Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center provides a balanced alert system

Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center provides a balanced alert system

Summary: Apple commonly copies other mobile operating systems and makes apps and utilities better. In this case, Microsoft did the same thing with notifications and may have just come up with the best approach.

Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center provides a balanced alert system

We have seen Apple regularly take features appearing in Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and other mobile operating systems and then improving the look, feel, and functionality. With Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center, Microsoft waited to add a notifications system like others and pulled an Apple with an improved system that shows first is not always best.

Action Center is available via a swipe down from the top of your device, even from the lock screen. I like that four customizable quick settings are available at the top without taking up too much of the display like the Samsung Galaxy and LG smartphones tend to do. I have WiFi, Bluetooth, Internet Sharing, and Brightness controls setup on my evaluation unit.

While you can view your Action Center from the lock screen, if you have a passcode setup then you need to enter it before you view the specific alert.

If you are in an application that takes up the full screen, such as games or the photo viewer, then a swipe down reveals a small handle bar that you can then pull down with a secondary swipe to reveal the Action Center. This is useful so that you do not accidentally open the Action Center when you are manipulating your finger on the display.


There are small buttons to clear all and access all settings, that are positioned below the quick action slots and above the notifications. It is very handy for me to jump to settings so easily and removes the shortcut to settings I always had on my Start screen.

Below these small buttons you will find your notifications. There are notifications available for email, text messaging, phone calls, Store updates, Facebook, and more. We will see more apps supported as developers update for Windows Phone 8.1. Tapping the notification takes you to the specific file or message related to that notification. I learned that the Store now shows you when specific apps were last updated, which is useful information to me.

One part of the Action Center on Windows Phone 8.1 that bests the iOS implementation is the intelligence of the alerts. If you view new content within an application then it won't show up in your notification area. I've seen iPhones with hundreds of unread email notifications even though those emails were already opened in the email application. How many red number areas have you seen on iPhones?

I waste a lot of time clearing alerts from Android (Why do I need to be asked what keyboard I want to use all the time?), although I do like taking some actions directly from this notification area. I never use the notification area on iOS because it isn't very effective and seems to be more of a waste of time than actually adding much utility.Microsoft looks to have developed a balanced alert approach with Action Center and I look forward to further developments.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Nokia, Social Enterprise, Windows Phone

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  • "Apple commonly copies other mobile operating system"

    You'll end up in court with that attitude ;)

    Apple creates everything in tech and everyone else copies, or so their lawyers say.....
    • Everybody copies Everybody

      Everyone builds off the great work of those who went before. And, we give them our money.
      • Exactly right

        Unless Apple somehow got a patent for something.
        Like a grid of icons, or something.
        To Court!!!!
  • I've never understood why anyone has a problem with this

    I'm more than happy of Warner copies Marvel and turns the Avengers into Justice League of America.

    So I don't know why, despite our tech religions, we should be offended if Microsoft takes a good idea from another OS. If notification centres are a good thing (and I think they are), why artificially withhold the benefits from Windows Phone users?
    • Partly because MS gets all upset if someone else imitates their feature

      So "why artificially withhold the benefits from" any system?

      Answer - stupid patents allow them to do so.
      • What is with your Microsoft obsession?

        Did Ballmer run over your dog or something?

        This isn't even an article about patents.

        It's about how Matthew Miller thinks that Microsoft's implementation of a notification center is better than its competition.

        If you want to complain about patents, then go to a lawyer forum.
        • The problem here stems..

          ..from Microsoft as a company being built of theft. Not a small thing really
      • Right, because I'm sure your motto is, Jesse

        "Others are allowed to copy MS, but MS should be fined if they copy others"

        Better yet, I'm guessing that for you, you feel that others should be allowed to have and enforce patents, and even to freely infringe on MS's patents, while MS shouldn't be allowed to patent or protect anything.

        Question - why do Google and Apple sue other companies?

        Answer - stupid patents allow them to do so.
      • Code vs design

        MS typically protect code and technologies patients where Apple its design elements such as rounded corners.
        Rann Xeroxx
        • Hence why Apple patents are stupid

          If both Microsoft and Apple made a toaster, Microsoft would patent the toaster and Apple would patent the box.
          Brock Jones
    • Exactly BECAUSE these people act like it's a religion.

      They all have their little favorite thing. But if your favorite thing is different, then they hate you for it. You've questioned their coolness by thinking their thing is not as good as some other thing. When in reality, sane people just go with what they like, and could care less about anything else.

      You see this every day in the United States on cable news. You watch CNN, and eventually someone will blather on about the 'War on Christmas', or the 'War on Jesus', or the 'War on Christians'. Then they point their finger at people like me, and say it's my doing. In reality, I could care less. But they feel the need to be victims, so they just make it up.

      In the Apple/Windows/Unix debate, there is a need by some to feel victimized because I don't think there favorite thing is coolest, just like the Christians. It's a mental illness.

      And there is this, the Tech Site Paradox:

      "A commenters actual knowledge about a given subject is inversely proportional to the volume of their comments and how strenuously they propound their (myopic) point of view."

      That's why a lot of these people seem crazy and dim. They are.
    • Wikipedia shows that the Justice League predates the Avengers

      Which is what I remember from being a kid in the 60s. In fact, this is what the Avengers article says:
      The team made its debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics' Justice League of America.

      So, I guess Warner Bros. is following Disney/Marvel into the "team of super heros" film business, but it's hardly a copy.
  • Trying to make sense of this...

    "I'm more than happy of Warner copies Marvel and turns the Avengers into Justice League of America."

    ...and failing. What?
    Dear Holy Stasis
    • It's not like

      The Justice League has been around in comics for years...............
  • I have to agree

    I have loved WP, but could acknowledge that it had weaknesses, including notifications and quick settings (though it was easy to download tiles to do certain settings).

    With the 8.1 preview, I think the only remaining shortcoming is in smaller apps that would be useful (like my bank). I agree that the notifications is far better than IOs; I prefer to android as well, but it's closer. I like the quick access buttons, but honestly would like the option for a second row. I do prefer the combination of the quick access with notifications. Much simpler than IOs.

    The other big improvement (beyond Cortana which I find to be useful, and slightly better than Siri, but not the be all end all) is the revisions to internet explorer. It used to frustrate the heck out of me as navigation forward wasn't possible, and menus were basically broken on all sites. All of that has been fixed with swipe forward and backward and working web page menus. The quick reader function is also faster and more effective than any I have used.

    I admit I switched to WP in part because of my contrarian nature, though I really did like the skydrive integration and office functions. I did not think it was as complete on its own as IOs. Now I do. The app gap is the only remaining issue for me, and that isn't a deal breaker. This is a very impressive update.
    • one more thing

      I didn't see how they were going to put photos on the home screen the execution with transparent tiles is fantastic.
  • Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center

    I like Windows phone 8, but the Windows Phone 8.1 Action Center Is a copy of the BlackBerry 10.2 Quick Settings, only not as good.

    Matthew Miller, if you waste a lot of time clearing alerts from Android, and never use the notification area on iOS because it isn't very effective, the you would love the BlackBerry Hub, Peek, Flow, and Pinch, and the way native apps tie into the hub. Using BlackBerry 10.2 would eliminate those complaints.