Here at Android Police, we're no strangers to digging around in Google's code and finding surprising stuff inside. Apparently some members of the CyanogenMod team did the same, and found a hidden feature in KitKat: Heads Up notifications. These floating notifications are meant to be used in full-screen apps or Immersive Mode, but for whatever reason, they aren't switched on in AOSP code. (Perhaps they're intended for the next major Android release.) You can probably guess what happens next.
At this point, Android's notification system is pretty elegant. But there's no way to avoid confusion (and for some users, frustration) when a ton of notifications come in all at once. Echo Lockscreen attempts to fix that with a lockscreen replacement that puts your current notifications front and center, then organizes them by app or urgency. Currently Echo is in alpha testing, and it's a free download in the Play Store.
When an iOS app comes to Android, all too often it's merely a half-hearted copy, taking no notice of the user interface standards or the expanded capability of the platform. I'm happy to report that this is not the case with Sunrise Calendar, which has managed to gain quite a following across the way for its impressive layout and sunny visual design. It's available now for all Android devices running 4.0 or higher, though there's no tablet interface at the moment.
You usually have to mess around with flashing ROMs to enjoy the features those talented developers build for Android. In the case of Paranoid Android's new Peek feature, you can get it in app form on any KitKat device courtesy of Francisco Franco (of franco.Kernel fame) and original Peek developer Jesús David Gulfo Agudelo. Update: The app was down for a bit today for a bug fix. It has been restored now.
Remember like a year ago when Google was going to add notification syncing to Play Services so you wouldn't have to see the same notifications on your phone and tablet? That still hasn't actually been rolled out, but the new Pushbullet v14.1 does pretty much the same thing. By expanding the notification mirroring service, Pushbullet can sync notifications across all your devices.
Yesterday Pebble-wearing Android users gained the ability to control Pandora from their wrists. This was cool stuff for Pandora listeners, but now the brainy watch is getting an update that will affect all owners, regardless of their listening preferences. A 2.1 firmware upgrade is rolling out to devices via the Android companion app.
On the user-facing side, there's one standout new feature - the watch now has a menu entry for clearing your notification history.
The Paranoid Android family of custom ROMs has a history of adding interesting custom user interface elements, but since re-starting with KitKat, the developers have been trying out some new ideas. One of the first new features for the revamped PA is called Hover, and it's basically a complete rethinking of the Halo idea. Hover is a short-lived visual overlay that temporarily replaces the notification bar with a richer and more useful version, including expandable alerts and floating windows.
The first notable update for the new Android version of Mailbox adds a spiffy, time-saving feature: action buttons in the app's email notifications. Users should now see a "Reply" button on the expanded Mailbox notification, as well as "Archive" and "Snooze" buttons, which are activated via swipes while in the app itself. These should help achieve the app's stated goal of making email organization faster and easier for time-strapped mobile users.
Mirroring Android notifications to a desktop is far from a new feature for Pushbullet, but now the app displays the full images that go with each message. This makes glancing at a pop-up and deciding whether it needs immediate attention even easier.
The Gmail app doesn't provide the option to mark notifications as read, and it drives many users up the wall. MarkAsRead entered the Play Store less than a week ago and, as the name suggests, tackled this issue head on. Now an update is available that adds the ability to mark a message as read and archive it at the same time, just as the developer promised.