A smarter DND?

You know what basic feature we should rethink on phones? Do Not Disturb.

A couple months ago, I went out at night alone while on vacation. I unexpectedly met up with my friend Jason that I hadn’t seen in ten years. As a sign of respect, I put my phone face down on the table and we talked for a couple hours. It was quite late when I headed back in a Lyft, so I checked my phone only to find half a dozen increasingly frantic texts from my wife sent over the past few hours. I never got a ping on my watch, and nothing buzzed on my phone even though she’s in my favorite contacts and Siri knows she is my spouse. I assured her everything was fine but I was annoyed she got hours of radio silence from me, thanks to DND settings on my phone that quit sending alerts promptly at 10pm.

Another data point. At the end of most days, I spend an hour or so watching TV on the couch, and it frequently overlaps with 10pm, then I go to bed right after. Sometimes when I wake up, I find out I missed 2-3 messages from coworkers or friends that were muted by DND. I was fully awake, watching TV on a couch, but it happened to cross that 10pm threshold, so I never knew about them until morning when DND ended.

DND is a great feature and vital to my phone. In the early days of iPhones, too many friends on the east coast woke me up with 5am texts without thinking about our respective time zones. And with junk phone calls rampant these days, I wouldn’t dare turn off DND again.

But what exactly is DND protecting by walling off 10pm-7am for me? And why isn’t it any smarter? Is that time period really so sacred a phone can’t make better decisions about when to still notify me of an alert? Especially when it’s an outlier of some sort? Does DND have to be all-or-nothing? Can I carve out one or two apps that let alerts through, ignoring DND?

When I was in that Washington DC bar chatting with a pal, my phone’s location could have known I wasn’t at home, and I wasn’t at my hotel, and that I was fully awake and wouldn’t be disturbed by a notification. When I’m on the couch after 10pm, I wish my phone could realize it’s being periodically picked up and used and might be just fine ignoring DND settings while I’m still up.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I really wish DND mode only kicked in when I was in bed. I know it’s not easy for a phone to realize which room in a house it’s located in, but I would be willing to setup iPhone beacons or something to let my phone know when I was in my bedroom. With a combo of accelerometer and GPS data, my phone should be able to figure out when I’m outside my house and still moving my phone around after 10pm and not actually asleep.

I suppose I should just shift my default DND settings to a later hour when I’m more likely asleep, but I wish our smartphones could be a little smarter.

Published by mathowie

I build internet stuff.

3 replies on “A smarter DND?”

  1. The iPhone’s DND is a _little_ smarter than you give it credit for – you can tell it (and I think this is a default) to let calls go through from your “favorites”, but that requires setting up favorites in the phone and knowing how all that works and having people call you. (Gross.) You can also set it to allow any calls, or pick from contact groups, etc/. The fact that there aren’t exceptions for Messages is dumb.

    There’s also the distinction between Bedtime mode and not bedtime mode. Do you have that enabled?

    To address your travel situations, when I know I’m out and want DND turned off, I just turn it off in control center and it’s off until I turn it on or until the next DND time period occurs.

    I’m also a little nervous about having it try to make good decisions about whether I’m up and failing to sleep or out and about – too much magic can be just as bad as not enough magic.


    1. Yeah, it’s not an easy problem to solve and false positives would suck, but I keep running into this DND at 10pm problem and it feels like there’s a possible middle ground there somewhere, especially if my favorites DND settings could carry over to texts as well as calls.


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