My iPhone silenced an Amber Alert using iOS 15’s Focus mode

I’m not sure if Apple’s intentions are for this to happen (read: extremely unlikely) or if they’re simply unaware of the issue.

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Update 3-30-2022 3:00 p.m. ET: I noticed this story’s been getting some traction over the past few weeks and figured I’d just disclose that I have yet to receive another Amber alert on my iPhone running iOS 15 (thank God, by the way) let alone any government-issued notification. I’ll report back if I receive a notice like this in the future.

I was at work yesterday working on a project with a couple of my co-workers. At around 2:40 p.m. ET, we all heard a screeching siren. That siren was a combination of smartphones sounding an Amber Alert. I know from past alerts that when one goes off, your phone also vibrates a ton. My phone was in my pocket, and I didn’t feel any vibrations on my leg. I also didn’t hear the siren coming from my pocket. I opened my iPhone, running iOS 15, to find that my Focus mode for work silenced the alert and tucked it away in the “While in Work” section of my notification pane.

I assume this might be a bug or something, but it’s concerning nonetheless. If you turn on do not disturb mode on any modern smartphone, you won’t be able to silence government-issued notifications like Amber Alerts and severe weather notices. However, these new Focus modes in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 have the ability to silence these notifications as if they were tweets or unwanted Slack mentions.

This is how yesterday’s Amber Alert was presented to my on my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 15 developer beta 2.

A little background: I do not have government-issued notifications turned off (obviously), nor is there any setting when enabling Focus modes to block these alerts from getting through. They should be delivered to your phone regardless of what mode your notifications are in, as they usually are.

I’d also like to mention that I’m only aware of the issue in the Work Focus mode. It may not be present in other modes like Personal or a custom profile, but I have no way of knowing.

How do these notifications fail to slip through Apple’s new Focus modes? I have no idea. Again, this is beta software, so I assume it’s a bug. However, it’s a serious bug since these alerts can be a matter of life or death.

I’m not sure if Apple’s intentions are for this to happen (read: extremely unlikely) or if they’re simply unaware of the issue. I’ve reached out to Apple and will update this article when/if I hear back.