Last update: September 2021

4 mins to read - 2021/09/24

iOS 15 Is Out… Here’s What’s New With Their Notification Focus Mode

Back in June, we covered Apple’s WWDC 2021 event, where they unveiled some exciting new push notification features. Most interesting was its Focus Mode, where users can manage their push notifications. They can filter different apps, so that certain notifications are screened when, e.g. Work Mode or Personal Mode is enabled. Clearly, Apple is looking to create greater control and transparency of push notifications for users. The iOS 15 update went live on September 20, and we’ve spent the past few days looking at these new features. Here’s what the iOS 15’s new Focus Mode means for your app’s mobile engagement campaign, and how OpenBack can help you work these new dimensions into your strategy.

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iOS 15 focus mode work focus personal focus
Image source: iOS 15 screenshots

The iOS 15 Focus Mode in Detail

It’s worth reading Apple’s blog post yourself to learn more about some of iOS 15’s other new features, but we want to take a closer look at its Focus Mode.

The idea behind Focus Mode is to allow device users to customize what times they receive notifications, and from which apps. For example, there may be apps they don’t wish to opt-out of notifications from, but at the same time don’t want to receive non-urgent notifications during work hours. They might then use the Work Focus setting to filter out all notifications except those from co-workers, or from Slack or other work-based apps. The Personal Focus setting could filter out all notifications except those from friends or family, and so on. iOS 15 users can even create custom Focus modes, and the device can use machine learning to suggest which contacts or apps should be allowed through.

Users can even toggle between different Home Screen pages for different Focus Modes, with different arrangements of apps and widgets for each. When in a Focus Mode, Apple automatically displays a status – e.g. “Do Not Disturb” – so your contacts know not to interrupt you. Plus, when a user is on Focus Mode, it automatically syncs between all their Apple devices.
iOS 15 focus mode

New Visual UX and Message Summaries for Notifications

There are further changes to how Apple treats notifications that are less earth-shaking for the mobile engagement industry, but interesting nonetheless. Notifications now appear on your device screen with contact photos for people and larger icons apps, making it easier for visually inclined people to identify where their messages are coming from.
Another mechanism Apple is providing to tame the clutter is the Notification Summary, where notifications are delivered in clusters at set times selected by the user throughout the day. Machine learning then determines how to arrange the notifications, with the most relevant notifications appearing at the top of the stack. Interestingly, by “most relevant” they mean notifications from apps the user interacts with the most, which seems like it may have a snowball effect on favoring certain apps. After all, if a certain apps messages are consistently prioritized to you before all others, you’re going to engage with that app more.
Any time-sensitive messages, voicemail notifications, etc. will deliver immediately to the device, so the user doesn’t miss anything urgent.
iOS 15 notification summary
Image Source: Screenshot from

How Will These New Features Change Your Push Notification Strategy?

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that apps strive to maintain a positive, respectful relationship with their users. And especially with App Tracking Transparency, which went live in the iOS 14.5, mobile marketers are tearing out their hair, feeling like all their avenues for communicating with users are being closed off. But this isn’t the case. Marketers will simply have to learn to work within these new parameters. Users have more control over choosing what they do and don’t see, so it’s the job of app developers to make sure that the notifications they do send are relevant and interesting, and that they’re delivering to the user’s device at the very best moment to spark the user’s notice.

When it comes to sending push notifications, it’s likely SDKs and our strategies will have to evolve. In this aspect, a mobile engagement platform that utilizes device-side delivery and machine learning becomes a necessity. OpenBack’s hybrid platform uses edge computing and machine learning to reliably deliver notifications in real-time – something no other SDK does. It’s our ability to bypass the need for a 3rd-party cloud server that enables this. And since notifications sent by OpenBack don’t incur the delays that others do when being processed in cloud servers, this means we have a unique capability of scheduling notifications to deliver at exactly the right moment.

data privacy webinar reliability

OpenBack’s 40+ Data Signals

Having eradicated the risk that notifications will go missing in the cloud, or will arrive at random times or in jumbled order, OpenBack offers the developer an unprecedented level of control and personalizability to developers over their push notifications. To help our clients pinpoint the right moment, we offer 40+ unique data signals that use contextual factors to determine when the app user is likely to click on your notification.

For example, using device-side data points, it’s possible to enable a signal that only sends your notification when Focus Mode is turned off. That way, you would be able to ensure that your notification reaches your user’s screen at a moment they’re ready to pay attention to it, rather than being silently forwarded to the notification center.

Further, OpenBack’s metrics offer full insights into how users are engaging with your notifications: whether they are clicking/swiping/ignoring, whether a click leads to a goal conversion, and what your retention rates as a result of push are. We are updating our metrics on a rolling basis to recognize new iOS features, and we will soon be able to tell developers which of their users are filtering push notifications for their app.

Ultimately, device-side delivery is the only way mobile apps can respect their users’ privacy and focus preferences, while still offering highly personalized, effective push notifications and great UX.

Get in touch with the OpenBack team to learn more about our device-side delivery platform and metrics, and how we can help you maximize your return on push notifications.

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