Google is officially bringing an end to its SMS-based notifications in the Calendar applications on January 7, citing redundancy in the feature, according to new information revealed in a G Suite Updates blog post. The feature will be replaced by others that have already been in place including web event notifications and in-app notifications, in addition to more traditional email alerts. For those who have set up text message alerts, the system will automatically revert to those methods, allowing users ample time to adjust their own personal settings. More specifically, those will now be delivered via email and, if a user has the Google Calendar app or the web app for Calendar opened on a non-mobile device, event notifications will show up on those platforms as well.
Background: Both in-app notifications – or 'push notifications' – and web app notifications have been around for quite some time. In fact, the younger of the two alert categories has been around since at least 2016. Users had, at least until January of next year, been given a relatively diverse array of options for receiving notifications since those were introduced and as those types of notifications spread across Google's services. With that said, the existence of multiple notification levels can be and often is very 'spammy'. For example, a user could feasibly receive a notification from Calendar on mobile cropping up from Gmail, SMS, and Calendar itself all at the same time. On the surface, swiping those away isn't necessarily problematic. However, once a Calendar begins to fill out, especially with business users or those who store all important events and other reminders in Google Calendar, it quickly becomes very annoying.
That only gets worse when users need and set themselves up for multiple reminders for any given single event. A user might set four separate alerts for a meeting, for instance, to remind themselves to prepare for and then leave for that. That could set their phone off a total of 12 times and the impact of that on a user could be even worse if the notifications don't all arrive at exactly the same time but come in seconds or a minute apart. Google has been working tirelessly over the last several months to shut down or merge services in a bid to streamline its offerings as well as to clean up the number of notifications users receive. In large part, that's consisted of removing unnecessary alerts and those that don't work as well as they used to. That's something that's extended across nearly all of its services and, in a more recent example, even includes the removal of some broken Android notifications that appeared on secondary platforms such as Google's Chrome OS.
Impact: Overall, Google's incoming January change to notifications should be useful in that it will reduce the number of times a smartphone or computer interrupt the user's day. Going beyond the removal of somewhat frustrating 'features', however, it will also likely help Google move toward its Digital Wellbeing goals. Although alerts from an app like Calendar aren't at all likely to be the most common a user sees, it is still a point of distraction that essentially forces them to look at their smartphone. With multiple incoming notifications for a single application – sometimes spread over several minutes – users are not only already looking at their device more often. Those also provide additional opportunity for the user to be put in a position to more readily delve off into other smartphone-related activities they may not otherwise engage in right at that moment. Reducing that redundancy should help curb some of that and, however small a reduction that might be, the time saved will likely add up over time.