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Guide: How you can use Focus across devices on iOS 15 and macOS 12 Monterey
Apple announced the upcoming versions of their operating systems during WWDC21, back in June. One of the greatest features across iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey, and even watchOS 8, is Focus. What’s Focus? Briefly, it’s Do Not Disturb 2.0. This latest feature — already available on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, coming to the Mac later this fall — makes concentrating on a certain task effortless. So whether you’re working on your iPad, MacBook Pro, or iPhone, no notifications will distract you — unless you choose otherwise.
What is Focus: A brief history
Focus is a feature that Apple introduced in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey, and watchOS 8. As we have mentioned, it’s basically DND (Do Not Disturb) 2.0. DND had been an iOS feature for a few years, allowing users to silence calls and notifications on their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches — individually, out of sync.
A breakdown of Do Not Disturb
DND was a pretty limited feature. While it allowed you to whitelist some contacts to let their calls come through, you couldn’t whitelist apps (messaging or otherwise). You could only allow phone calls from all, favorites, or no contacts at all. It also had the option to bypass DND if someone who isn’t whitelisted repeatedly called you within three minutes.
One of the perks of DND was the ability to let notifications and calls through if your device was unlocked. If you were using your iPhone for example, you were awake (or so we hope) and not focused on a different task. So it made sense having the option to only silence calls and notifications when a device was locked. Unfortunately, this feature has been removed from Focus, for now at least.
DND offered basic automation — scheduling and while driving. Time-based and driving automations were the only supported ones for DND. At the time, it made sense. People tended to use it when they were asleep mostly, so they’d set it to automatically turn on during their sleep hours. And it would also turn off on its own when it was past their sleeping hours. While you could have had DND turn off on its own after you left a certain location, a current event in your calendar ending, the next morning/evening, or an hour later, there was no way to get it to automatically turn on apart from the time-based schedule you chose or when driving.
DND while driving would detect when you were driving your car and turn on to avoid distractions. It supported auto-replies in the Messages app to let people know you were driving. However, the way we used and needed DND evolved. That’s why Apple came up with a solution that offered more options and customizations — Focus.
How Focus is similar to and different than DND
- are accessible from the Control Center, even though Focus has a bigger toggle now and Screen Mirroring has the smaller one.
- allow you to whitelist people for incoming calls.
- have time-based scheduling.
- have driving automation.
- can turn off automatically after you leave a certain location, a current event in your calendar ends, the next morning/evening, or an hour later.
- offer an option to dim your Lock Screen.
- can sync your on/off status across your iPhone and Apple Watch (but not other Apple devices such as iPad or Mac).
- support auto-replies in Messages when driving.
- could let you temporarily unmute notifications when your device is unlocked.
Only Focus lets you:
- create different Focus modes — elaboration in another section below.
- sync your on/off status across all updated iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches — as long as they all share the same Apple ID and have an internet connection.
- choose a color, icon, and name for your Focus mode.
- create advanced automations:
- Smart Activation — automatically enables Focus depending on time of the day, location, app usage patterns, and more.
- app-based — when entering a specific app.
- workout-based — when starting a workout on your Apple Watch.
- controller-based — when connecting a gaming controller to your device.
- whitelist apps or people — not just for phone calls.
- allow Time-Sensitive notifications to go through, if you choose so.
- hide notification badges on Home Screen apps.
- create custom Home Screen pages that change depending on your Focus mode and status.
- choose whether notifications are shown or hidden on the Lock Screen.
- share your on/off Focus status with support apps, such as Messages.
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