Use focus modes for notifications in iOS 15


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

At its core, Focus mode is a more customizable version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb mode and is used from the same menu as iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. But Focus modes are much more customizable, allowing for more accurate triggers when filtering notifications.

  • To set the focus, go to “Settings”> “Focus” and click the plus button to add a new focus. You can also view and edit existing Focus modes that you have defined.
  • Apple will initially offer several preset focus modes, including personal, work, fitness, games, reading, and more. You’re not limited to Apple’s pre-set suggestions, although some presets – like driving, fitness, or gaming – provide additional features and triggers that aren’t user-created. For example, Apple Fitness Focus mode can start automatically when you start a Fitness Plus workout with Apple Watch, while game mode can turn on whenever you connect a Bluetooth controller.
  • To create a custom focus, select Custom to select a name, icon, and color for that focus.

Setting allowed contacts in focus mode.

Select which applications can send notifications.

  • Next, you will be asked to choose which of your contacts (if any) you want to notify you when that focus mode is activated – similar to the Do Not Disturb feature.
  • The following screen will ask you to select the applications (if any) you want to allow notifications to be sent when that focus is active. For example, if you focus on “Work,” you may just want your email and Slack apps to be able to ping you.
  • Finally, Apple asks if you want to receive special “Time-Sensitive Notifications” – a new category of particularly important notifications that applications can send and that you may not be able to wait until later.

Switch to allow time-sensitive notifications.

Focus main menu.

Once you’ve set the focus, you’ll be able to access the focus mode settings menu, which has a few other things you can set. You can also return 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 your contacts see the notification if you are in active focus mode and their message is muted. (Although currently the only app that supports the feature is Apple Messaging.)
  • From the Home screen menu, you can hide certain Home screens on iPad or iPhone when you’re in focus mode. Combined with the iOS 15 App Library and the new ability to create multiple copies of an app icon, you can use this feature to customize the look of your phone for different situations.
  • In the Lock screen menu, you can show or hide muted notifications on the lock screen, or dim the lock screen when focus mode is active.

Focus modes on iPadOS 15.
Photo: Apple

Finally, there is the actual activation of focus mode. Apple offers two ways to turn on focus mode: you can either select it manually from the control panel’s moon icon or schedule it automatically (settings can be found in the Focus menu).

The simplest option is “Smart Activation,” which allows the device to switch the Focus function automatically. But you can also add more advanced manual controls, activate focus at specific times when you’re in a specific location, or when you’re using certain apps.

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