What are push notifications and what is the best way to manage them?

*Ding* Your smart phone lights up. *Vibrate* A notification appears on your lock screen. And what’s that pop-up in your browser window? Push notifications help keep us up to date at all times. This has its advantages, but it can also be distracting or even annoying.
by Alyssa Schmitt
Sleepy woman lying in bed looking at phone
Tired of being disturbed by push notifications? Learn how to silence them!

Today, we answer all your questions about push notifications and help you take control of when and how you receive them:
  1. What is a push notification?
  2. What does a push notification look like?
  3. Should I allow push notifications?
  4. Can I turn off push notifications?
  5. How do I silence notifications on my Android device?
  6. How do I mute push notifications on my iPhone
  7. How disable app notifications on an Android device
  8. How to configure app notifications on an iPhone
  9. How to manage push notifications in a web browser
  10. Notifications from mail.com

What is a push notification?

A push notification is a small text message that pops up on your smartphone, tablet, or computer web browser.  They can serve a variety of purposes – from breaking weather alerts to letting you know about a new email in your inbox or reminding you about an upcoming appointment.

The name “push” notification came about because information is actively sent to the recipient as soon as it is available – in contrast to a “pull” system where information is sent from the server to the recipient only when they actively request it. For example, in a “push” email setup, your emails would be “pushed” to your inbox as soon as they arrive at the mail server, whereas with a “pull” email setup, the messages would only be moved from the server to your inbox if you clicked on a “Check email” button.

Normally, push notifications will only be sent to your phone or web browser if you subscribe or opt-in to receiving them.

What does a push notification look like?

Push notifications are displayed in many different forms. In your web browser, for example, a push message will usually appear in a text box in a corner of the screen. A push notification on your phone can take many shapes – a banner at the top of the screen, a pop-up that covers the whole screen, or, if your phone is locked, a notification on the lock screen. Sometimes you will also be alerted by a sound, light, or vibration.

Should I allow push notifications?

Push notifications can be convenient. Without them, it would be necessary to open each app separately and check for new messages or information. For example, you would have to open your weather app to see if there was a thunderstorm on the way or visit your email inbox and manually refresh it to check if you have any new emails. So, it makes sense to allow push notifications in cases where there might be incoming information you don’t want to miss. But it also pays to be selective with which notifications you allow.

Can I mute push notifications?

The constant ringing, pinging, or vibrating of your smartphone or countless pop-ups all over your browser screen can be distracting and even downright stressful. If you are receiving non-stop notifications, you’ll probably miss the ones that are truly important. And of course, you don't want to be distracted by non-essential push notifications at work or woken up by them at night. Luckily you have control of when and what push notifications you’d like to receive, with several different options for temporarily disabling or permanently opting out of some or all alerts.

Use Sleep mode or other modes to mute notifications

Your smartphone will let you temporarily mute all notifications in a single tap using “Sleep” (or other modes).  And it’s also possible to define exceptions, e.g., so that calls from your kids can still come through or your alarm clock can wake you. What these different modes all have in common is that they let you set a period or define certain situations when your smartphone will not receive some or all notifications.

Muting notifications on Android smartphone

The exact names of the notification settings and different “do-not-disturb” modes will vary depending on your exact model of phone. For example:
  1. Go to Settings > Sounds & vibration
  2. Tap  Do not disturb
  3. Toggle on Do not disturb. Under “For how long” you can select the time to keep this setting activated; under “Schedule” you can mute notifications for a specific period each day.
On other phones, you’ll find these options under Settings > Notifications > Do not disturb
Some models also let you customize different notification settings based on different activities, e.g. theater, driving, etc... If your phone has this option, you’ll find it under Settings > Modes and Routines.

Muting notifications on iPhone

On an iPhone, muting notifications can be done by activating a “Focus mode” such as “Sleep. Each mode can be configured so you can receive some notifications if you like while muting others.
  1. Go to your Control Center and tap Focus (with the moon symbol)
  2. Select Sleep (or Do Not Disturb, etc.)
  3. The Sleep button will change color and the word “On” will appear, so you can be sure it’s activated.
  4. To leave Sleep mode, tap it again and its color will change back so you know it’s deactivated.

Configure Sleep mode on your iPhone

If you would like to configure Sleep or other Focus modes on your iPhone, you can either go to your Control Center or Settings and tap “Focus.” Now you can configure each mode (Sleep, Work, etc.) to allow or turn off notifications from specific apps.  By tapping “Add Schedule,” you can also set up a specific time and/or location that will trigger the activation of that mode; or you can specify that you don’t want to receive notifications when you are using a certain app, e.g., you don’t want to receive notifications when the Netflix app is open.

Use Flight mode or disconnect from internet to mute notifications

A quick fix if you’d like to stop notifications immediately is to put your phone into flight mode or disconnect from the internet – or (shock, horror) you could just turn off your phone. Phones and other devices need an internet connection to load new notifications – so without internet access, push notifications will not reach you at all. However, as soon as you are back online, your notifications will come flooding in again.

How do I disable and enable push notifications?

Instead of muting push notifications temporarily, you can also disable some or all of them completely. Don’t worry – if you change your mind, you can enable them again following the same steps.

How turn off app push notifications on an Android device

Again, the exact names of the settings will differ based on your model. Here are some options for turning off notifications on an Android device:

Option 1: In your phone’s Settings
  1. Go to Settings > Notifications > App settings
  2. Tap All and a menu will open allowing you to sort the apps, e.g., under Most recent you’ll find apps that recently sent you notifications.
  3. Alternatively, to see every app, tap All in the dropdown menu.
  4. Tap the slider next to the app to activate or deactivate notifications, or
  5. Tap the app name to customize how you’d like to receive notifications.
Option 2: On a notification
  1. When you receive a notification, hold your finger down on it. A menu will open.
  2. Tap Turn off Notifications > Turn off to completely disable notifications from that app.
  3. Tap Settings to customize notification from that app.

How to disable push notifications on an iPhone

Your iPhone and/or iPad offers lots of options to customize how you’d like to receive (or not receive) push notifications, but there is no silver-bullet option that lets you turn off all notifications all of the time. Enable, disable, and otherwise customize notifications for each app on your iPhone as follows:
  1. Go to Settings > Notifications
  2. Select an app by tapping on it
  3. To disable notifications, turn off the slider next to Allow Notifications
  4. If you don’t want to completely turn off notifications, you can also customize the settings here, e.g., you can stop notifications from appearing on your lock screen (where other people might see them when your phone is turned off), turn off notification sounds but allow banners, etc.
  5. Repeat this process for each app where you’d like to turn off /modify notifications. 

How to manage notifications in your web browser

Push notifications are not only available for mobile devices. When visiting a website, most of us have probably had a pop-up ask us if we want to receive notifications for that site. Don’t worry – whether you’ve allowed push notifications for a shopping site and then had regrets after being bombarded by special deals, or if you’ve declined notifications on your favorite cooking site and later decided you *would* quite like to know when a new recipe is posted, you can always go back and change your settings.

Here is how you can disable push notifications in your web browser:
  • Mozilla Firefox: Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Permissions. Under Notifications you can manage which websites that are allowed to send you notifications as well as block all websites from asking for permission.
  • Google Chrome: Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Site Settings. Under Notifications you can adjust the settings for whether sites can ask to send notifications as well as which websites are allowed to send them.
  • Microsoft Edge: Go to Settings > Cookies and site permissions. Under Notifications you can allow and block push notifications from websites.
  • Safari: Open the Safari > Settings tab in the Apple top menu. Under Notifications you will find more settings and can manage all the websites that are allowed to send you notifications.

Pro tip: Push notifications from mail.com

Never miss any emails from your mail.com inbox again! If you would like to turn on browser notifications when you have a new email in your mail.com inbox – and enjoy one-click login – you can use our MailCheck browser add-on. To receive notifications on your phone, install the mail.com Mail app and activate and customize notifications.

For detailed instructions, see our explainer: How to turn on email notifications with mail.com

We hope this post helped you regain control of the notifications on your device! And if you still don’t have a free email account with mail.com, why not sign up here?

Images: 1&1/iStock

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