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Extend Moto X Active Notifications with DynamicNotifications

Jack Wallen takes a look at Active Notifications and DynamicNotifications, two ways to efficiently communicate with the notification bar on your Android smartphone.

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The Motorola Moto X has a feature called Active Notifications, which allows you to receive notifications (from calls, email, messages, Facebook, etc) while your phone's display is off. When you miss a call, the Active Notification will pop up on your display, and you can tap that notification to see what it was. One of the best things about this feature is that it's very battery friendly. 

The same Active Notifications feature appeared later in an app that's available for most Android-based smartphones. Initially, the app was called ActiveNotification, but it was changed to DynamicNotifications (for obvious reasons).

If you have a Moto X, you're in luck -- Active Notifications are already there to configure and use. However, if you have a different smartphone (one that's running Android 4.1 or higher), you'll have to install the app (and make a purchase for additional features). Let's take a look at both systems.

Moto X

By default, Active Notifications are turned on. If you go Settings | Active Notifications, you can set up this feature to best fit your needs. The first thing you should do is make sure Active Display is enabled (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A
Active Display settings for the Verizon-branded Motorola Moto X.

With the system enabled, tap on Manage notification types. In this new screen (Figure B), you can select which apps will access the Active Display. By default, all apps will be checked (even though some apps can't even communicate with the system). Unselected the apps that you don't want to appear in Active Notifications.

Figure B

Figure B
Select which apps can make use of the Active Notifications system.

You'll also notice that, by default, Automatically select downloaded apps is enabled. Disable this feature so that you can control what new apps get to use the system.

It's also possible to set a specific period of time for the Sleep at night feature, which temporarily turns off the Active Notifications system. To set a specific time, tap the Settings icon next to the Sleep at night option. In the new window (Figure C), select the time desired, and then tap Done.

Figure C

Figure C
Configuring the Sleep at night time.

DynamicNotifications

Now, let's set up a similar system on a Samsung Galaxy S4 using the DynamicNotifications application. There are two versions of this app -- Free and Premium. The Premium version costs $1.99 (USD) and includes the following extras:

  • Breathing notifications: Undismissed notifications will reappear after two minutes
  • Hide additional details: Don't show notification details on the notification screen
  • Use as lockscreen: Show the app every time you unlock your device
  • Auto-wake: Pulling the phone out of your pocket or picking it up from lying face down will display the notification screen
  • Edit Swipe actions: Choose the action for each swipe direction

Installation

Installing DynamicNotifications is simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Search for “dynamicnotifications” (no quotes)
  3. Tap on the entry for DynamicNotifications
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept
  6. Allow the installation to complete

If you want to get the Premium version, you can purchase it from within the Free version. To do this, open the app and scroll down to the Unlock premium features section. Tap that, and then purchase the unlock key. Once you've made the purchase, the extra features will automatically be made available.

Setup

The first thing you need to do is open the app and enable DynamicNotifications. In the apps main window (Figure D), slide the switch to ON in the Enable DynamicNotifications section.

Figure D

Figure D
DynamicNotifications running on a Verizon-branded Galaxy S4.

The next step is to allow applications to make use of the system. Instead of "allowed" applications, we'll be setting up "blocked" applications. Tap on the Manage blocked apps entry, and then select which apps you want to allow (Figure E). Similar to the Moto X system, by default, all installed apps have access to the notification system. Go through the entire list and disable those apps that you don't want to appear in DynamicNotifications.

Figure E

Figure E
Select which apps you want to have access to the DynamicNotifications system.

Once you've purchased the Premium version, you can make use of some really cool features. Open the app and scroll down to the lower portion of the configuration settings. Here you'll find the “Breathing,” lockscreen, and Auto-wake options (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F
The Premium features of DynamicNotifications.

Enable the “Breathing” option, and then tap the settings button. Now, you can set the interval for which unread notifications will reappear. By default, the interval is two minutes and zero seconds. You can even set that for single-digit hours.

You can also customize the swipe actions that are used for DynamicNotifications. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open DynamicNotifications
  2. Scroll down and tap Edit swipe actions
  3. Swipe in any direction (Figure G)
  4. Select the action to be associated with that direction
  5. Tap Done

Figure G

Figure G
You can set up four different swipe direction actions.

If you're looking to get more control over how you interact with your Android device's lockscreen, you should get to know either Active Notifications or DynamicNotifications. These two systems make your device more efficient and get your notifications to you faster and more gracefully.

Do you have additional tips for working with Android notifications? Share your knowledge in the discussion thread below.


About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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