iOS 16 Focus Guide: What’s new in Apple’s Focus mode

Apple introduced Focus Mode in iOS 15, an extension of Do Not Disturb that lets you set different permissions for apps, contacts, and more based on what you’re doing. You can have separate tasks for when you’re at work, when you’re studying, when you’re at home, and more.

iOS 16 Focus feature
In iOS 16, Apple has improved Focus with new features, and this guide covers everything you need to know about using Focuses in ‘iOS 16’.

Improved focus adjustment

Setting up a Focus is easier than before, with a new personalized setup experience for each Focus you create.


Apple used to throw you straight into a confusing array of options for doing things like allowing notifications for people and apps, but now there’s an explanation to let you know how all Focus features work and a streamlined process to select your options.

The Mute Notifications section lets you choose the apps and people you can contact when a Focus is on, and Apple added options to allow or mute notifications from selected people, which wasn’t an option before. With “iOS 15” you could choose only allowed apps and allowed people instead of silencing specific people and apps.

Focus ios 16 people select apps

Note: Still lists are only available on iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura devices. Devices running ‌iOS 15‌ and earlier cannot access still lists.

Apple guides you through choosing who to allow calls from. Also, you can step through the custom screen interface, set focus schedules, and add filters to block specific email inboxes in Mail, Safari tab groups, and more, which we’ll outline in the sections below.

customize screens

With iOS 16, you can customize everything about your Focus, including the look of the home screen, lock screen, and Apple Watch face. You can choose from any of the lock screens you create and associate it with a focus mode. You can also create a new lock screen from gallery.

Focus on home lock screen customization

For “Home Screen” customization, you can choose any of your existing app pages to serve as the main “Home Screen” for Focus Mode. So if you want to create a “home screen” with specific apps for a Focus, you’ll first need to set up an app page by rearranging your apps.

If you are an Apple Watch owner, the Apple Watch lets you select one of your Apple Watch faces to activate for a specific focus mode on your wrist.

If you’ve set up a custom lock screen, “home screen” or Apple Watch face for your Focus and change your mind, simply tap the “-” icon to delete it.

Linked lock screens and focus modes

You can create custom lock screens in ‘iOS 16’ and each lock screen can be assigned a different focus. That means you can set a lock screen to coincide with a focus, giving your phone a different look throughout the day.

ios 16 lock screen focus

For example, if your focus is work, you can set up a lock screen with the style and widgets useful for your work, and then when you’re home you can have a completely different setup.

To associate a focus with a lock screen, open the lock screen interface by long pressing the lock screen on an unlocked iPhone, scrolling to the lock screen of your choice, and then tapping “Focus” to choose which focus mode is associated with the lock should be screen with.

After that, the lock screen will have a small icon at the bottom letting you know what focus it is associated with. To activate focus you can then just switch to this lock screen, making it very easy to change focus modes.

Note that you can also complete this setup process in the Focus section of the Settings app. Just open it, select the focus you want to use for a lock screen, and choose the Customize Screens option discussed above.

Lock screen and Home screen suggestions

When you create a focus, Apple says iOS can suggest lock screens for the focus option, e.g. B. a photo lock screen when you’re at home and a more data-centric set of options when you’re at work. Apple also offers suggestions for “Home Screen” pages with the apps and widgets most relevant to the focus you’ve chosen.

focus filter

Focus filters are a completely new feature in “iOS 16”. This option allows you to filter out content in apps and show a specific email account or calendar if you have several. If you’re using a Focus with a filter set, the app with the filter only shows what you’ve selected and hides everything else.

ios 16 focus filter 1

Here’s what you can filter out with focus filters:

  • calendar – If you have different calendars set up for work and family, you can only associate one calendar with a focus, so you only see relevant events when that focus is activated.
  • post – You can select any of your mail accounts to associate with a focus, and when enabled, the Mail app will only show the accounts you select when you are in that focus. It’s useful if you want to filter out private emails while you’re working and vice versa.
  • Messages – The Messages app can be set to hide all messages except those from the people list that you have created for each focus mode. So if you have a “personal” focus that filters out all contacts from work, you won’t see your messages in the Messages app when personal focus is on.
  • safari – Safari can be set to show only a specific group of tabs when a focus is enabled. You must set up the tab group in the Safari app in advance.
  • Dark mode – You can choose dark mode or light mode for a focus.
  • Low power mode – You can activate or deactivate the energy saving mode with a Focus.

Focus Filter API

Apple has created a Focus Filter API for developers to allow third-party apps to allow the same specific filtering options within a Focus as Apple’s own app. For example, if you’re using a third-party email app, you can select a mailbox to display in that app, provided the developer adds the focus filter API.

focus status

Apple has made it easier to control whether apps can let people know you’ve got Focus on and mute notifications. The Focus Status section lets you choose which Focus modes are allowed to tell you that you’ve silenced your notifications.

ios 16 focus status

You can prevent a focus mode from sharing this information so people aren’t notified that your notifications are turned off when they try to message you. This was possible in ‘iOS 15’, but in ‘iOS 16’ it’s easier to access and manage.

Silence and Allow lists

As mentioned above, Silence and Allow lists are available in the Focus app in ‘iOS 16’, which may be one of the most notable quality of life improvements. Instead of just choosing people or apps you can notify, you can choose people or apps who can Not authorized to notify you with a specific focus.

ios 16 still lists

Prior to “iOS 16,” if you wanted to block a specific person or app, there wasn’t an easy way to do that, as you could only allow contacts and apps. For example, if you only want to block the Messages app in “iOS 15” and leave everything else accessible, you must “allow” every other app. That’s not the case in “iOS 16” because you can choose apps (or people) to mute.

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