Forget Dynamic Island, Android should pinch iOS 16’s Focus features

Apple iOS Focus Feature angle

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Move over Dynamic Island, there’s a far more useful feature tucked away in Apple’s latest iPhone that should grab the headlines. I’m talking about the Focus and its new customizable lock and home screen settings. After spending a week with the iPhone 14, I am convinced that this is that feature Android should aim to emulate instead. And the sooner the better.

For a little background, Focus was introduced with iOS 15, allowing you to choose when you want to receive alerts and notifications, from whom and from which apps, depending on the Focus profile selected. Of course, Android phones also have detailed Do Not Disturb options with app, call and contact exceptions, along with focus options embedded in Digital Wellbeing. However, Focus’ multiple profiles are at your fingertips and more customizable, allowing you to manage personal time, work, exercise, sleep, or whatever else occupies your mind.

Focus is like having multiple desktops for work, play and more.

Fast forward to iOS 16, Focus has been upgraded to integrate home and lock screen customization into the mix, giving you control over apps, widgets and more depending on your current focus. It’s like having multiple desktops or user modes that you can activate at will or set to specific times or locations. This is especially useful given how cluttered iOS home screens often are, but it would also work wonders for Android.

Focus works for you

iOS focus profiles

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

For example, it’s easy to have two different home screens for work and play. Especially since a Work Focus can automatically activate 9 to 5 Monday to Friday or when you reach the office, keep social distractions at bay during working hours and hide work apps when you’re off the clock. You can also go deeper; iOS 16 introduces filters to select specific calendars or inboxes that only appear when you want to see them. How I love seeing my work calendar on the weekend (sorry, boss).

I set up a system where the home screen shows my business apps like Slack and Asana when I’m using Work Focus and hides social distractions like Discord, Reddit, various YouTube services, etc. Placing calendar and inbox widgets front and center is of course also helpful . , but I don’t need this info so easily in the evening. Switching to my personal focus reverses the situation, muting notifications from Slack and removing work-related apps from my home screen entirely.

How I don’t love seeing my work calendar at the weekend.

You can still access all your apps through the App Library, but it’s nice to be able to shut out the noise and focus on what you want to do at different times of the day.

However, you can and should go further with Focus customization. Thanks to the integration of the lock screen, you can now only display the Fitness widget when you e.g. need it. Pair that with a dedicated home screen with Fitness and Music widgets right where you want them, and muting all but important notifications can help you focus on lifting weights or hitting that treadmill at your best. Conveniently, Fitness Focus starts automatically when you begin a workout, but you can even have it ready to roll when you show up at the gym by also setting an activation location.

Context-aware switching, like starting a workout or arriving at a location, makes Focus even more powerful.

Apple has presets for Driving, Fitness, Gaming, Mindfulness, Personal, Reading and Work, but you’re free to build custom focuses as you wish. In short, the new and improved Focus is a very elegant way to not only improve your digital well-being by shutting out demanding notifications, but it can also streamline your productivity by providing faster access to the things you need when you have need them.

Android could focus better

Android Do Not Disturb Samsung Galaxy

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

As good as Focus is with iOS 16, there’s plenty of room for improvement. This is Apple we’re talking about, so the number of lock and home screen widgets is limited. Focus filters are incredibly useful, but again, you’re limited to the handful of apps and services that Apple supports. You’re out of luck if you want to crop a third-party calendar or mute specific conversations from third-party messaging services. At least for now.

Apple has a Focus Filter API for developers, but none of the apps I tried have jumped on the bandwagon yet. In the future, third-party calendars, email clients, messaging services, and more will be able to leverage focus filters for even more granular control. However, it will require apps to use development efforts to implement yet another API for yet another Apple service. It is certainly not a given.

Android could go further with contextual screens for Assistant, smart home and other functions.

When it comes to matching and building on Apple’s implementation, Android’s Digital Wellbeing focus options simply lock apps and don’t have conversational controls; it’s not nearly as powerful as completely reconfiguring your home screen based on what you’re doing. To be honest, I don’t think the expansion of Digital Wellbeing is the way forward anyway – the real benefit is in productivity as much as in removing distractions. Instead, Android could improve on the idea by leveraging its broader capabilities, which are already more flexible than Apple’s.

For example, Android already has powerful permission-level controls over notifications. I don’t want to tell the Google engineers how they do their jobs, but it would be really useful to associate message switches with different DND profiles. Being able to keep Signal call notifications on but turn off notifications while you’re at work, for example, would be handy.

iOS focus filters

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The pre-existing Bubbles API, which admittedly isn’t great, also opens up access to specific contacts and groups in third-party messaging apps. Exploiting this can allow Android to offer much more powerful conversational controls per app than Focus currently uses without having to invent yet another API for developers. The basis is already there for app, location, time and other filters, as these are already used by Assistant Routines. Of course, integrating DND profiles with Google Calendar, email accounts, and multi-desktops would require some work. But there’s plenty of time to get it done before Android 14, right?

Android already shares a lot of features with the Focus, but they’re scattered all over the place.

This may not be too optimistic a mindset. Google is no stranger to the benefits of contextual user interfaces, as evidenced by our leaked look at the canceled Smartspace lock screen. It toyed with ideas such as a “Goodnight” chip with relevant smart-home controls, a map to set your morning alarm, and meditation sounds from Headspace. You’ll also find context-aware customization with ideas like Samsung’s Bixby routines for changing lock screen shortcuts and more, so the roots are there, but they should get more ambitious. After spending time with the Focus, I can now imagine how much utility there would be in combining DND-like profiles with smart home, Assistant and other features currently outside the scope of Apple’s implementation.

Want Apple Focus-like features on Android?

2 votes

After a week with the iPhone 14, I’m convinced that customizable context lock and home screens are something I want in my mobile life. iOS 16 hasn’t perfected the formula yet, and the typically more open nature of Android’s features could produce a powerful contextual UI that not only improves our focus, but also makes our devices a bit smarter. I can already see I’m going to miss the Focus now that I’m moving back to my daily Android driver.

Next: Apple iPhone 14 review

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