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I knew I had to try Active Notifications when Motorola announced them as a feature for the new Moto X, along with touchless controls. In case you missed the announcement, Motorola came up with an ingenious way to help us when we interact with our phones. The Moto X uses a special low-power chip to only light up the parts of its AMOLED screen to display the time and the last notification. Tap that notification and it will give you a preview of the information.

Active notifications let you check who just texted you and if you need to text them back. It’s an easy, low-battery way to see what just made your phone buzz.

Unfortunately, real Active Notifications require the Moto X’s special set of chips. However, if you’re willing to settle for the next best thing, you can get a highly similar experience with DynamicNotifications, a third-party app from Great Bytes Software. It puts your notifications right there on the lock screen, just like on a Moto X.

I spent the past few weeks with DynamicNotifications to see if was as good as people said it was. The results were interesting. While it’s not enough to buy a Moto X over, the Active Notification-esque approach to displaying data is undeniably cool.

My Favorite New Lock Screen

First of all, I’d definitely recommend picking up the paid version of DynamicNotifications as it comes with way more useful features.

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The paid version lets you use it as your permanent lock screen, even when there are no notifications. I like doing this, as it’s less confusing than switching lock screens when you’ve got a text.

Implementation problems with DynamicNotifications aside, the whole Active Notifications concept works well. It does everything it advertises, letting you check notifications without unlocking everything.

I also liked having a quick shortcut to open up whatever app just made my phone vibrate. You say it’s time for my Any.DO moment? Sure, let me just swipe that and open up the app.

I also liked its minimalistic approach to displaying data. There’s the date, time, unlock ring and your last notification. It’s simple, clean, and appealing.

The worst thing I can say about Active Notifications, in general, is that they’re not especially efficient. You could display more data with DashClock, although that requires a custom ROM or an extra swipe to see.

Other than that, it’s definitely a cool way to handle your data. I’ve had this for weeks and plan to keep it in the future.

DynamicNotifications Specifically

The app I used, DynamicNotifications, does its best to mimic Active Notifications on the Moto X, and does an excellent job.

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The app uses the notification listener service introduced in 4.3 to hook into your notification data and display it on the lock screen. It’s ingenious and works well.

I also liked all the customization options. The developer has steadily added more features during development, something that’s always appreciated.

The biggest problem with DynamicNotifications is one the developer can’t code for. The Moto X gets an unfair advantage with its specialty chips to power only the parts of the phone necessary to run Active Notifications

DynamicNotifications, conversely, has to light up the entire phone screen and wake the entire system from sleep in order to display its data. If you combine this with the app’s option to turn on when it’s out of your pocket, expect lowered battery life.

Overall, though, it’s an excellent app. Would recommend.

Final Thoughts

Active Notifications are cool. Not cool enough for me to drop my S4 for a Moto X, but definitely enough to merit trying. I’d recommend giving DynamicNotifications a shot. It’ll change how you interact with your phone.