iOS 5: Notifications and Notification Center

iOS 5 (s aapl) is the biggest update yet to Apple’s mobile operating system. Along with over 100 other features, it brings Notification Center, an improved way to manage push notifications on your iPhone or iPad. Read on to learn how to get started using Notification Center.

What’s a push notification?

Introduced in iOS 3, a push notification is a message sent to your device by an app you have installed. For example, a turn-based multiplayer game may send you a notification to tell you it’s your turn. A lot of apps use push notifications, and a list of the ones on your device that do can be found in Settings > Notifications.

What happens when I receive a notification in iOS 5?

If your device is running iOS 5, then one of two things will happen. If your device is locked (the screen is off), then the screen will turn on temporarily, and the notification will be shown. If you do nothing or are away from your device, notifications will form a list so you can see them all at once.

You can swipe across any of the notifications in this list to open the app they belong to. For example, if you get an SMS, you can swipe across its entry in the list to open the Messages app to reply.

If you are using your iPhone or iPad at the time the notification comes in, it will appear in a banner at the top of the screen, then disappear after a few seconds. This won’t interrupt what you’re currently doing, unlike notifications in iOS 3 and 4, which required you to tap ‘Close’ to dismiss the notification. While these banners are visible, you can tap them to open the corresponding app.

What happens to notifications I don’t respond to straight away?

It might seem like unanswered notifications get sent away, never to be seen again, but don’t worry; iOS 5 is keeping track of them for you. If you’d like to see a list of received notifications, simply swipe downward from the time at the top of your device’s screen. A tray filled with recent notifications, called Notification Center, will slide down. You can then tap a notification in the list to view it in the correct app.

If you’re using an iPhone, this tray will also show a Weather widget and a Stocks widget. These can both be turned off by going to Settings > Notifications, then selecting Weather widget or Stocks widget and sliding the switch to Off.

Can I change which apps show up in Notification Center?

You can indeed, by going to Settings > Notifications, choosing the app you’d like to turn on or off, and changing the Notification Center setting. You can also decide whether apps’ notifications appear in the Lock Screen by changing the setting at the bottom of the screen.

Is there anything else I should know?

When you’re looking at an app’s notification settings, you can decide whether notifications should show up as a banner, an alert, or not at all. An alert is the same as what push notifications were like before iOS 5: when a notification arrives, a box will appear in the middle of the screen, and requires an action to dismiss.

You can also change the order in which notifications show up in the notifications tray: either by time or manually. If you select by time, the most recent notifications will appear at the top of the list. If you select manually, then they will show up grouped by application in the same order you set up in Settings. Once you select to sort them manually, you’ll be able to drag apps around in the list to reorder them.

That’s pretty much all you need to know to get started with Notifications in iOS 5. Any other questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.