAM consumption:

dashclock2 dashclock3

That’s about 50 Mb (11+10+13 for extensions and 13 more for DashClock itself will be 47). International S3 variant has 1 Gb RAM, so I consider it a little expensive to waste 50 Mb just for one widget.

However, there is a workaround. We can reduce memory usage by dropping all the extensions except DashNotifier. It provides 11 empty slots that can be customized, it should be enough for an average user. With Gmail, Hangouts and Twitter enabled through DashNotifier, RAM consumption has reduced significantly:

dashclock4

SlideLock

Source: Google Play

This application is certainly looks like iOS and works as an entire lockscreen replacement:

slidelock1

Notifications at this screen can be swiped to the right to open the corresponding app and to the left to dismiss, I really like this feature. Unfortunately, this is the only benefit of SlideLock. The app is very laggy on my i9300. It shows up with the delay after waking up the phone, it opens my homescreen very slowly after unlocking and it consumes a lot of memory too:

slidelock2

Maybe on a top-level device it can run smoothly, but for me SlideLock is a no-go.

NiLS

Source: Google Play

This app combines most handy features of the above. However, a little tweaking is required to master it. NiLS itself works as a widget that can handle notifications from any app. But there is also extension app from the same developer named NiLS Floating Panel. It is, well, a resizable floating panel placed above lockscreen, so it doesn’t really matter whether Android version installed on the device actually supports lockscreen widgets. Here’s the screenshot of this floating panel in action:

nils1

Notifications are interactive, which is nice. User can choose an action for left and right swipe in the settings. Swipe down dismisses entire notification list. NiLS also doesn’t require much RAM:

nils2

Floating panel has theming capability, will be unlocked after donation though.

Edit: with latest update floating panel is merged into the main NiLS application.

AcDisplay

Source: Google Play

This app brings Motorola Active Display experience to non-Moto devices. It replaces the lockscreen and shows incoming notification on a black background to reduce battery usage:

acdisplay1

Notifications are interactive, but operating them is not so convenient comparing to NiLS. I’ve had some troubles dismissing one by swipe, for example. AcDisplay is also capable of turning the screen on automatically when device is taken from the pocket. And last but not least, it has some settings to tweak, like using wallpaper instead of solid black background or replacing lockscreen only when there are active notifications. RAM consumption is also very good:

acdisplay2

DynamicNotifications

Source: Google Play

This is another attempt to mimic Moto Active Display, looks very similar to previous one:

dynamic1

Notifications are interactive, this central icon is actually a multi-target slider quite familiar to AOSP based ROMs users. Targets can be changed as user see fit. Slider is very intuitive to use, definitely a good design solution. RAM usage is close to a minimum:

dynamic2

Conclusion

So, it’s time to choose, isn’t it? Which one will be my daily driver? First, I have excluded DashClock because of inability to dismiss notifications from the lockscreen. Then, as I have mentioned before, SlideLock is a no-go due to its really bad performance. AcDisplay and DynamicNotifications are very similar, but the last one has more convenient controls, so AcDisplay gets out of the choice as well. And finally, I decided to stay with NiLS. I prefer to see my notifications as a detailed list instead of just icons. DynamicNotifications is a great app too, it’s just a personal preference.

And how do you handle notifications on your Android device? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Published by

Victor Lapin

Software Development Group Leader

2 thoughts on “Lockscreen notifications in Android”

  1. Hi — In the NiLS screenshot above, can you tell me the exact settings (color, transparency, etc.) that you used to make it look like the iOS lockscreen? (English, please)

    Привет – В то Нильс скриншот выше, вы можете сказать мне точные параметры (цвет, прозрачность и т.д.), которые вы использовали, чтобы сделать его похожим на экрана блокировки IOS?

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