Apple’s new iPhone Focus tool is causing missed notifications

You’re trying to focus on work, so you need to see notifications from Slack – but not from your mom and Facebook. But what if the plumber who was fixing your sink tries to call, or if your mom really has an emergency and doesn’t just send you an out-of-focus picture of the new shower curtain? hers?

Apple’s new productivity tool for iPhone, Focus, aims to limit distractions by letting you specify when you want to turn off notifications from certain apps and contacts. The problem is that it’s not particularly intuitive and takes a lot of work to set up right. As a result, since Apple started rolling out the feature to iPhone users in September, many have missed calls to work, home repairs, and doctor appointments. Social media is full of confused people wondering why they not notified about calls and why it seems that people Messages are muted. People are wondering if their daughters are mad at them or if the emergency person calling about a plugged-in sink suddenly found a way to unclog their own drain.

In an effort to help people avoid distractions, Apple has created new ones for some people.

The Focus feature, which Apple says “allows you to stay where you need to be,” is the newest feature effort from Apple and other technology companies help us out of keeping their products available about us. After all, our phones and computers have become our primary means of communication, our means of entertainment, and for some, our source of livelihood.

Feature introduced as part of Apple’s new operating system last fall, although it took months for it to roll out to most iPhone users. And how it is implemented is part of the problem. When you finally have your iOS software updated – or you remember to plug in your phone at night so it can automatically update – all you see is a quick message letting you know that the tool exists. at and offer to let you know how it works. It’s the kind of notification that busy, annoyed people — exactly who might need the feature in the first place — quickly swipe out of the way and plan to come later, someday. When some of them finally remember to use this feature, they may not fully understand its function. Apple did not respond to a question about what percentage of iPhone users are using the feature.

Even people who do this job for a living have difficulty with Focus. Vanessa Bowen, a user experience designer who specializes in design systems, said she appreciates Apple’s minimalist design but missed her psychiatric appointment when she turned on the personal version of Focus, which lets you customize contacts and apps you want to hear from. She didn’t realize that in order to receive those appointment notifications, she would have to add her calendar to the list of accepted apps or choose to allow time-sensitive notifications to show even in mode. Focus degree.

That kind of mistake can have real consequences.

“I’m not going to get my prescription in time, and I’ll probably have to go out and let god know how many days until the next one,” Bowen said. “In these cases, when it’s a really big feature and it’s going to affect your life in terms of missing important calls or reminders from your calendar, I don’t think they really think out that.” She added, “There was really no time in my life to allow me to set it up properly, nor to inform me of what it was going to do.”

That means the average person doesn’t stand a lot of chances, especially since the setup process is lengthy and unintuitive. (Barbara Krasoff at The Verge called options are “difficult” but ultimately “worth it.”)

That’s because turning on Focus turns off all your notifications from people and apps you didn’t specifically add, rather than just the specific people and apps you want to hide notifications from. (When setting up different focus modes, Apple makes some people’s suggestions to add as exceptions based on your recent device usage.) Although the process includes but not exclusion works in some cases, but it doesn’t here, Bowen said. How can you predict that you want to add, say, your killer as a contact that you want to contact you even when your Focus mode is on? Or maybe you don’t realize that setting “do not disturb” also means turning off something as important as calendar notifications. Finally, by default, it lets others know you’ve muted notifications – a message not everyone will assume you’re subscribed to.

The feature set-up seems to contradict Apple’s longstanding reputation for building easy-to-use technology. Like Dieter Bohn at The Verge put itplaying with an old Apple tagline: “Understanding Apple’s settings has gone from ‘It just works’ to ‘It just works.’

User complaints about the product indicate that they misunderstood its function or how to use it, or perhaps mistakenly activated it in the first place. Either way, it’s not them, it’s Apple.

Amber Case, author of Calm Technologya book on designing technology to ease our attention, claiming that Apple is on the right track but hasn’t gotten there yet.

Case told Recode: “I commend them for trying something difficult. “They should go ahead and examine in more detail and keep trying. This will get better over time.”

That said, Case thinks Apple could have made things better in the first place, either by calling it an experimental feature or by teaching people how to better use it. Case also said there needs to be an easier way to report bugs or inactive edge cases.

“Everybody using this feature right now is part of a very large beta test,” Case said.

For its part, Apple said it tested this setting shortly after it was announced in June-September 2021, so developers and the public can download the feature and provide feedback. . The company said it will continue to monitor social media and Apple support to find out what problems iPhone users are having with it and make improvements.

Introducing features that encourage people to take control of their devices instead of letting their devices control them is certainly a step in the right direction. However, using them less is just as easy as using them too much in the first place.

This story was first published in the Recode newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss the next one! Apple’s new iPhone Focus tool is causing missed notifications

Fry Electronics Team

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