You can tell just by looking at an application's icon on your home screen if and how many new messages or notifications it contains. Users of older versions of Android always had to rely on pulling down the entire notifications list to see their updates.
The number of new, unread messages can be displayed in a small circle, or "badge", at the top right-hand corner of the icon.
To activate this feature, press down on the app icon until a menu appears and navigate to "App info", followed by "App notifications" and then the "Allow notification dot" option. You can also deactivate the feature in that same menu. – dpa
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