Focus, but in Reverse

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Rani Molla writing for Recode:

Even people who work on this sort of stuff for a living had trouble with Focus. Vanessa Bowen, a user experience designer who specializes in design systems, says she appreciates Apple’s minimal design but missed a psychiatric appointment when she turned on the personal version of Focus, which lets you customize which contacts and apps you want to hear from on your own time. She didn’t realize that to get those appointment notifications, she’d have to add her calendar to a list of acceptable apps or opt to allow time-sensitive notifications to get through even in Focus mode.

I like focus mode a lot, but it's far from perfect. I've experienced the issue above recently, as I'm currently buying a home, and I absolutely want to be able to take calls from phone numbers that haven't called me before. To do this, I need to turn off focus mode entirely since each mode only allows through things I've explicitly told it to allow.

Focus mode setup in iOS 15: everything is blocked by default, and I must choose what apps and what people get to notify me.

I understand the reasoning that lead to Focus having this paradigm, but I'd love to see an option in iOS 16 where a focus mode lets everything through, but I can choose what to block. This is what the option would look like:

Proposed focus mode setup: in addition to the original setup in iOS 15, I can instead choose to create a focus mode where everything is allowed except for the apps and people that I choose to block.

For example, if I want to limit my social media kick on the weekends, my weekend focus mode could allow everything through, but Twitter, Facebook, Slack, and Discord would be blocked. Currently, this setup would require me to manually allow every single app on my phone besides those, every single person, and remember to update those whenever I add a new app/contact.

I'm not suggesting this would be the only way for focus modes to work, nor am I suggesting your old focus modes should be removed, just that it would be a nice option for people who don't want to use focus the same way.

Update: it turns out that you can at least allow all phone calls in a focus mode today, it's just buried at the bottom of the People page when setting up a focus mode. This softens the blow a bit, and I've turned this on for some of my focus modes for now.