Greg Morris

Focus Modes Still Suck

It’s been a little over a year since I wrote about setting up iOS focus modes. At the time, it was a new feature in iOS15 and one that felt far from ready for release. The confusing UX and complicated options lead to my conclusion that hardly any people would use the feature. Now 13 months on, my feelings have changed very little. Improvements have been made, but the hoops you have to jump through, and the missing features, mean that Focus Modes on all Apple devices still suck.

Overall, the experience of trying to set up your Focus Modes feels like it was designed by an engineer. That the team designing this already expects you to understand how to use it, with little to no onboarding or instructions. This isn’t unique to Focus Modes, Apple still struggles to communicate the intricacies of its software and even the help guides online expect you to already have a large knowledge of the feature you need help with.

I did get a little too excited when iOS16 introduced a way for apps to tap into the new focus modes. Namely, Apple Mail can now make certain accounts show at certain times, but with there still being no “everything else” Focus Mode, you can’t make your work email only show in a work Focus Mode. It will still be displayed when there is no Focus mode active.

This wouldn’t be an issue, I could just create a focus mode that is active when not at work and hack around this. Except that an icon appears at the op of my screen constantly, and the sync between devices is still all or nothing. Apple really needs to spend some time thinking about how these modes work and how normal people might use them. I love the fact I can have my phone be different things at different times, but the designers haven’t thought about what happens the rest of the time.

Having Focus Modes is better than nothing. The improvements are moving in the right direction, but setting them up and understanding everything falls well short of the mark I expect.

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