Sunday Debate: Heads Up Notifications vs. Ticker

Sunday Debate: Heads Up Notifications vs. Ticker

Join us in a fun Sunday Debate on Notifications. Come with your opinions and feel free to read some of our thoughts, then pick your side or play devil’s advocate to get your voice heard and engage in friendly discussion. You can read our food-for-thought or jump straight into the fray below!



Notifications are a huge part of Android, and Lollipop brought with it a redesign of the age-old notification ticker. The “heads up” system is loved by some, and detested by others — not unlike many changes each version brings, yet in a particularly polarizing way. The main issue with Lollipop’s implementation is that it was not properly worked out for the initial versions. That is, there was no built-in way to disable it, nor revert the system, and once a notification hits your screen during use, your only option is to swipe it away and dismiss the notification from your list. This last bit was addressed in later builds, but many users are still stuck in 5.0.x and left to fix the issues through other means.


Now that many months went by, we have more than a few options at our disposal to address this issue. First of all, KitKat users can enjoy heads up notifications through Xposed modules and app options like HeadsUp and others. Lollipop users that want to be able to hide the heads up notifications instead of dismiss them can use Heads Up Hide for Xposed, and now we also have options to restore the notification ticker like XDA Forum Member Productigeeky’s  Ticklr. In short, users can now enjoy heads up notifications or the ticker on both Lollipop and KitKat.


But given that most people tend to choose one over the other, we want to ask you the following: Which one is more efficient? Which one do you prefer, and why? Should we incorporate both? For which use-cases? Can their functionality be expanded, and if so, how? This debate can be considered rather opinionated, but we also want you to touch on the matter of usefulness for various use-cases. As always, feel free to skip our food-for-thought and go straight to the discussion in the comments.



Heads up notifications


The premise of heads up notifications is to bring you the information within a tidy presentation, allowing you to read it in full before deciding what to do with the message. While we were teased with quick replies and the like, we are left waiting for Google or developers to implement such a system. The notification can, however, be rather spacious, particularly in landscape mode where it can interrupt a movie. The fact that it is so obtrusive can make media consumption a pain when you are getting blasted with random messages, especially on early implementations where you can only dismiss these. These notifications are in tune with Material Design and can be quick and pleasant, but not all the time. However, a virtue that the heads up system has over the ticker is that you are only one click away of the app.




The ticker is an age-old system which many Android fans love for a very good reason: it’s unobtrusive. The ticker presents messages in your status bar, allowing you to almost completely ignore the notification unless you do want to pay attention to it. Moreover, ignoring it is a passive process (no need to swipe anywhere) and you can rest easy knowing that the notification will be there for you to access later. However, problems quickly arise with this system: in certain contexts where one must pay careful attention to the text, this one can switch to the next line too fast for one to fully grasp the important bits of the message (luckily there are ways to tweak the scroll speed). Since it’s a preview, it’s usually not too important, but Heads Up notifications do give you more control over the processing of the preview’s information. Long messages can also be split awkwardly and distort the flow of the message, which can also be detrimental in certain cases.


Por que no los dos?


Why not both? It is clear that both the ticker and the heads up solution have their inherent strengths and weaknesses depending on what the context is. Ultimately it seems to be a conflict between how intrusive and manageable or unobtrusive and uncontrollable you want the notification preview to be. A black/white list for which apps can send ticker or heads up notifications is not enough, however. Rather, one would need a list for the apps in which you can receive one or the other. This way, media consumption apps like Youtube could, for example, only display the ticker.




One one hand, heads up notifications offer you better control over your notification, at the expense of being intrusive. You can, however, quickly take care of the message by directly accessing the app. The ticker is different altogether, and while unobtrusive, it has its downsides as it can lead to a less efficient experience in many contexts where precise intelligibility or quick input are needed. A hybrid system can benefit both options, but you might find said system pointless or overkill if you clearly prefer one over the other. So we ask you the following:


  • Which option is more efficient, and for why use-cases?
  • Do you personally prefer the ticker, or heads up?
  • Do you think a hybrid system is better?
  • Would you want Google to build in a toggle for these?

About author

Mario Tomás Serrafero
Mario Tomás Serrafero

Mario developed his love for technology in Argentina, where a flagship smartphone costs a few months of salary. Forced to maximize whatever device he could get, he came to know and love XDA. Quantifying smartphone metrics and creating benchmarks are his favorite hobbies. Mario holds a Bachelor's in Mathematics and currently spends most of his time classifying cat and dog pictures as a Data Science graduate student.