Mindful Notifications: Finding Balance with iOS Focus Feature and APNS Interruption-Level

Santosh Botre
7 min readJul 28, 2023

The notifications are great for keeping people informed with timely and relevant content, whether your app is running or running in the background or inactive.

Getting notifications helps provide timely and crucial updates all the time i.e., 24X7.

This means having notifications integrated into the application prominently displayed is an excellent idea.

Time flies…


Throughout these many years, the majority of applications have successfully incorporated notification capabilities to effectively connect with their customers. These notifications serve as a gentle reminder for users to access the application, keep them informed of its presence, and offer significant updates.

Why has this become a problem now?

Note: This excludes chatting and communication applications, among others.

Too many apps… to many notifications… https://associationsnow.com

Don't you feel as a user you are being disturbed and annoyed by the overwhelming notifications?

The survey says, what do recipients find annoying about push notifications? (%)


What option do they have to stop this annoying notification?

Just tap ‘Don’t Allow’.

Problem Solved!!!

Businesses face significant challenges when end users deny app notification services, even if they have already onboarded those users.

The impact will extend beyond just the users and will also significantly impact the businesses operating through the application, both in terms of their user base and financials.

With the increasing number of apps and push notifications, users are feeling overwhelmed and annoyed. This leads to a decline in user satisfaction and can affect businesses relying on these notifications for user engagement.

Apple consistently delivers and strives to provide its users with a superior experience. Apple has effectively tackled the issue by providing users with increased control and presenting businesses and app developers with a range of solutions.

With iOS 15 in 2021, Apple comes with Focus lets users stay in the moment when they need to concentrate or step away from their device.

More Power to Users

Users can customize Focus settings and choose when to receive alerts and notifications when they are busy.

Variety of focus options

Just check the convenience of having a variety of focus options to select from, including Do Not Disturb, Sleep, or Work, and even the ability to create a custom focus that perfectly meets your requirements.

Focus offerings to the end user,

  • It helps people to manage their experience by specifying delivery times and setting up a Focus.
  • With delivery scheduling, individuals can decide if they want to receive notification alerts right away or in a summary that’s sent at specific times they select.
  • Individuals determine which contacts and applications are capable of bypassing their Focus mode to provide notification alerts.
  • People might want to receive alerts from work colleagues, family members, and work-related apps as soon as notifications arrive.
  • People might also want to receive all Time Sensitive notification alerts during a Focus.

Users may feel satisfied with it to some extent due to non-awareness of the offerings by the business, but they may not be aware of what they are losing out on.

How does it impact iOS application developers/businesses?

Finding the answer to this question is crucial for the well-being of your users and the success of your application’s ecosystem. It is imperative that everyone must take responsibility and prioritizes this task.

Image by Freepik

Here are some things to consider:

  • People will appreciate receiving notifications that are relevant and significant to individuals is highly valued and appreciated.
  • Lots of notification interruptions are quite bothersome at times.
  • It is crucial to acknowledge that people may not appreciate being disturbed or interrupted at any given moment, regardless of whether it is daytime or nighttime.
  • At times, individuals may choose to overlook interruptions despite not wanting to be disturbed, as they perceive certain notifications to be highly valuable, crucial, or important at that moment.
  • Users have complete control over their experience with the ability to choose delivery times and establish a Focus within the system.

To maintain a harmonious relationship between businesses and users, the technology and business teams (specifically, end, endorse, and strive to discover the optimal balance.

Let’s start by exploring what Apple has to offer on their platform.

Notification alerts in each system-defined interruption level and how it behaves on the phone in terms of notifying the end user:

Interruption level and what they do

NOTE: Because a Critical notification can override the Ring/Silent switch and breakthrough scheduled delivery and Focus, you must get an entitlement to send one.

Refer Managing Notification

Notification Relevance:

Before sending a push notification, businesses must determine the notification’s relevance, priority, level of attention required, and category for the end user.

To determine the user’s level of attention, you can categorize the information you wish to convey to them.

  • Marketing notification: Some sales, business news etc.
  • Promotional notification: offers, discounts, user engagement, etc.
  • Time-bound updates notification: Schedule, appointments, meetings, cab updates, delivery updates etc.
  • Informative notification: Acknowledgements, status updates, or more informative notifications and personalized notifications.
  • Actionable notification: Alerts, exceptions, confirmations or errors.

Let’s try and understand the system-defines interruption levels for notifications,

This is the appropriate level of interruption that should be associated with For Your Information kind of notifications.

People can choose to view or ignore it, like a restaurant recommendation, marketing information, etc.

Active (the default): Medium

This is the level of interruption to normal notifications that require the user’s attention but will not matter if a user chooses to see it later.

Providing updates on information like news, social posts and offers are sure to be highly valued by individuals.

Information that directly impacts the person and requires their immediate attention, like reminders, appointments, meetings, payments, transactions, booking confirmations, orders or package delivery.

NOTE: Should not be used by many applications.

The interruption of critical notifications that require immediate attention

Immediate attention to health and safety info is crucial. Govt agencies and apps issue rare notifications.

Sending Passive, Active or Critical alerts


To enable time-sensitive notifications, you need to add the “Push Notifications” capability to your Xcode project.

  • Interruption level — passive
// Interruption levels
// Push notification

"aps" : {
"alert" : {
"title" : "Passive",
"body" : "I’m a passive notification, so I won’t interrupt you."
"interruption-level" : "passive"

As a developer, you don’t have to do any code changes to your existing APNS code. for passive, active and critical interruption levels.


Sending a time-sensitive alert


To enable time-sensitive notifications, you need to add the “Push Notification” and “Time Sensitive Notifications" capabilities to your Xcode project.

// Time Sensitive
// Push notification

"aps" : {
"alert" : {
"title" : "Urgent",
"body" : "Your account requires attention."
"interruption-level" : "time-sensitive"

On phone,

How you can push the notification?

Don't worry, I've got you covered.

Read Testing Notifications Using the Apple Push Notification Console

Interested to explore more on the topic,


Overall, achieving a balance between app notifications and users’ preferences is essential for maintaining a positive relationship between businesses and their customers. By embracing the iOS Focus feature and understanding the relevance of notifications, app developers can enhance the user experience and foster user engagement while respecting users’ need for control and reduced interruptions.

I hope this explanation helped you to better understand the thought process behind the concept, rather than solely focusing on the code.



Santosh Botre

Take your time to learn before develop, examine to make it better, and eventually blog your learnings.