Beginners Section

August 4, 2013

Notification Bar, what’s happening here?


In this article we will look at the Notification bar, allowing users to respond to certain notifications within the notification bar and without launching the app directly. Use your phone for just about any length of time, and you’ll notice that little icons pop up and sit on the top-most bar on your phone. This is known as the Notification Bar, though it’s sometimes referred to as the “Status Bar” or “System Status Bar” in Android developer documents. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call it the Notification Bar, because it’s where you get notified of things, simple .

What kind of things?

The bar is divided into two basic sections. The left-hand side is where your applications and message services can drop you a note that there’s something new to look at, when you download an app or an app is updated also shows up their. The right-hand section, which is given more space, is where Android gives you the basic status information you’d expect from any smartphone or tablet.

Let’s start there.

Note: The look, and arrangement, of the notifications and status bar icons described here may look different on your phone. The functionality of the Notification Bar, and the meaning of the icons, stays the same across all phones, and Android OS you have on your phone.

Icon_Glossary_1 Icon_Glossary_2

System Status Icons

Starting from the right and heading left (towards the centre of the bar), you’ll see what time it is, battery icon, network signal strength indicator, these are permanent icons.

Following is the Wi-Fi icon, although this one normally only shows when you, connected to a network hub, normally at home or nowadays in Cafés, Railways stations, Coaches even City Centres. Then the GPS icon which some apps use it for your position like navigation or maps.

To the left you’ll find another icon that appears if you’ve switched of the sound━vibrate, or make no noise at all, for incoming calls. For now, we should point out that seeing the Wi-Fi icon simply indicates that your phone has been permitted to connect to a Wi-Fi network, and that usually means you’ve got web access—but not always, depending on the network setup.

3G-4g Data Indicator

When you turn off Wi-Fi, you’ll see a mobile data connection indicator.

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communications.   networks, and you’re in range of a data connection, you’ll see different icons depending on your signal speed and strength. “G” indicates you’ve got only a very basic GPRS (General packet radio service) connection, which is a kind of last resort in this day and age. “E” shows that you’re connected to an EDGE ( Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution)  network—decent enough at browsing text-heavy web pages and managing email, but not so hot at multimedia. “3G” refers, as you might guess, to the heavily advertised 3G, a kind of catch-all term for a connection package that delivers a decent web experience—slightly better than you’d get at home with a DSL connection, speed-wise, but with a bit more latency between requesting something and getting it back. Speeds will vary across locations, and technologies like HSDPA ( High-Speed Downlink Packet Access ), LTE ( Long Term Evolution ) marketed as 4G LTE, is a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals. It is based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies and  4G are helping to bring .

Your network connection icon has two arrows, up and down, that light up when your phone is passing information “up” to the network and making requests for web sites and services, and “down” when it’s pulling data. These arrows can tell you a good bit about what’s happening with your phone. When it’s busy grabbing data and checking what’s next, both arrows will be lit up. If you notice that only the “up” arrow is steadily lit up, and your web-connected apps don’t seem to be responding, you might need to close that app or restart your phone to get it unstuck, so to speak. If you’re wondering why your phone is so warm, see if the arrows are staying lit continuously, which indicates a big download or sync you might want to stop if you’re trying to conserve batteries.

OK, so that’s the right hand side of the notification bar dealt with, we now move over to the Left side.

Message and App Notifications


Notification Pop-Ups

With only the apps that come pre-installed on your phone, you’ll start getting these little pings right away. The two pictured at left are the most common: A Gmail-like icon to indicate you’ve got, yes, eMail message.

Gone are the days of smiley-faced, speech-bubble-looking guy to the right of the Gmail as an indicator of a new text message. If you happen to be holding your phone and the screen is on when they arrive, you’ll notice your phone vibrate, beep, or otherwise react, an LED on your phone might light up, and the Notification Bar itself will roll up, stock-ticker-style, to show either a basic message (“New Email”) or a quick read on the message (“Ryan O’Neill – Hey Dave just wondering where you are…”). If not, these updates will plant themselves in the Notification Bar, and you can act on them whenever you want.
When Notifications Pile Up

Depending on your screen, you’ll have a maximum number of icons that can be shown on the left-hand side of the Notification Bar. This is the case when you have a few apps updating and you will see the little black-square-icon-arrow_25px  icona few times and they run-off the screen.

Notifications Pull Down Menu
How do you act on notifications? By “pulling down” the bar from the top of your screen. Place your thumb or finger at the top of your screen, on the Notification Bar. Slide your finger at least halfway down the screen, you can let go when you’re halfway down, and the screen will fall all the way down. If you pull down fast and let go, you can also flick the screen down without having to follow it with your finger. Trust me—over time, your subconscious will start connecting the “New thing on my phone” sound or buzz with the “Flick down the screen” motion, and it will feel pretty natural.

What’s on the Notification Bar?
That depends on what apps and processes you have running on your phone, but they work mostly the same. In the example above,”Notifications” is what you’ll usually see when you pull down the window. If you’re not in the mood to see them, or plan to get to them later, hit the “Clear” button in the upper-right corner. Those messages won’t be deleted or marked as read, but will be dismissed from the “Notifications” section, but may reappear later.

What Notifications Mean

To a newcomer, the icons that appear in the Notification Bar aren’t exactly apparent, even after rolling down the window shade to see what’s happening. As you install new applications from the Market, they’ll add their own notification icons, but every Android phone has a standard set it uses. Here’s a look at those default notifications (which, as noted above, are pulled from my HTC One Android 4.3 phone running the stock interface; yours may and probably vary).

Have fun

There are plenty of guides to come, we will be, like Taking & Browsing Photos,and that’s precisely what we’re covering next.Checkout the Guides in the Beginners Section.


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Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini