iOS 16 tipped for notifications overhaul — here's what I want to see

iphone 13 pro display on laying on desk
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update (May 16): Mark Gurman's been talking more about iOS 16, saying there are some "major changes" incoming.

Apple announced that WWDC 2022 will take place from June 6 - 10. That's a few months off, but there we expect to hear about Apple's software plans for the rest of 2022. The big deal will be iOS 16, but we wager iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 will also feature heavily.

Over the weekend, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman published a post in his regular newsletter where he noted that he expects iOS 16 to feature "some fairly significant enhancements across the board, including an update to notifications and new health-tracking features."

Furthermore, Gurman stated that he doesn't expect a full redesign of the OS, even though iOS now looks much the same as it has for many years. (Compare that to Android, which has vastly changed in the past five years.)

While new health features would certainly be interesting, especially tied into Gurman's predictions about watchOS 9, I want to zero in on notifications. Despite being as vague as he possibly could, Gurman's note relit the passionate opinions I have about iOS notifications right now. 

For those of you who don't know, I'm quite vocal in my distaste for notifications on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. While I use this phone as my daily driver, I'm reminded every time I pick up any one of the best Android phones how much better Google's OS handles incoming items.

So now that Gurman has fanned the flames, I wanted to reiterate what I really want to see with iOS 16's notifications.

iOS 16 notifications: Better grouping 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra displays

(Image credit: Future)

iOS 15 introduced the first steps for this with the Notification Summary. This is an optional setting that parses out notifications you might have missed, especially frivolous ones like Instagram likes, and serves it up to you in a neat little summary. In practice, I have yet to find this useful.

On Android, every notification from the same app comes in as one item, which you can then expand to see each one separately. Take emails, for example. Android will bunch all of the Gmail messages for each account on your phone, which you can take expand and address individually. This is incredibly helpful for triage, like deleting or replying to emails right in the notification shade.

iphone 13 pro display on leaning against books

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

iOS doesn't handle things so cleanly. Even when it does group notifications from each app together correctly or logically, the bunch might still be there if you go into that particular app. Two examples that come to mind immediately are Discord and Instagram.

With the former, if I have multiple messages from one person and I tap one of them in the Notification Center to open the DM thread, the other message notifications will still be in the Notification Center, even though I've already gone into Discord and replied to the person. This leaves me having to clear all of the notifications from iOS.

Instagram is similar. If I get multiple likes on a photo, or several messages, I do what you'd expect and tap one of them to open the app. I see the likes and comments, or mark the messages as read, and go about my day. But the remaining notifications will still be present in the Notification Center.

Android handles notifications better and more logically. I want to see iOS 16 get much closer to how Google's done it and make our lives easier.

iOS 16 notifications: More actions

iphone 13 pro display on in hand with metal background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Actionable notifications — i.e. where you can perform an action right on the notification — are a key part of Android's system. You can delete emails, reply to messages, or perform custom actions in apps that support it. iOS is much more limited in this respect. 

It is far less intuitive to activate notifications on iOS. While dragging down on the banner is fine, you have to long press when you're in the notification center. On Android, most important notifications expand by default, letting you see the action right there. (You can collapse the notification if you don't want to see the actions.)

I just want to see more options on notifications, e.g. Discord letting me both reply and mark a message as read or being able to delete or reply to an email right in the notification shade. Acting on iOS notifications is simply far less efficient.

iOS 16 notifications: Easier to clear one or all

best phones: galaxy s22 ultra and iphone 13 pro max lying side by side

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After a year on iOS, I still cannot abide by the weird way to dismiss notifications. For a single item, I can sometimes get it to go away with a really long swipe to the left. This rarely works in my experience, leaving me to swipe the notification to the side and then hit Clear. Who thought this was a good idea?

And don't get me started on clearing all of my notifications. Until iOS decides to throw stuff into the Older Notifications area, you have to clear each thing individually. On Android, when I get swarmed with stuff I don't really care to see, I just hit the awesome Clear All button at the bottom of the notification shade and boom, done. (I can also tweak system settings for app notifications right there in the shade, which is far, far more efficient than iOS.)

I just want a clean, simple way to quickly get rid of notifications on iOS. No more of this swipe-then-Clear nonsense. 

iOS 16 notifications outlook

iOS 16 concept designs

(Image credit: Hacker 34/YouTube)

In most respects, I prefer iOS to Android for day-to-day, casual use. But when it comes to notifications, my frustration is almost enough to get me to give up iMessage and my Apple Watch and grab a Pixel 6 Pro or OnePlus 10 Pro. I value efficiency and notifications are a huge part of my smartphone usage, even if I get far fewer than I used to.

I don't know what Gurman alluded to and we'll have to wait until June to find out. I just hope Apple fixes a lot of these issues with iOS notifications. 

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.