Screenshot: Jake Peterson
Apple’s Focus feature, introduced with iOS 15, helps to make your iPhone a less distracting experience. Customizable “Do Not Disturb” profiles ensure notifications are blocked when you can’t respond to them: iOS even tells your contacts you have notifications silenced, so they know not to bother you. However, these statuses give people the option to notify you anyway, which takes away some of your ability to filter interruptions. While it’s not exactly obvious, you can turn off these statuses for specific contacts while still reaping the benefits of Focus.
Apple makes it seem like you need to let everyone see your Focus status
If you dive into the Settings app and check out the Focus section, you won’t find any options to block Focus statuses for specific contacts. In each Focus you have, there’s a “Share Focus Status” on/off toggle under Focus Status, however this setting is all or nothing: If you disable it, none of your contacts will see your statuses for this Focus, which is pretty counterintuitive. Still, leaving the setting on means that everyone who messages you while you’re in the Focus will see the status.
On the surface, it makes you think you have to decide between one scenario or the other: Allow all of your contacts to see your statuses, and, by default, allow all of your contacts to bother you with the “notify anyway” option, or allow none of your contacts to see these statuses, letting them wonder why you’re not responding to their messages for hours on end.
How to disable Focus statuses for specific iPhone contacts
The trick, here, is knowing exactly who you want to block from seeing your Focus statuses. When you decide you don’t want to share such statuses with a certain contact, pull up your message thread with them, then tap on their name. From here, turn off the toggle next to “Share Focus Status,” and that contact will no longer see your Focus status in your chat.
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Now, the benefit here is their messages to you still abide by the rules of your Focus: If you have it so no alerts come through from your contacts, you won’t receive notifications from this contact. And, since they don’t see your status, they also don’t have the option to notify you anyway: That guarantees you won’t receive unwanted texts during your Focus sessions. If you ever want to start sharing your Focus statuses with this contact, repeat the process and reenable “Share Focus Status.”
It’d be nice if Apple let us customize these statuses a bit more in the future. Right now, it’s a simple message no matter which Focus you’re in: If you have alerts muted (and your name is Jake), your contacts will see “Jake has notifications silenced.” I’d like to see Apple bring Slack-like statuses to iMessage: You could be more specific with contacts as to what you’re up to, so they know why you aren’t able to respond. Or, you could change the message depending on the contact: Maybe you share your exact plans with certain people, but with others, you keep things generic.
For now, we’ll have to make do with this current system. At least we can change the setting contact-by-contact: It took me too long to learn that it wasn’t the all-or-nothing option that the Settings app makes it out to be.