Focus in iOS 15 Betas

I’m a big fan of the new Focus feature that Apple announced across their lineup of 2021 software updates. With Focus, I finally feel like my devices can be a tool, not a hindrance, in my quest to carve out periods of deeply focused work in my day.

As much as I am encouraged by Focus, however, I have encountered some unexpected behavior, and possibly bugs, in the beta versions. So, I’m starting this post to document the pain points that I, and others, are hitting, in the hopes that Apple can fix them before the final versions ship.

First, The good

  • Focus is highly configurable, with the ability to create multiple custom Focus modes and fine tine what apps you see and what notifications are delivered when in a Focus.

  • Focus can be set up to only display select Home Screens. For instance, don’t want to see your Mail or work chat app while exercising? Create a Home Screen with just your fitness apps, and then have Focus only display this Home Screen while in your fitness Focus.

  • Focus is the closest analog to Closing Apps on the Mac that I think we’re ever likely to see on iOS.

Improvements 

  • Currently, notifications from apps, people or groups must be manually toggled on, or included, when setting up a Focus mode. However, there are many times when it would be easier to set up a Focus by excluding certain people or groups. 

  • As someone who is constantly stymied by my own lack of will power, I wouldn’t mind some additional guardrails that I can toggle on to hinder me from checking apps I am trying to avoid in a Focus. Even though an app’s notifications are silenced, or it’s on a hidden Home Screen, an app is still only a swipe away in App Library or search. Perhaps Apple could allow users to hide these apps from search and App Library when in Focus and, even better, prevent apps from launching if they aren’t included in a Focus. 

  • The search field is missing from contacts selection. I’m convinced this is an omission, given that the search field exists for selecting apps. 

Bug or Weird Implementation? 

  • My biggest gripe currently is that notifications I’ve set to be silenced in a Focus mode on my iPhone or iPad are still coming through to my watch, even though I’m running the beta of watchOS 8. Having notifications I explicitly don’t want to receive vibrate or ding the device that I’m wearing on my wrist almost entirely defeats the purpose of Focus. I am praying this is an early beta bug that will be corrected soon.

  • Similarly, only two of my six focus modes are syncing to the watch, which could be related to the point above or a separate bug.

  • Currently, toggling the button below on will prevent silent notifications from showing on the Lock Screen. But, shouldn’t it be the opposite? Or perhaps the toggle copy should read “Hide silent notifications on Lock Screen.”

What do you think of Focus so far? Are you hitting bugs or limitations that you’d like to see corrected before the final version of Focus ships this fall? Please let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @danielkuney.