Notification settings are relatively complex on a modern iPhone or iPad. The app can play sounds or vibrate the phone without showing any visible notifications. Here’s how to curb a criminal.

Phantom vibrations (and sounds)

It is worth remembering that phantom vibrations are common. Many people have felt their iPhone vibrate in their pocket, only to take it out and realize it didn’t vibrate at all. Phantom sounds may also appear, especially in noisy places. Does your phone’s notification sound actually play? Perhaps it was just another sound in the noise — or the same alert sound coming from someone else’s phone.

But this is not the only problem. Your iPhone might vibrate or play a sound even if there were no notifications in the notification center or lock screen when you checked it.

The app has invisible notifications playing sounds

Apps can have invisible notifications that vibrate your phone or play your notification sound.

To check this, go to Settings > Notifications. If the app is set to «Sounds» without «Banners», it will play a notification sound without showing any visible notifications. If an app is set to «Sounds» without banners but with «Icons», it will display a red notification badge with a counter of new items in the app. It plays a sound when the icon is enlarged, but does not display a visible notification.

iPhone notification screen showing an app with sound alerts only.

Scroll through the list and look for any such dodgy apps. If you see one or more Sounds values, they are probably the cause of your iPhone’s mysterious sounds and vibrations.

If you find such an application, click on it and then choose what you want to do. For example, you can turn off notifications for this app entirely by enabling «Allow Notifications» or enable visible notification banners in the «Alerts» section.

iPhone Notifications app screen.

Notification appeared and disappeared

It is possible that your phone may ring and wake up only for the notification to disappear after a few seconds.

It’s not too often, but it does happen. The same app that sent the notification to your phone can «send» it and remove it from your phone later. You can see this in action when using messaging apps across multiple platforms. If you’re viewing an unread message on another device, the app often deletes that message’s notification from your iPhone. After all, you’ve already seen it on another platform; you don’t need to see it again.

Some messaging apps may also allow someone to delete messages sent to you. Depending on how the messaging service is programmed, the app may also remove the notification from your iPhone or iPad. In other words, if someone sends you a message and deletes it, your iPhone may beep or buzz, but the notification may disappear before you even look at it.

Again, this isn’t too common — even some apps that allow people to delete messages won’t automatically delete the notification associated with the message. There’s a good chance that the vibration in your pocket was just a phantom vibration and unrelated to the notification, which has since disappeared.

On an Android phone, you can view the notification history to determine if this has happened and view the text of the notification. However, Apple’s iOS operating system does not offer such a feature. There is no way on the iPhone to know which app is sending and clearing notifications, unless you are looking at the screen as the notification appears and then disappears.

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