Mail's VIP — short for Very Important Person — feature is great. It lets you "star" the people most important to you, thus enabling sound, vibration, and Lock screen notifications solely for them. It's a terrific way to make sure you're alerted when you get email that matters, yet avoid being interrupted when it doesn't. It's so good that it's a pity it's currently limited to just the Mail app. But maybe iOS 10 could change that?
Imagine a VIP setting that existed on the system-level, as a part of Contacts far beyond Mail. That way, you could make sure those same VIPs get priority notification status in Messages and conceivably Twitter, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, LINE, and any and every other service capable of tying into it.
The line between notification and interruption is fuzzy. To paraphrase a line from The Incredibles, when everything is special, nothing is. When everything gets your attention, you lose the ability to focus.
VIP, yeah you get through to me
Right now, my iPhone and iPad only beep or buzz when a VIP Mail comes in. That way, I can be reasonably certain that if they do beep or buzz, it's because something really does need my attention, and in short order. Messages, in contrast, has no VIP setting, making notifications all or nothing. And since my friends, family, and and colleagues use iMessage and SMS to contact me when things are urgent or they need to make sure I see something, I can't turn those notifications off — it has to default to all. And that includes the carrier offers, fake cruise contests, and all the other spam that comes in from time to time.
Likewise Twitter, Messenger, Snapchat, Skype, et al.
If the VIP feature was system-wide, once you set a contact as a VIP, they could contact you using any method available to them and you'd be able to see their message without also having to tune into the notifications firehose.
VIP could also fold in Phone Favorites, which are currently a separate list that, unlike VIP, doesn't sync with iCloud. Conversely, VIP could be made capable of punching through Do Not Disturb, the way Favorites does. That way, if you choose to enable it, you won't miss critical calls or critical messages.
Watch it scale
All of this is even more important on Apple Watch, of course, where the lack of granularity in notifications beyond Mail VIP makes some apps unmanageable.
Overall, VIP moving from a Mail feature to a system-level based in Contacts available in all apps feels like not only a more functional solution, but a more consistent one. And that's why I'd love to see it in iOS 10.
I've filed this as a feature request with Apple's bug reporter: rdar://19198048. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.