3 ways to change how iPhone notifications appear

Yes, you can customize how alerts gather on your iPhone lock screen.
An iPhone on a notebook next to a Macbook on a wooden table, showing the Count notification display option on the iPhone's screen.

That's the minimalist look. Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash; John Kennedy for Popular Science

When it comes to lock screen notifications, iPhone users generally belong in one of three camps: those who must see every alert at all times, those who would rather die than glimpse a single notification, and those who like to adjust the iOS settings to find a happy medium.

Coincidentally or not, Apple also offers three different ways to display notifications on an iPhone, and you may find you prefer one over your current settings. The feature was introduced with iOS 16, the same update that moved alerts to the bottom of the display due to increased lock screen customization options that prioritize space for widgets.

How to adjust the way notifications look on your lock screen

From left to right, the lock screen notification display options for the iPhone: count, stack, and list.
From left to right: count, stack, and list. John Kennedy for Popular Science

To set your preferred notification format, open your phone’s Settings app and tap Notifications. At the top of this page, you’ll see the Display As heading, with three images that depict where your alerts will appear if you pick Count, Stack, or List.

Count

Choose Count, and your notifications will appear at the very bottom of your screen, between the flashlight and camera shortcuts. The only trace of your alerts will be a single line that reads something like “3 Notifications.” Tap that text or swipe up to expand them. Minimalists: rejoice.

[Related: Hidden iPhone tricks that will change the way you use iOS]

Stack

Stack appears to be the default if you’ve never touched these settings, and it simply piles all your notifications on top of each other near the bottom of your screen. They don’t shrink into a single line of text, but they’re densely packed, and you can tap them or swipe up to see more details.

List

Definitely the most chaotic choice, the List display will display your notifications as individual alert bubbles, most recent at the top. Get enough of them, and they’ll start to overlap a bit, but this option will take up the most space on your screen.

What else to know about the iPhone lock screen notification options

No matter which option you choose, your notifications will always display first as bubbles at the bottom of your screen. Each will contain the name of the app that’s alerting you, plus a preview of what’s in that notification if you’ve allowed iOS to give you a sneak peek. If you’ve turned previews off (tap Show Previews, then Never or When Unlocked), you’ll see something generic, like  “51 text messages” or “notification.”

After your alerts sit untouched for a minute or two, they will take the form you’ve asked them to.

You can also easily move between the three options on your lock screen—the display setting you pick only controls how they build up when you’re not looking at your phone. If you chose a list, for example, you can swipe down on your screen to condense them into a stack, and swipe down again to reduce them to a mere count. This works the other way, too, and if you swipe up one more time after the list grouping, you’ll open the Notification Center, where you can see all pending notifications—which can be a lot. Maybe swipe back down and put those away for now.