What is idle time on iPhone and how to turn it off?

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iPhone and iPad include several tools to help you create healthy usage habits. “Downtime” is one of the most powerful and least known of the group. We’ll explain why you should use it and how to remove it if it’s enabled.

What is idle time on iPhone?

“Downtime” was introduced with iOS 12 in 2018 and has been further improved in iOS and iPadOS 15. It’s part of Apple’s suite of tools that can limit notifications and block distractions, such as focus mode, time of screen and the limits of the application.

The downtime feature is kind of a combination of those other tools. Focus mode is great for limiting notifications and app limits can reduce app usage. Downtime accomplishes both. You decide who can contact you and which apps can be used.

The downtime feature is primarily designed to be used on a schedule. A common example would be enabling it at night to help you log off of your phone before bed and block notifications while you sleep. However, it can also be turned on and off on demand.

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How to use idle time on iPhone

Downtime is hidden in the “Screen Time” settings, and there are a few things you’ll need to set up to use it. First, open the “Settings” app from the home screen.

open the app "Setting".

Then go to “Screen Time”.

go to "screen time".

If Screen Time is disabled, you will first need to tap “Turn on Screen Time” and read the introduction screens.

Select "turn on screen time".

You’ll see “Idle Time” on the Screen Limits page, but we need to start at “Always Allowed.”

press "always allowed".

First, tap “Contacts” at the top of the screen.

Select "contacts".

Here you have two options: “Specific Contacts” and “All”. If you select “Specific Contacts”, you will be able to choose people from your contact list or add a new contact.

choose "Specific contacts" either "All".

Once you are done, go back to the previous page. This is where you will choose which apps you can use during downtime. Apps that are not selected will appear dimmed on the home screen and a message will say “You have reached your limit” if you try to open them.

Downtime home screen in an app.

Scroll through the list of apps and tap the plus button to allow an app to be used during idle time.

Select an app to allow.

Finally, we can go back to the Screen Time settings and select “Down Time”.

Select "Inactivity time".

To turn on downtime right away, tap “Turn on downtime until tomorrow.” Unfortunately, you can’t adjust how long it stays on manually.

Select "Activate downtime until tomorrow".

Alternatively, you can set a schedule for downtime. Turn on the switch for “Scheduled” and select the days and times for it to run.

Set the schedule.

That’s all there is to setting up and using downtime!

How to remove idle time on iPhone

The idle time setting is somewhat hidden, and there isn’t really a shortcut to quickly toggle it on and off. If it has been enabled, we’ll show you how to turn off downtime.

First, open the “Settings” app from the home screen.

open the app "Setting".

Then go to “Screen Time”.

go to "screen time".

Select “Idle Time”.

Select "Inactivity time".

If downtime was turned on manually, you’ll see an option to “Turn off downtime.” If it’s on during a scheduled time, it will read “Ignore idle time until time.” Both options will turn it off immediately.

touch "Turn off downtime".

That’s all about it. If you don’t want downtime to turn back on, make sure “Scheduled” is turned off.

deactivate "Programmed".

Downtime is one of the most powerful “digital wellbeing” tools you can use on an iPhone or iPad. It puts some pretty tight restrictions on what you can do. Of course, you are in control of those restrictions, but some limitations can make it easier to break bad habits.

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