Apple’s “Drive Focus” Is Wobbly As Hell
The Apple Focus feature is a great way to bring all of your Apple devices together to match your current activities. If you’re at work, Work Focus can turn off unwanted notifications on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. On the other hand, a personal focus ensures that none of your work messages get through to the next business day, even if you switch between your technologies. However, the driving focus is different.
Unlike other magic tricks, Apple designed it to be automatic by default. If your iPhone thinks you’re driving, it puts you in gear so you can focus on the road without being distracted by messages and notifications. This is good. Except that it’s a little broken. The iPhone’s sensitivity to what it considers “driving” seems to be too high, causing Focus to turn on when you’re not in a vehicle, or even moving at all.
You can see the general issue from this Reddit thread . The OP reports that their Driving Focus is set to turn on automatically when the iPhone detects motion, however the Focus works even if their iPhone is stationary on the table. Lifehacker Associate Editor Joel Cunningham ran into exactly the same problem. In fact, the entire time we were discussing this issue, his Driving Focus was on and off. Of course, Apple: he was driving, at the table, at work.
The problem here isn’t just that you’ll miss notifications on your iPhone. Focuses by default affect all connected and compatible Apple devices. This means that if your Driving Focus is enabled for your iPhone, it is also enabled for your iPad and Mac. If you use this Mac for work like Joel does, watching Driving Alerts turn on and off all day is not a productivity hack.
Why this driving failure occurs is not clear. Obviously, this is not the same as when the Driving mode is activated, when you are a passenger in a car, or when you are driving in another mode of transport that you do not control. iPhone won’t move! It’s also not something that Apple has fixed. The OP on the previously mentioned Reddit thread had an issue with iOS 15.5 while Joel had iOS 16.
How to turn off Driving Focus when you’re not driving
While we may not know what is causing the problem, there are a few workarounds to fix it. The first thing to try is to stop Driving Focus from automatically activating. It doesn’t matter if your iPhone thinks you’re moving, as long as it doesn’t activate Focus. To change this setting, go to Settings > Focus > Driving , then under Turn on automatically , tap While driving . Here the choice is yours. If you have a car with Bluetooth, you can tap “When Connected to Car Bluetooth”, which will automatically activate Driving Focus when your iPhone pairs with the car.
If you have a CarPlay-compatible car, Activate with CarPlay achieves the same goal. Once you connect your iPhone to CarPlay, your Driving Focus is ready to go. However, if your car does not have Bluetooth or CarPlay, try “Manual”. You’ll need to remember to turn on “Driving Focus” whenever you’re driving, but at least you won’t be bothered by driving alerts all day long. Of course, you can always go one step further and remove Focus Driving entirely, but I would encourage you to keep using it if possible. This is a good security feature, although a little buggy.
Alternatively, another option is to disable “Sharing across devices” in the Focus’s general settings menu. This way, if your iPhone crashes and turns on the “Driving” feature when you’re not actually driving, it won’t affect other devices like your Mac. But it exposes a flaw in the company’s Focus feature, especially when it comes to driving: why doesn’t Share Across Devices apply to Focus? Why can’t I turn off Driving Sharing while still sharing Focuses like Work and Personal? After all, if I’m driving, I don’t have access to my Mac or iPad, so what do I care if alerts are turned off for those devices as well?
Apple needs to do two things in the future. First, they need to fix a bug in iOS 16.2. Second, they need to add “Share across Devices” for each focus. Until then, we’ll need to use these workarounds to actually get any job done.