The iPhone Focus Mode feature lets you get a break from interruptions, while still allowing the people you’re most interested in contact you, such as in case of an emergency.

The Focus Mode function applies iOS 6 and newer and all versions of watchOS, including watchOS 6.

How the iPhone Focus Mode Feature Works

If you don’t want to be bothered by your smartphone’s notifications or incoming phone calls, you can turn each of these off, but then no one can reach you. Focus Mode, a feature that Apple introduced in iOS 6 under the name “Do Not Disturb,” gives you flexibility when silencing your phone’s interruptions with the following features:

  • Incoming calls, text messages, and push notifications are silenced. You still receive them, so you can later check your voicemail and other notifications, but your phone won’t make noise or vibrate and its screen won’t light up.
  • Focus Mode can be scheduled to activate and deactivate automatically, such as at bedtime and in the morning when you wake, or you can activate it manually.
  • Important contacts, such as family members or your Favorites, can be given permission to contact you even while Focus Mode is active.
  • If a phone number attempts to call you twice within a three-minute span, Focus Mode will allow it through. This is useful in case of emergencies, for example.
  • Focus Mode can be set to activate while you’re driving. It will block calls and texts to help ensure safety.

The Focus Mode tool works on iPad, as well. Apple split the operating system for iPhone and iPad with the dual release of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13.

Set Up Focus Mode on an iPhone

Setting up Focus Mode on the iPhone requires just a few taps.

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap Focus.

    Three iOS screens showing Settings app icon, Do Not Disturb button and Do Not Disturb toggle

  3. Turn on the Do Not Disturb toggle switch.

    You can also enable Focus Mode using Control Center. Swipe up from the bottom of the phone screen (or swipe down from the upper-right on iPhone X and later models) to open Control Center, then tap the moon icon to turn Focus Mode on.

Schedule Focus Mode Activation

Focus Mode can be scheduled to automatically activate and deactivate at times you specify.

  1. Tap the Settings app.

  2. Tap Focus, then tap Do Not Disturb.

  3. Scroll down to the Turn on Automatically section and either Add Schedule or edit a current schedule.

    Three iOS screens showing Do Not Disturb button, Scheduled toggle and Quiet Hours screen

  4. Tap the From box. Move the wheels to set the time at which you want the feature turned on.

  5. Tap the To box, and set when you want it to turn off.

  6. Tap the icons for Sunday through Saturday to choose which days you want the scheduled Focus Mode times to take effect.

Customize Your Focus Mode Settings

Tap Settings > Focus Mode to adjust the Do Not Disturb settings:

  • Do Not Disturb: More precise control options for Focus Mode.
  • Share Across Devices: Allow Focus Mode to activate on all your connected devices—so when you turn it on in one place, it turns on for the others as well.
  • Focus Status: Allow others who attempt to contact you to see that you have Focus Mode turned on.

Custom Contact groups can’t be created on the iPhone. To create one to use with Focus Mode on your iPhone, create it in your desktop Contacts app and sync it to your iPhone.

  • People: Allows some calls through while Focus Mode is enabled. You can choose from contact groups you created that will be allowed through. For example, select Favorites from your address book.
  • Allow Repeated Calls: Slide to ON so that when the same number calls twice within three minutes, the call will come through even if the person is not on a selected Allow Notifications From contact list.
  • Apps: Only allow notifications from the apps you select to get through when Focus Mode is turned on.
  • Options: Show On Lock Screen allows silenced notifications to appear on the lock screen instead of Notification Center. Dim Lock Screen will make the lock screen reduce brightness when Focus Mode is turned on. Hide Notification Badges will prevent app badges from appearing on home screen app icons (unless you’ve allowed notifications from those apps).
  • Customize Screens: Choose between one of two lock screen layouts for whenever Focus Mode is on.
  • Turn On Automatically: Set a scheduled time, day, or days for Focus Mode to turn itself on and off.
  • Focus Filters: Customize apps with various filters and options specifically for when Focus Mode is turned on.

How to Check If Focus Mode Is Enabled

Check the upper-right corner of the iPhone screen. If Focus Mode is running, a crescent moon icon displays. On iPhone X and later, this icon won't display here (there is limited space there on this model). Instead, open Control Center with a downward swipe from the upper-right corner to see if it is active.

Do Focus Mode on Apple Watch

The Apple Watch can receive and place phone calls and text messages, and it supports Focus Mode. There are two ways to control Focus Mode on the Watch: the default settings and manually. By default, the Apple Watch is set to the same Focus Mode preferences you set on your iPhone, including scheduling. You can’t change these on the Apple Watch.

Do Not Disturb moon icon on Apple Watch

To manually activate Focus Mode on your Watch, swipe up from the bottom of the Apple Watch screen to open Glances.

In watchOS 1 and 2, swipe left to right until you get to the first Glance, which includes icons for AirPlay and Airplane Mode.

Tap the moon icon for Focus Mode. You can select the following durations for Focus Mode on your watch:

  • On turns it on indefinitely.
  • On for 1 hour starts a one hour period for Do Not Disturb to be active.
  • On until this evening will deactivate Do Not Disturb later in the day.
  • On until I leave uses your current location, and when the watch detects that you have left the location, it deactivates Do Not Disturb.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

If iOS 11 or higher is on your iPhone, Focus Mode adds a new layer of privacy and security while driving to prevent distracted driving. With Driving Focus enabled, you won’t receive notifications while you’re driving that could tempt you to look away from the road.

Activate Driving Focus by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings > Focus > Driving.

  2. Follow the on-screen directions to set up your Driving Focus options and notifications.

    • Automatically: If your phone detects an amount and speed of motion that makes it think you’re in a car, it enables the feature. This is subject to mistakes, though, since you could be a passenger, or on a bus or train.
    • When Connected to Car Bluetooth: If your phone connects to the Bluetooth in your car, when this setting is enabled, Driving Focus activates automatically until disconnected again.
    • Manually: Adds the option to Control Center so you can enable Driving Focus manually.
  3. Return to the Focus menu, then tap Auto-Reply To.

  4. Select who will receive the automatic reply when a message is received while Driving Focus is active. You can select No One, Recent contacts, Favorites, or All Contacts.

  5. On the Focus menu, tap Auto-Reply. Then, set the message sent to those trying to reach you.

    Those contacts in your Favorites can get a message through to you if they text the word "urgent" in response to your Auto-Reply message.

    Three iOS screens showing Do Not Disturb while Driving Manually, checkmark, Auto-Reply

Add Driving Focus to Control Center

Follow these steps to add a convenient shortcut in Control Center that lets you quickly toggle Driving Focus on and off.

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Control Center.

  3. Scroll down to the More Controls section.

    Three iOS screens showing Control Center, Customize Controls and green plus button to add Do Not Disturb While Driving to Control Center

  4. Tap the green + next to Driving Focus.