iPhone do not disturb settings... Goal: Everything silenced EXCEPT ring AND vibrate when people call

Hi MPU friends. I’m struggling to grok the complexity of iPhone do not disturb settings/focus modes/silence switch. At least, it FEELS complex to me as a former Android user.

This is my goal: At night, I would like my phone to audibly ring and vibrate when people call and make no other sounds.

I thought I had it set up correctly, but ended up with my phone only vibrating when called at night (which didn’t wake me and resulted in me missing an important call!).

Any suggestions? Additionally, I guess this isn’t QUITE tech support, but feel free to share any cool Focus Mode ideas/hacks below.

There are a number of different parts. Let’s address them one at a time.

Note: If anyone sees any errors below, please let me know and I’ll edit this.

Also note that this applies to iOS version 15 only. See elsewhere for other versions.

Silence Switch

When the Silence Switch is turned on, then no sounds are produced by your phone (except for alarms; see below). In other words, all ringers are silenced regardless of any other settings. If you want any ringers to work, do not turn the silence switch on.

Default Behaviors

The most basic settings are under Settings > Sounds and Haptics. The first two options are “Vibrate on Ring” and “Vibrate on Silent”. The first sets vibrate on/off when the silent switch is off and the second sets vibrate on/off when the silent switch is on. If both of these are turned off, then you will not get any vibration regardless of any other settings. If these are turned on, then you can override the behavior in various specific situations elsewhere as described below.

Also under Settings > Sounds and Haptics, you can scroll down to “Sounds and Vibration Patterns” where you can select the specific ringtone for various types of alerts (phone call. text, voicemail. email, etc). Selecting any of the listed alert types gives you the option to select the ringtone as well as a vibration pattern. Note that you can select None as the option for either (or both) the ringtone or the vibration pattern, which would disable that for that specific alert type, with one exception: you cannot set the phone “Ringtone” to None (you always have a ringtone).

Finally, note that you can also edit the ringtones and vibration patterns via Settings > Notifications > [app name] > Sounds for each installed app. You can also find the settings for apps through Settings > [app name] > Notifications > Sounds. For any third party apps, you must go through one of the “notifications” routes as only the built-in apps can be configured via “Sounds and Haptics”.

As I understand it, changing the settings for any app in any one of the above three locations changes it globally for that app in all three locations. They are all just different ways to get to the same set of options.

Custom Ringtones per Contact

You can also set a custom ringtone/vibration pattern and text tone/vibration pattern for an individual contact from within Contacts. Find the specific person, edit the contact and select “Ringtone” or “Text Tone” to edit. Again, you can set vibrate to None or choose a pattern. While you can set the “text tone” ringer to None, you cannot do so for a phone ringtone. This will override the systemwide behavior for that specific contact only.

Focus Modes/Do Not Disturb

Note: “Do not disturb” was a feature in older versions of iOS. As of version 15, “do not disturb” is simply one of many possible Focus Modes, which can be renamed/deleted/edited just like any other focus mode.

You can override many of the previously mentioned settings via a focus mode. To configure a focus mode, go to Settings > Focus > [mode name]. However, be aware that you can only disable an alert/ringer/vibration. You cannot enable one which is disabled elsewhere (for example in the “Notification” settings). It is also important to recognize that a focus mode disables everything except what you specifically enable within that mode.

For example, my “Sleep” focus mode has “Allowed Notifications” set to “People > None allowed” and “Apps > None allowed”. Therefore, when my phone is in sleep mode, my phone will never ring/vibrate. If I wanted to allow phone calls, I would open “Apps” and select the “Phone” app. However, if I only wanted to allow calls from three people, I would open “People” and select those three people from my list of contacts. Note that under “People” you also have options to allow calls from “Favorites” or specific groups of people (from your Contact Groups). There are also options for “Everyone” or “All Contacts”. “Everyone” literally means every person who calls you, while “All Contacts” restricts the calls to only those from numbers in your list of Contacts.

Finally, their is the “Allow Repeated Calls” option, which, when enabled, allows a person to call a second time within three minutes to override the silenced ringer. Unless you have problems with people abusing this feature, I recommend always leaving that option on so that your loved ones can always get ahold of you in an emergency.

Silence Unknown Callers

Under Settings > Phone there is also the “Silence Unknown Callers” option. If this option is enabled, then regardless of how any other settings are configured, your phone will not ring when you receive a call from a number which is not listed in your contacts. This makes for an easy way to screen your calls. However, if you expect to receive important business calls from people not listed in your contacts, you will want to make sure this option is turned off.

Blocked Contacts

You can add callers to a global list of blocked callers from various places (for example from the list of recent calls). If a number is listed on that list, then your phone will never ring when you receive a call from that number. If you need to remove a number from that list (or otherwise edit the list) you can get to if via Settings > Phone > Blocked Contacts.


Note that alarms are not controlled by any of the settings mentioned here. They will still make noise regardless of any of these settings. You must control alarms from the clock app only (I don’t think you can disable them from Notifications). I simply mention them here for completeness.

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I remember CGP Grey complaining on Cortex that you can only remove apps from DND, not add them, meaning the only way you can achieve what you want is by excluding every other app except the Phone app.

Haven’t tried is myself so might be wrong!

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Holy cow, thanks for the detail. I’m going to have to dig deep and review this. I appreciate it!

Just stumbled upon this post. Great info - Thanks!

Struggling to find a solution for my specific issue, would be curious if you have an answer, or just know if it is even possible.

Basically, I’m a physician and i always keep my phone on “do not disturb” via the hardware button. So I never hear any sounds for notifications, only vibrations. The only contact that has a ringtone and is allowed to break through DND is my “call service” is paging me when I’m on call.

Basically, I want this to remain exactly as is, but I was trying to see if there is a focus mode where I could quickly change to a mode that would silence the “call service” contact and just have it vibrate. It has its own special vibration.

I like having the loud annoying ring so that I make sure I don’t miss any pages, but sometimes, when I’m on call on a weekend the phone will ring during very inappropriate times (weddings, funerals, movies etc). So I’d love to be able to quickly flip into a mode to silence that and then go back after the event.

Thanks in advance