One of the new features in iOS 15 that was released today is ‘Focus’. These ‘modes’, when set, will change several functions and settings on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and, to a much lesser extent, Apple Watch. It’s like a much more advanced Do Not Disturb or Sleep function.

For instance, if you’re sitting down to work you might want to silence all notifications from several apps and block all calls and messages from everyone except a select list. Setting a Focus allows you to do this. What’s even better is that a Focus allows you to set a particular Home Screen arrangement and even use it to trigger some other actions with a Shortcut automation. They also sync across devices meaning that when you enter a Focus on one device it triggers all your other devices to enter that Focus along with the various settings you have for each of them. Though this last part is optional.

I’ve been playing around with Focus since the beta release earlier this year and have had immense fun finely crafting the experience on my devices for each part of my day. I’ve particularly enjoyed setting a Home Screen and triggering other automations. One setup I have, which I’m going to share is how I combine a Focus with Shortcuts and HomeKit to set up my home and devices ready for watching TV or a movie.

With a singular Siri command to my HomePod or Apple Watch the Shortcut will:

  • Turn on my Apple TV
  • Turn a Focus on, limiting the number of notifications that will disturb me
  • Set a HomeKit Scene to set my lights to certain levels
  • Turn on Theater Mode on my Apple Watch
  • Show the TV remote on my iPhone

How did I set this up? Let’s start with the aforementioned Focus...

get into Focus

Creating a Focus
Creating a Focus

When I’m watching a movie or TV show at home I often want to tune out the world. I like to turn off notifications, hide messages and only be contacted by people who might really need me. With this in mind, I went about setting up my TV Focus.

In a Focus setup (Settings > Focus > +) there are two main sections, ‘Allowed Notifications’ and ‘Options’. In Allowed Notifications, you specify which notifications you want to allow to ‘break through’ your Focus and alert you. These are either People or Apps. The People you choose can contact you either from a messaging app such as iMessage or via a call through the phone app or FaceTime. Allowed apps mean they can send you notifications as per the settings you already have for those apps.

It should be pointed out that if you allow a communication app such as the Phone app, everyone can contact you through it, regardless of whether or not you ‘allowed’ them in the People section.

In the Options section, you can choose the Home Screens you want showing during the Focus. I created a TV specific one which I detail below. It has only the apps I need (plus the dock) and hides everything else including badges. You can also choose to dim the Lock Screen and show silenced notifications on the Lock Screen. Finally, you choose an icon and name for the Focus, I just called mine ‘TV’ and used the TV shaped SF Symbol.

TV on my Home Screen

My TV Home Screen, the Letterboxd shortcut that launches from the Home Screen
My TV Home Screen, the Letterboxd shortcut that launches from the Home Screen

While I don’t liked to be contacted when watching a movie, I do frequently pull up apps such as iMDB - to find out exactly who that actor is on screen - or Letterboxd - to look at my watchlist or log a film. Knowing that, I then set up a TV-specific Home Screen. I combined some TV control shortcuts with apps that I use to look up things while watching (I honestly can’t get through some shows if I recognise someone but can’t place the name).

First up is an image of the Apple TV logo to provide some space at the top and push the other content down. It is placed in a large Widgetsmith widget. You can get the image here. I then have four shortcuts that either power off the Apple TV (this also has a bonus action of turning off my TV Focus if it’s pressed), play/pause, bring up an option to change the subtitles or display the TV remote on the iPhone. The shortcuts and images I used for icons are available here:

Power off - Shortcut / Image

Play/pause - Shortcut / Image

Subtitles - Shortcut / Image

Remote - Shortcut / Image

Below these are the apps I use. Wikipedia, Letterboxd, JustWatch and TV Time. The Letterboxd icon is actually a shortcut that opens up a list of options like ‘Open Watchlist’ or ‘Log A Film’ within the app. You can get the shortcut here.

Finally, below that is the medium iMDB widget. The genius of this widget is that if you tap the search field it not only opens up the search page of the app but places your cursor in it and brings up the keyboard, ready for you to start typing immediately. Props to the iMDB team for that.

bringing it all together

(L-R) The full shortcut, the two parts of the Shortcut Automation that are triggered when TV Focus is on
(L-R) The full shortcut, the two parts of the Shortcut Automation that are triggered when TV Focus is on

Additionally, I created a HomeKit scene where the lights in the living room turn down to a certain level as well as turning others off.

Then I created a shortcut that is the key to the whole set of actions being triggered. In this shortcut is the action to turn on the Apple TV, turn on the TV Focus, turn on my HomeKit scene, turn on Theater mode on my Apple Watch before finally opening the Apple TV Remote on my iPhone.

Additionally I set up an Automation in Shortcuts that would run all these actions should I turn my TV Focus on manually from my iPhone.

Now, by simply calling ‘Hey Siri, Let’s Watch TV’ to my HomePod (or by turning on my TV Focus from the Control Center) by the time I sit down on the sofa, the scene will be set, the TV will be on and my iPhone and Apple Watch will be ready to block out the world. Unless you’re my family or you’re that actor I really need to name.

L-R: Personal Focus, Waking Up Focus, Work Focus
L-R: Personal Focus, Waking Up Focus, Work Focus

I’ve been setting up several Focus modes on my iPhone for Work, Waking and more. What will you be using a Focus for? Have you incorporated it with Shortcuts in any way? Find me on Twitter and let me know.