Notifications Unexpectedly Silenced? Blame Focus

Originally published at: Notifications Unexpectedly Silenced? Blame Focus - TidBITS

After some confusion about why people were being told that his notifications were silenced in Messages, Adam Engst found that the Driving Focus from his iPhone was being incorrectly set on his MacBook Air.


I have the same problem. However, sharing across devices is off for my MacBook Air. My iPhone is geriatric (iPhone 6) and my iMac with High Sierra doesn’t have Focus either.

This discussion was valuable. My wife and I were going nuts trying to figure out why notifications of incoming text messages “suddenly” stopped. After reading the above comments, I checked her recently updated Macbook Air M-1 and found “focus” turned on. But that did not fix problem. I then checked focus on her iPhone 6S and found “focus” on…which no one had turned on. Turned it off; problem fixed; text messages are once again providing appropriate notifications.

Thanks for the junkware, Apple.

I just had a worried phone call from a long-term client who reported this strange warning in Messages: “Communication Limit”.

Never heard of that one before! . . . Ah ha! ScreenTime allows you to set limits on application use and communications!

What a farce! He’s been missing messages from family because of this!

Apparently, this was switched on in some update over the past few months because he had no idea what the hell ScreenTime was. . . .

I’ve now taken to telling family and friends and clients to shut off ScreenTime and Focus completely. If you aren’t obsessed with Get It Done methodologies these “features” cause no end of confusion and irritation.

I understand Focus is truly useful for people who leave their phones on overnight and ScreenTime might be very useful for a parent with a teen who’s a 37-hour a day user but for the rest of us? Turn 'em off! :slight_smile:


Interesting! And annoying for sure!

you should turn off Share Across Devices unless you’re sure you want your iPhone to control the Focus state on other devices.

Yes. But you also said that you weren’t driving at the time. So even if “you’re sure you want your iPhone to control the Focus state on other devices”, you’re probably also sure you don’t want your phone lying about your focus.

So it seems more to me like a bug that Apple needs to fix, no? And after it’s fixed, leaving the sync feature on still seems useful.

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Thanks Adam, that’s a direction to follow to sort out similar confusion in this house. Complexity breeding opaqueness for sure. Syncing is not inherently useful, only it’s application can be.

Once again, proof that Apple’s iOS features get turned on during some activation/update, or uninformed turn on a setting with an imperceptable “Skip This” that results in lost communications. The Screentime issue is likely activated on update or new phone/device.
I, as well, have noticed message notification from friends that Notifications are off aka Messages are silenced. When I ask them, they are boggled too. And thanks to Adam’s discovery, I was able to explain the co-oincidence that they had Focus on for their MacbookAir when in zoom or other sharing to not be disturbed, but never remember turning on Shared across devices.
IF someone drives and uses their laptop (perhaps on a train or public transit?) I’m sure Focus is the least of their problems…

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I never knew the Focus “feature” existed until I read this, but sure enough it’s hidden under System (12/6/1Preferences. I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad, although I do have a MacBookAir as well as my MacMini desktop. Could this be why the sound preferences seem to change by themselves? I keep finding output shifting between my USB speakers, my display speaker, my MacMini speaker, and the “external speaker” port, which may be my webcam. At the moment, Input shows nothing attached (which makes me wonder if the webcam is attached) even after I open Zoom (although it is not in use). Could this weirdness be related to Focus, or are there some other odd “features” that might be doing it. FWIW, I am on 12.6.3.

This is the second time in a week that TidBITS or TidBITS talk has provided the exact solution I needed to an annoyance that I was having. This is great!



Yeah, I can’t explain why my MacBook Air thought I was driving when I wasn’t—that’s presumably a bug of some sort. But my point about turning off the sharing is that, for me at least, there’s no reason I would ever want Driving or Sleep to be available on my Macs. They just make no sense whatsoever, and by turning off sharing and deleting them, I ensure that they cannot cause confusion, even indavertently.

Probably not, in this case. I don’t believe Focus has any built-in capabilities to change sound output choices.

Yea, I totally get that. But I’ve been noodling this since you wrote the article. Seems less likely, but what if your Mac is within earshot of your bedroom. You’d want it to respect Sleep focus, right?

Driving Focus is tougher to justify. If you like to drive with your laptop open on the passenger seat, then maybe that could be useful :sweat_smile:

But in all cases, I don’t see where any of them hurts; in general, if you don’t want to be disturbed, you want everything shutting up. I think I have to fall back to the idea that if Apple doesn’t get the “driving” assumption wrong, everything might be fine!

It seems as if Apple has teams of engineers devoted to making sure you don’t get your messages. Every time I turn notifications back on, they come up with a new way of silencing them,

My iPhone Reminders were silent for a long time. I searched online a lot, and discovered it’s a common problem that has many different “solutions”… each of which worked for a few people but not for most. In other words, there are many reasons why this may happen. So much for iPhone being simpler than Android. (I have one of each, and still find both of them to be confusing and annoying at times.)

In my case, it turned out that all my time-consuming tweaking of settings throughout the iPhone didn’t help. Neither did restarting the phone, or shutting it off for a while. Eventually I discovered something truly horrible: my iPhone wasn’t making any alert sound for incoming phone calls or texts either! But it did buzz (vibrate) when they arrived. Also, it would play music normally through its own speaker, so I knew the speaker wasn’t dead.

I had better luck after that, because instead of searching online for a problem with “Reminders”, I searched for a broader problem with “sounds” (or audio). I found the answer quickly, and it made me feel really, really dumb…

There’s a tiny, recessed slider switch on the left side of my iPhone 7+, near the top. Its purpose is to turn on “Silent Mode”. Why it’s called that is a little confusing, since music will still play in that mode; it silences all the alert sounds. It’s not the same as “Do Not Disturb”, which I use every night, and which suppresses both sound and vibration – that’s a software switch, but this is a hardware slider.

Anyway, despite its being tiny and recessed (unlike the phone’s other buttons)… and even more deeply recessed due to my phone’s case… I somehow had slid it accidentally into the silent position. Truly mysterious. The silent position is when it’s very slightly closer to the back of the phone, and there’s a teeny tiny sliver of orange color showing next to it.

As soon as I slid it forward again, so the orange color went away, all my audio problems went away too. Boy did I feel dumb!

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I had this happen so often I ended up disabling car/driving focus.

My situation was made worse by the fact where I live there’s no cell signal. So whenever I would arrive home the iPhone would get confused and driving focus would still be on when I got to the computer.

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It would be asleep if I was (and the MacBook Air would be shut). I also have a Meross smart outlet on my powered speakers to ensure that no unusual activity on my iMac can wake it up and cause it to make a loud sound. I’ve also had a Keyboard Maestro macro that muted the Mac at night and reinstated sound in the morning, but I’m sticking with the speaker now.

Well, yes, if everything worked, there would be no problems. :-) But the more complex Focus becomes, the more opportunities there are for things to not work, either by misconfiguration or due to bugs.

Thanks! Had not got around to look it up for the people who had it activated unknowingly – most people who have it active seems not to be aware of it and quite a lot of people too.

I do tend to forget that I have DnD on though :sweat_smile:. Kind of like finishing a workout at the gym and forgetting to tell my watch to stop. In the latter case, at least it checks in and asks if I’m done. At the risk of vexing @ace with more complexity, such reminders on DnD might be handy :sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

I never set DnD unconditionally. If you tap the 3 dots next to the selection, you have the choices:
For 1 hour
Until this evening
Until I leave this location

One of those is usually appropriate.


Yes you’re right. If I make a few more gestures I get to that point. But often I’m in the middle of something from which I can barely be distracted enough to press the control panel button once, so that distractions are shut up while I try to focus on something critical. Then an hour later I find it’s still enabled.