Currently, we live in an attention economy where screens and beeps and the latest BuzzFeed article vie for our attention. For anyone who text messages, this is also the case. When you send a message, the receiver gets a notification and vice versa. This becomes a vicious cycle of sending and receiving messages, where we obsessively check our phones to see if we have new messages, and our phone’s constant vibrating give us a cheap buzz. Messaging becomes addicting, distracting us from the task at hand. We wanted to give users the freedom to harness the power of immediate messaging without getting sucked in, while allowing them to unplug without missing something important. Thus, we present users a redesign of iMessage, giving users that freedom to spend their time well.
The iPhone’s current solution to this problem is its Do Not Disturb setting, which can be turned on and off. Its current functionality is not ideal for several reasons. When Do Not Disturb is enabled, calls go straight to voicemail for the caller and the receiver does not receive a missed call, so the receiver has no idea if they’ve been called unless the caller calls twice. Still, the caller is unaware if a receiver is in Do Not Disturb mode, so they won’t know to call again. In addition, while Do Not Disturb silences all alerts from text messaging, messages still go through, allowing the potential for distraction.
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.