How to use Notification Center for iPhone and iPad

If you just got a new iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad then you've got Notification Center. It's Apple's attempt to bring order and sanity to the myriad of alarms, alerts, messages, calls, announcements, and game challenges that flood our daily lives. But first you may need to bring order and sanity to Notification Center itself. Here's how!

How to use Lock screen notifications on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Lock screen notifications on iPhone and iPad: What they are and how they work

The Lock screen is what you see when you first wake up your iPhone or iPad by pressing the Home or Sleep/Wake button. If your phone is asleep, it's also what lights up when a notification comes in. That's so, if your iPhone or iPad i is sitting on a table nearby, or stuck in a pocket or bag, you'll see or hear the notification come in and still be able to deal with it immediately.

If you're busy and can't, or simply don't want to, deal with a notification when it comes in, the Lock screen will keep a running list of everything you've missed so, when you have time and return to your iPhone or iPad, you can quickly choose what ones you want to tend to first.

Depending on how many notifications come in, and how you've set up Notification Center, what you see on the Lock screen can vary greatly. You can disable Lock screen notifications entirely, you can enable or disable them for specific apps, and for things like iMessages, you can even set the amount of private information you're comfortable having revealed on your Lock screen.

Lock screen notifications can also take you directly to the app or specific message they're alerting you about.

  1. Touch the notification you want to respond to
  2. Slide it from left to right (just as you would "Slide to unlock")
  3. If you have Touch ID enabled, place your finger on the Home button to unlock, if you have a passcode set, enter it.

Note: Once you unlock your iPhone or iPad, you also clear all Lock screen notifications. However, you can still access them at any time by pulling Notification Center proper.

How to access Notification Center on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

How to access Notification Center on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

You can access Notification Center at any time on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch by simply swiping down from the top of the screen.

  1. Place your finger above the screen.
  2. Pull your finger down over the screen

Notification Center can be pulled down from the Lock screen, from any Home screen, and from inside any app.

If you're inside a full-screen app — a game, a video, etc. — the first time you pull down you'll get a little tab with an arrow. That's to prevent you accidentally pulling down Notification Center and ruining your game or show. If you really want Notification Center, just touch that arrow and pull down again.

Notification Center tabs

You have a few tabs along the top of Notification Center - Today, All, and Missed. These three sections are there to help you categorize and organize notifications in a way that makes better sense. Here's what each section looks like and what it does:

Today screen

The left tab is Today. The Today screen can show you a wealth of information including any reminders you need to act on, upcoming calendar events, and even summaries of today's weather and stock positions. This section is completely user customizable. If you need help setting it up, you can check out our guide to the Today section of Notification Center.

All tab

The middle tab is All. The All screen shows all notifications you have on your iPhone or iPad that you haven't tended to yet. Whether you received it while you were using your iPhone or iPad and just ignored it, or you got it while you were away from your device, it shows up in this section.

Missed tab

The right tab is Missed. This Missed screen consists of notifications you received while you were away from your iPhone or iPad and it was locked. This section is handy for times when you only want to see the notifications you may not have noticed otherwise. While you can't change a lot of how the All and Missed sections behave, you can change how Notification Center sorts incoming notifications.

How to use Notification Center banners, popups, and alerts

How to use Notification Center banners, popups, and alerts

When your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is unlocked and new notification comes in, a banner or popup notification will appear, depending how you have Notification Center configured in the Settings app.

Banner notifications are typically used for non-urgent alerts like messages, mail, game challenges, even turn-by-turn navigation directions. They show up briefly at the top of the screen and then disappear. Tapping a Notification Banner sends you to the app or specific message associated with the alert.

If a banner is getting in your way, hiding something you need to see or preventing you from tapping a button you need to tap, you can touch them, pull slightly, and flick them away. They'll go away on their own, but flicking them away gets rid of them immediately.

Popups are typicaly for urgent notifications like alarms, reminders, and appointments. They pop up in the center of the screen and won't go away until you acknowledge you received them.

Like many other aspects of Notification Center, you can also customize which apps are allowed to use banners, popups, sounds, and other kinds of alerts via the Settings app.

How to strike the right Notification Center balance

Not enough alerts and you'll miss things. Too many alerts and you'll be forever interrupted. When using Notification Center the best thing to do is start with defaults and either reduce or increase from there. If a certain app is bugging you, turn off its sound, or turn off its notifications entirely. If another app isn't getting the attention it needs, turn on sounds or switch from banners to popups.

The important thing is to make sure you get the notifications you need when you need them and without too many other distractions.

If you need help, leave a comment or visit the iMore Forums!

Note: This article has been updated for iOS 7.

Ally Kazmucha contributed to this article.