iOS 15 & Focus Modes

I’ve been using “Do Not Disturb” for years, scheduled permanently from 12:00 Midnight to 11:59PM, daily.

Combined with ability to allow Favourite Callers to bypass my DND settings, the my setup worked well. Though it had it’s limitations. 

I wanted messages to come through, not just calls.

When Apple unveiled the new OS versions at WWDC this year (2021), and seeing the announcement for the “focus” feature, I was impressed.

When iOS 15 finally rolled out, I’d completely forgotten about it. I’d been distracted by the privacy criticisms surrounding iOS 15. 

Recently updating, I was pleasantly surprised to remember this feature. Especially with setting custom home screens. Trying it though seemed kind of complicated and restricting. 

How so? 

It felt daunting to set up. I like having only 1 home screen. I like having the app drawer only a single swipe away. I like the idea of custom home screens. What if I use a certain app under multiple conditions, not just “work” or “personal”?

That set-up seemed to make the custom home screens less optimized. Hence feeling restricted, and thus complicated to get the right set up.

Somewhere, either in the presentation, or my understanding of iOS 15 capabilities, I missed a crucial feature. The key to Focus Modes making sense. 

iOS 15 can have multiple app launchers for the same app on a single home screen.

This is the unlock for me.

It so obviously makes sense, of course you can do that! But, it’s not intuitive. So far I’ve only been able to add another app launcher by entering “jiggle mode” and dragging it to the home screen from the app drawer.

I’ve been using focuses daily for a number of weeks now and I’m really enjoying it. Setting a schedule to automatically turn on “Work” focus at specific locations, really handy. Exploring more about what I can do with Focus, I stumbled across Jacob Woolcock’s quick tips YouTube channel.

There I learned a next level tip:

Focus + Shortcuts.

Shortcuts always seemed like a useful tool, but I never invested the time to learn what I could do with it. Now, from his tips, not only do I now have specific home screens per focus, but have used to the automation capabilities of Shortcuts to automate my iPhone’s wallpaper and Apple Watch’s face to change in accompaniment to each focus.

(If you’re curious, I’ve linked his tutorial below).

iOS QuickTips with Jacob Woolcock

The part I’ve enjoyed the most is the personalization I’ve been able to achieve. I love having a wallpaper reflective of the context I’m in. Perhaps this is what Android users have been talking about for so long? Also, being able to offload apps I use daily, but only for work – awesome.

What I’m not a huge fan of, the barrier for entry is kind of high. 

As I wrote, I wasn’t aware I could get multiples of the same app launcher on the same home screen. Without that context, the feature seemed useless. I only found out by search specifically for it, after hearing someone discussing their friends loving Focus on a podcast.

For better usability, I think there should be a short demo or instruction flow during the set-up for focus (after update or when setting up a new device). Something to show the user they can have multiples of the same app launcher and how to add them.  I think something like those suggestions would make the feature way more accessible for more users – because it really is pretty cool.

I hope you enjoy focus as much as I do.