Explain to me how to use iPhone Focus and Rings like I was...well, 25.
January 13, 2024 10:41 PM   Subscribe

I need my phone not to ring for anyone at all in certain times and in certain locations. At other times, I want members of group A to ring, group B to buzz, and everyone else to have no notifications at all. At other locations, I want group A to buzz, and group B to ring, and everyelse to have no notifications. The rest of the time, I want it silent, with group A and B ringing, and everyone else buzzing. How do I accomplish this in a programmable way, preferably using Focuses?
posted by corb to Technology (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately I believe what you're looking for is not possible. You cannot shift ring/notification behavior around, it's all a binary Off or On thing. There's no way that I know of to change a ring tone during a Focus - I just spent a few minutes in Focus looking for anything that smells like this and I haven't found anything.

For any given focus, you can pick a "default" ("everybody gets to notify me" or "nobody gets to notify me") and exceptions ("...only my spouse can notify me" or "Everything comes through except my boss and work apps.")

This is also the pattern I see on the (limited) per-app customization options. Apps can filter their notifications - "hide or show specific calendars" - but you cannot change the details of behavior beyond that.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:13 AM on January 14

I don't apple, but if focuses can't do it, investigating what the IFTTT app can do might get you there. I have in the past and on Android had it change my sound settings based on location.
posted by solotoro at 7:24 AM on January 14

This is the sort of thing that absolutely SHOULD be possible but because it would be complicated to explain how to make it work, and nothing comes with an instruction manual anymore, they just don’t bother to even implement it.
posted by rikschell at 7:25 AM on January 14

You can’t set Focus with the level of granularity, no.
posted by O Sock, My Sock at 8:02 AM on January 14

There's a few elements to your question.

First, anything with "person x buzzing and person y ringing," or any combination like that, is not possible. They're either allowed to send you notifications or they're not. Audible or silent are the options, not type of noise.

Next, if you're fine with the above, then

I need my phone not to ring for anyone at all in certain times and in certain locations.

Possible. You can do by time, location, or by location at a specific time.

I don't want to type out the instructions if you're not fine with the above. If you are, I'll pop back in and type them up. Apple's official instructions are in this Youtube video.
posted by dobbs at 3:30 PM on January 14

Agree with O Sock. Focus lets you determine what people and apps have the privilege of intruding on you at all, but it's basically permit/deny, not ring/vibrate/ignore (there are special exceptions for someone who tries to ring you repeatedly, which can be treated as an emergency call that gets put through.
posted by adamrice at 3:35 PM on January 14

Response by poster: Okay, so maybe let me describe the problem and there's a better way?

Previously, I've been keeping the phone on silent, and when in silent mode, everyone's ring is a buzz. I like that for most people, as it lets me answer only when I have my phone with me and am paying attention to it, but not for my partner and kids, who I want to answer at all times - so I had them on an override, where it rang through with a sound-ring for each of them at all times. If I was somewhere I couldn't have a phone ringing, like a movie, I just turned the phone off.

But now I have to be
(1) in court regularly, where I can't have any rings at all, but am going to be there so frequently that I know I'm going to forget to turn it off each time sometime, which is why I was excited about the locations option in focus,
(2) at the public defender's office regularly, where there is so much work that I barely look at my phone. I want to know if my family is calling, because it might be important and I might need to text them and see if they're okay, but I want to be absolutely sure I pick up the phone when my *attorney* is calling, because it is frequently likely to be a time sensitive emergency.

What would be the best way to solve this? My partner and kids are in a different time zone, so it's not as easy as them just remembering my schedule and avoiding calling me during certain times.
posted by corb at 6:00 PM on January 14

I accomplish most of that with Emergency Bypass.
posted by Roach at 7:36 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

You can do this automagically or you can set your phone to remind you to do it manually. Either way, you want to

1. Create a Focus for court. It will silence everyone. Disengage the focus when you leave Court.

2. Create a Focus for the public defender's office that allows your family and attorney to get in touch and no one else. Disengage the focus when you leave the defender's office.

To do these things:

1. Open Settings > Focus
2. Hit the plus sign in the top right corner to create a new Focus
3. Choose Custom
4. Call it Court and choose a color and icon.
5. Click Next
6. Click Customize Focus
7. Scroll down and choose Smart Activation
8. Turn it on and click Back
9. Choose Add Schedule
10. There is no 10
11. Punch in the address of the court
12. Click Done
13. Scroll back and choose People
14. Choose Allow Notifications From and uncheck all the people listed in the box below (if there are any).
15. click next
16 choose Allowed People Only
17. click done
18. Click Apps
19. choose Allow Notifications from and uncheck all the apps (if any are checked)
20. click Done
21. Choose Options and then Always from Silence Notifications
22. click back
23. Assuming you don't care about what your home screen looks like, you're done, click Focus at top left.

Repeat the above for Public Defenders office but don't uncheck the people you want to hear from (or add them if they're not there). You'll want your family and attorney listed.

Note that for Location based things, the location is a perimeter around the address provided. It's X feet (I forget) and so that when you leave, in order for them to turn back on, you need to leave that perimeter.


Why would you want to choose this instead of having it happen automagically? Because of that perimeter thing. If you ever are within that perimeter for any reason that doesn't put you in court or the defender's office you will not want them to engage but they will do so and you might not realize it. Or, there may be times they'll be an exception, for instance you're at the PD's but require an incoming call to come through that's not in your approved list. You'll want to add it when you're reminded to manually turn on the focus.


Do exactly above to create the Focuses, but after you do #6, skip to #13 (basically leave out all the scheduling / location stuff). Then, after you do #16, choose Apps and then Allow Notifications From and add the Reminders App and then continue with #17 to the end.

You'll then have two focuses, one named Court which silences your phone, and one named Public Defenders which silences it for everyone but family and PD. They will have to be engaged manually and you're now going to tell your phone to remind you to do that when you enter either perimeter:

1. Open your Reminders App
2. Click + New Reminder
3. In the Title field type !! CHANGE FOCUS ON PHONE !!
4. Click Details
5. Choose location
6. Click the little i with a circle around it
7. Add the location of courthouse
8. Choose Arriving
9. Click Details
10. Click Add

Do exactly the same thing again from 1 to 10 but choose Leaving for number 8.

Then do 1 to 10 twice again for the PD's office (arriving and leaving).

Now whenever you arrive or leave either address your phone will send you a notification that says !! CHANGE FOCUS ON PHONE !!

When you get that notification, swipe it away and then manually change the Focus. It is important you swipe it and not mark it as completed. If you mark it as completed it'll never appear again. If you swipe it away it'll appear every time you arrive / leave the locations.


Obviously, I have not tested the above in your scenario so test it before assuming it works. I use similar tricks for getting the reminders app to tell me to buy things when I enter the grocery store log my morning walk (and only my morning walk) as a workout while ignoring all other walks.

Also, for the Reminders part to work, I'm assuming: a) reminders is set up with default settings and b) you don't use reminders for much anything else and aren't worried about getting notifications from it while in court.
posted by dobbs at 7:36 PM on January 14

This is a sideways answer, so feel free to ignore, but this is the kind of thing an Apple Watch is perfect for. You can get a tap on your wrist and see who’s calling.
posted by adamrice at 8:54 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]

Also another non-answer, but maybe get a second phone for just your attorney and family? It can be a small non-smart phone.
posted by hydra77 at 7:07 AM on January 15

Response by poster: Please consider “non-answers” that still solve my overarching problem as answers! I really appreciate all of you.
posted by corb at 7:22 AM on January 15

Also another non-answer, but maybe get a second phone for just your attorney and family? It can be a small non-smart phone.

If you have a modern cellphone you can just get a second sim and just give the number to family and PD.
posted by dobbs at 7:27 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

I was going to say what adamrice said — an Apple Watch would be perfect for what you’re looking to do. It will tap silently so you can glance at it to see who’s calling, and you don’t need any different settings or reminders and so forth. I think the series SE is reasonably inexpensive, if that’s an issue.
posted by holborne at 9:32 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

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