Using Focus Modes for Notifications on iOS 15

One of the most powerful new features in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey is Focus mode.

At its core, a Focus mode is a more customizable version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb and can be accessed from the same menu on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. But Focus modes are much more customizable, allowing for more granular triggers for when you’re filtering out notifications.

  • To set a focus, go to “Settings” > “Focus” and press the plus button to add a new focus. You can also see and edit the existing Focus modes you have set.
  • Apple offers several preset Focus modes for starters, including Personal, Work, Fitness, Gaming, Reading, and more. You’re not limited to Apple’s preset suggestions, although some of the presets — such as those for driving, fitness, or gaming — offer additional features and triggers not available to user-created suggestions. For example, Apple’s Fitness Focus mode can be activated automatically when you start a Fitness Plus workout on your Apple Watch, while Gaming mode can be activated when you connect a Bluetooth controller.
  • You can create a custom focus by selecting Custom, which allows you to select a name, icon, and color for that specific focus.

Set allowed contacts to a Focus mode.

Select which apps can send notifications.

  • It then asks you to choose which of your contacts (if any) you want to be able to message you when that Focus mode is activated — similar to how Do Not Disturb works.
  • The next screen asks you to select which apps (if any) you want to send notifications when that Focus is active. For example, if you’re creating a “Work” focus, you might want your email and Slack apps to send you pings.
  • Finally, Apple will ask you if you want to receive special “Time-sensitive notifications” – a new category of extra important notifications that apps can send that may not be able to wait until later.

The switch to allow time-sensitive notifications.

The main menu for focus settings.

Once you’re done setting up your Focus, you’ll be taken to the Focus mode settings menu, where you can configure a few more things. You can also come back here at any time by going to Settings > Focus and then selecting the focus mode you want to edit.

  • In the Focus status menu, you can decide whether contacts are notified when you are in an active focus mode and their messages are muted. (Although right now the only app that supports the feature is Apple’s Messages.)
  • The Home screen menu allows you to hide specific home screens on your iPad or iPhone when you are in a Focus mode. Coupled with iOS 15’s app library and the new ability to create multiple copies of an app icon, you can use this feature to customize how your phone looks in different situations.
  • The Lock screen menu offers the option to show or hide muted notifications on the lock screen or to dim the lock screen when focus mode is active.

Focus modes on iPadOS 15.
Image: Apple

Finally, there is the actual activation of a Focus mode. Apple offers two ways to enable a Focus mode: you can select it manually from the moon icon in Control Center, or schedule it automatically (settings for this can be found in the Focus menu).

The easiest option is “Smart Activation”, where your device automatically switches a Focus on itself. But you can also add more detailed manual controls, activate a Focus for specific times, when you’re in a specific location, or when using specific apps.