Rethinking iMessage

An Ethical Rethinking of How We Notify One Another

by Kevin Cadena, Dan Glauber, Annalia Sunderland and Elbert Wang

The Proposal

With all the original functionality of the current version of iMessage, our rethinking of the app includes the additional feature of a built-in "Focus" mode. When Focus mode is on, iMessage delays the notification and delivery of incoming messages. A user may not check or send messages while in Focus mode; this functionality implicitly eliminates the temptation for one to divert their attention when concentrating on a specific task. When a user turns off Focus mode, a single notification will alert them of the quantity of messages they have received.

An important distinction between "Focus" and the built-in iPhone feature Do Not Disturb is the permissions afforded to senders of messages. With our redesign, if a given recipient of a message is in Focus mode, the sender of that message is alerted that the recipient is in Focus mode and is prompted with the option to ping the recipient with a notification, with the warning that doing so will disrupt their focus. This effectively allows a user to focus their attention away from their phone without becoming completely unreachable.