As part of the update to iOS 15, Apple will allow iPhone users to better customize how they want to be notified about incoming calls, texts or updates from apps based on their current status. With the new Focus feature instead of just silencing calls and notifications through Do Not Disturb, you’ll be able to set different types of notification preferences based on your status — like whether you’re driving, working, sleeping or through the use of custom categories of your own choosing.
The system also uses on-board AI to help determine what your status is at a given time. For example, the phone might suggest you turn off notifications when you’re arriving at the gym.
With the new Focus feature, you can customize how you want to be notified and when. For example, you could choose to only be notified by coworkers or by apps like Mail, Calendar, or Slack. You can even dedicate a page on your homescreen to match your focus and organize your apps and widgets in a way that reduces temptations by making only your work apps visible. When you use Focus, it will sync to all your other Apple devices, too, Apple notes.
Notifications have a new look too, with contact photos for people and larger icons for apps, making them easier to identify.
In 2019, Tim Cook admitted that he himself had silenced many notifications, famously saying that “Apple never wanted to maximize user time. We’ve never been about that.” But we disputed that was the case, saying Apple could have designed a system that delivered notifications on a schedule, not in real-time.
Apparently, Apple has now has: it’s called Notification Summary, which bundles and prioritizes incoming notifications, based on things like time of day. You can schedule this summary to be delivered at any time you choose, like in the morning or evening, for example.
Apple says it uses device intelligence based on how you use your apps to arrange this summary, making it easier to quickly catch up. The most important notifications appear above the less important notifications in the summary.
In another change, Do Not Disturb has been integrated directly into iMessage, so other users will know when you don’t want to be bothered by incoming notes.
Now, when you’re using Do Not Disturb, your status is automatically displayed in iMessage. When you reach out to someone who’s indicated they don’t want to be disturbed, you’ll be reminded in that moment. And for truly urgent messages, there’s still a way to get through, Apple noted.
The system can also be set up to send you a briefing as a big chunk during a time of day, making the lock screen notification a more interactive experience than in previous iOS versions.
These features, which involve better personalizing the phone to the user, somewhat recall the smart launchers that had been popular on Android devices many years ago, like Aviate or EverythingMe, among others, which customized your device based on what you were doing, the time of day, and other factors. These apps never took off on iOS because Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to deeply integrate with its mobile operating system or reconfigure the device’s homescreen and the trend later fizzled out.
But Apple more recently has been customizing its iPhone to better reflect user preferences, including with the introduction of widgets and Siri Suggestions, which can even be a widget of suggested apps on the homescreen.