Missing iPhone notifications can turn our holiday conversations into a mess

ios-15 focus

iOS 15’s Focus feature.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Apple iOS 15 made a number of changes to how notifications work, and the goal was to make notifications easier to manage and less intrusive. Less intrusive is certainly true, as over the last few months I have struggled with my iPhone’s settings to see for myself when my friends on WhatsApp, Signal, Instagram and other apps send me a message. In an extreme case, a friend texted me on Signal on a Friday, and I did not even notice their text until Monday, when I opened the app – thankfully it was not something that pushed, but I was completely embarrassed.

As I searched for a solution to the problem, it became further clear that I am not alone in this frustration. Several threads on Reddit are focused on trying to bring notifications back, whether it’s due to changes in how notifications behave when Disrupt is not turned on, how notifications simply do not appear without proactively accessing an app, and people have so hard to switch with iOS 15’s Focus feature that they’ll instead find it easier to use apps that offer similar messaging controls instead.

Third-party app developers may also not have the ability to control these systems. WhatsApp has a FAQ page that specifically refers to how Apple manages the Push Notification service on the iPhone, and although the issue seems to stem from WhatsApp, there is not much it can recommend other than restoring a phone to factory settings and start over.

These issues have the potential to come to mind now that we are entering the busy holiday season where family and friends will use the device and messaging service that is most convenient. Notifications are the most important way we can keep up with chats, whether your friends and family prefer iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or any other number of SMS and video chat apps.

So let’s review some of the biggest obstacles currently affecting notifications and relevant solutions where possible.

iOS 15’s Focus may need some tweaks

iOS 15’s focus modes are meant to be a development of Do Not Disturb. In addition to allowing users to select Do Not Disturb, which allows you to turn off notifications until it is off, it allows you to create situational profiles that are more tailored to your needs. For example, I recently created a “Movie” focus that, when enabled, turns off notifications from all apps, phone calls, and text messages except the RunPee app, which is a timer that sends a notification on the best times to leave a movie theater to take a rest break.

Focus, though well-intentioned, however, leads to an easy way to accidentally leave your phone in a state where it is not receiving messages. Focus can also be enabled to be run across your various Apple devices, making it either convenient for muting messages to your needs or a responsibility if you only wanted to silence your phone but leave your iPad and Mac computers left alone.

It’s pretty easy to access Focus to turn it on and off: You open the Control Center by either scrolling down from the top right corner of an iPhone with the Face ID screen or scrolling up from the bottom of an iPhone with a home button screen. This should serve as a decent first start to find out if it’s Focus that’s to blame.

If it looks like the issues are the focus settings themselves, drill down by going to the iPhone’s Settings app, scrolling down to Focus, and going into the menu for the specific focus you need to adjust. For example, I noticed that my sleep focus, which begins to activate around noon. 22:50, made me miss texts and video calls from friends that I like to talk to before bedtime – but I would not leave my phone open for anyone to call so late at night. I adjusted the sleep focus to allow calls from certain people that I feel comfortable with when reaching me after that time. It’s not as elegant as it is now that a smaller list could potentially decide to wake me up for calls at. 3 in the morning, but at the moment it’s the best system for me.

The way your messages are delivered may also have changed depending on your focus settings. Instead of receiving messages individually, your Focus may gather them together for an overview. Tweaks to how that overview works can be found separately by going to Settings, Messages and bottling Scheduled overview to make adjustments or to turn off the function.

ios-15 notification overview-2

Hidden notifications can be collected for an overview, depending on your settings.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Do not disturb changes can interfere with the way you use your phone

Do Not Disturb is now part of the Focus, but it has a key adjustment that seems to mess with the way some people have used their phone in the past. Before iOS 15, when you turned on Do Not Disturb, an iPhone would not buzz or immediately display messages while the phone was locked and the screen was off. However, messages will be displayed if you are actively using the phone while it is in Do Not Disturb mode.

The fix is ​​not completely clean yet. Just like with the previous example I gave about adjusting the settings for an individual focus, you can adjust how the Do Not Disturb behavior behaves. In addition to selecting people you can call your phone, you can select specific apps that are allowed to notify you when you have Do Not Disturb turned on. But then the apps you select notify your phone at any time when Do Not Disturb is enabled, whether your phone screen is on or off.

If this bothers you, you are not alone. A fairly active Reddit thread on r / iOS has communicated about just that problem and shared tips for solutions until something officially hopefully is baked in at a later date.

A strange solution to get notifications back

During my own quarrel through various Reddits and Apple support sites to make my notifications work for WhatsApp, Signal and Instagram, I found a strange solution that has at least worked for myself.

In Apple’s support forums, someone discovered that enabling and disabling the “Announce Notifications” feature could possibly correct your phone’s notifications. To access it, go to Settings, then Notifications, then Siri, and then turn on Announce Notifications. The feature is usually to allow Siri to read your notifications aloud, such as when driving. But instead of leaving it on, quit the Settings app, then re-enter it and turn it off again.

When I perform these steps, apps that do not notify me are resumed again. It does not make sense, but I have now run these steps through twice when I noticed that the problem resumed and it has resolved it each time.

I will keep updating this article as I find more solutions to get notifications back in iOS 15. If you have found any roadblocks that have prevented you from receiving notifications or solutions to get them back, please feel free to to write them in the comments.

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