A Guide To Interactive Notifications in iOs

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

What Are They?

In iOs eight, Apple introduced a feature called Interactive Notifications. This feature allows users to interact with notifications without leaving the app they are currently using. For example, you could respond to a text message without leaving Mail, Safari, or whatever app you're using at the moment you receive the text, or trash an email without ever opening the Mail app.

How Do I Use Them?

The officially documented way of doing this is through a series of gestures: pulling down the notification, swiping to the right or left, and so on. Of course, VoiceOver users are not able to easily do this; therefore, Apple has extended the functionality of the VoiceOver rotor.


A banner is text that briefly appears at the top of the screen and is spoken by VoiceOver. To respond to a banner, such as a text or iMessage, touch it, then perform a three-finger swipe down. If your device supports it, you can also 3D Touch on the banner. If the app that sent the notification supports this feature, a screen will appear that lets you do something, such as send a reply to a text. If the sending app does not support it, I have found that the banner simply remains on the screen; touch it and do a two-finger scrub to dismiss it.

Lock Screen

To deal with interactive notifications on the lock screen, touch the notification and flick up or down with one finger to view the available actions. For example, if you flick down once on a Mail notification, you'll hear, "View." Double tapping this action will reveal the options to trash the message, mark it as read, or dismiss the notification. Notifications can also be dismissed by selecting the, "Clear," action from the rotor. If you can't find the notification you're looking for, touch the status bar and swipe down with three fingers to reveal all notifications.

Notes and Conclusion

Here are a few notes on this feature.

  • If you are reading documentation meant for sighted people, remember this rule of thumb: if you are told to "pull down," touch the item and do a three-finger swipe down; if you are told to swipe left or right, use the "Actions" item of the VoiceOver rotor, find the action with one-finger swipes up or down, and double tap to initiate the chosen action.
  • Not all apps support this feature. However, keep checking back as your apps get updated, to see if they have added said support. Again, if an app does not offer interactive notifications, banners will simply stay on the screen when you try to pull them down, and notifications will offer no actions, or possibly only "clear."

That's all there is to it. If you have questions or think I missed anything, leave a comment!



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Submitted by Victoria F on Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thanks so much for taking the time and making the effort to post this. It's really helpful. May I ask you what a scrub is?

Submitted by Sarah on Sunday, September 21, 2014

A scrub is moving two fingers back and forth on the screen kinda like a z motion. I don't know how else to explain it. It's meant to go back. I have a hard time doing it though and usually find the back buttons and tap them. HTH, Sarah

Submitted by ming on Sunday, September 21, 2014

hey I found that it's only in Imessages/ messages.
and e-mail. but, it doesn't work in the other apps like face book, whatsapp, skype.... esectra.
for example: when I get a notification on face book or friend request. I touch the benner to get the notification and use 3 finger to swipe down. it can not interact with it.
the whatsapp also can not work as well.

Submitted by Edward Alonzo on Sunday, September 21, 2014

I've found on ios 8, sometimes when you pull down a reply and type in your text, its not easy to locate the send button simetimes I can flick right and its there others time I son't see it at all. it doesn't seem to be near the "p" key like it usually is so not sure whats going on there.

Submitted by Victoria F on Monday, September 22, 2014

I usually find the send button by flicking. I've just given up on interacting withnotifications while in other apps for now because as wonderful a feature as It is, it works extremely slowly on my iPhone 4S. I can't wait to get my 5S, and then I'll use this feature to my heart's content! :)

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Monday, September 22, 2014

I have had success in finding the Send button for messages just below the battery indicator on the status bar. That is maybe about an inch from the top of the screen on the right side. Hope this helps.

Submitted by Megan on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Has anyone else noticed that direct touch typing doesn't seem to be supported within interactive notifications? Makes them a lot less useful for me. Hopefully Apple will fix this bug later. Or it's just me and I need to fix something. Either works as long as I can keep using my direct touch. :)

Submitted by Santiago on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Maybe this also has to do with the direct touch VoiceOver bug Fleksy is experiencing? I also noticed that the keyboard tends to be a bit sluggish with interactive notifications. I've noticed this on both my iPad Mini and my iPhone 5S.

Hey Santiago, I noticed as well that my phone's keyboard is sluggish when responding to a text through the interactive notifications. I thought it was just my obsolete 4S, but I guess it's your newer phone too. Interesting.

Submitted by Luke on Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In reply to by Sarah

I always see "scrub" defined as a Z-like motion right-left-right. however it works just as well, and I find it easier, to do it with a down-up-down motion (with two fingers).

Submitted by Ekaj on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This is very helpful. I've encountered these interactive notifications from time to time, and had success with them. This is my first iPhone, and I'm still learning. But these things are really sweet.