Should the iPhone Mute Switch Really Mute Everything?

By , Jan 18, 2012

Right now it seems everyone who’s ever laid eyes on an iPhone is in the middle of a giant discussion about the same thing, and it’s showing no sign of abating.

The discussion of which I speak is, predictably, the one revolving around the behavior of the infamous mute switch on Apple’s iPhone. Namely: should it mute everything, or should certain alerts still sound as normal?

This discussion recently came to the fore after one unfortunate fellow found himself the center of attention during a music event in which his iPhone decided to cheerfully sound an alarm, despite the handset being supposedly muted. The result? The whole performance was halted. Oops…

So now here we are, with everyone seemingly having an opinion on whether that little metallic mute switch should mute every conceivable sound the iPhone could make, or whether the handset should still be allowed to sound alarms and other similar auditory alerts. Which side of the fence you fall on will very much depend on how you currently use that all-important switch.

Seeing as you asked – you did, right? – here’s how I use it.

My iPhone spends the vast majority of its life in silent mode. That is, the mute switch is set to the “keep quiet you little slab of loveliness, you” position. This is because I don’t want the thing to make a noise during work hours, but I do want a vibration alert so I know what is going on when the iPhone is in my pocket. It’s a pretty standard use case, I would imagine.

Where I differ slightly is that I never really flick that switch. If I want to play a game, for example, I may switch mute off, but generally it is always told to keep quiet.

At the moment that means that all notifications, be they calls, push or SMS, will result in a vibration, rather than a noise. That’s great, and I’m happy. What it also means is that I can still watch videos and play some games – developers, can we have this standardized please? – without having to worry about flicking the mute switch and then forgetting to flick it back. The iPhone can live in a constant state of being mute.

This also means that my alarms will continue to sound. I use my iPhone as an alarm in the morning, and I obviously want it to wake me up. With the handset at the side of me that alarm does its job, while all other notifications overnight result in a vibration that doesn’t wake me up.

Now, if as some would like, that mute switch actually stopped all noise from the handset, then I’d be in trouble.

Firstly I’d be constantly flicking that mute switch, and that’s assuming I remembered. I’d run the risk of it going off when it shouldn’t, which could be embarrassing.

Worse for me, I would need to keep my iPhone off the mute setting overnight, meaning that each email, each tweet, each Game Center notification would result in a sound. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m not going to sit here and say that one way is right, or that one way is wrong like some people will. What I will do is reiterate what I said at the very beginning of this post. Which behavior you want will depend on how you currently use your iPhone and whether that fits the bill for you, or not.

As things are, I would be upset should Apple change how my mute switch behaves, which leads us to the fix that some are getting behind and that is an array of options. That may be the only real fix if Apple is to appease everyone, but we all know that isn’t the Apple way. That said, we all remember the rotation lock/mute switch debacle we had with the iPad, don’t we?

How do you use the iPhone’s mute switch, and how would you like it to act?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001564279191 David Morones

    Everywhere- I don’t have it on.
    In class- I switch it on

  • Anonymous

    It should mute my girlfriend.

    • http://www.twitter.com/titogeorgies Tito Georgie

      Indeed. Mine also.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Angel-YoDuh-Castillo/674406718 Angel YoDuh Castillo

      True story

  • Anonymous

    “Right now it seems everyone who’s ever laid eyes on an iPhone is in the middle of a giant discussion about the same thing, and it’s showing no sign of abating.”

  • http://twitter.com/markjharvey Mark Justin Harvey

    this is a simple firmware update that apple could do if they didn’t have their buttholes clenched so tight…it’s also just a simple cydia tweak..

  • http://twitter.com/geekinit geekinit

    I wish YouTube videos wouldn’t spawn with audio when phone is muted.. they could even just load paused with play button available to allow me to turn down the volume.. otherwise I’m happy with the mute switch.

    Is it possible to make the new comment system work on iPhone? I miss the old one where I could actually use my phone to comment!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shu-Tse/100003031122741 Shu Tse

      It works just fine for me, that is if i use safari. Atomic webbrowser doesn’t seem to play nice with the facebook login

  • http://twitter.com/judas_apps Juan Serrano

    This looks like the perfect oportunity for a Cydia tweak. It will be called CustoMute and will allow you to set how the switch works.

  • http://twitter.com/BouchardAnthony Anthony Bouchard

    It should mute everything. It’s a safety precaution to make sure no sound is emitted. The most it should do is vibrate until I’m ready to hear noise again.

  • Anonymous

    It is fine as it is. Just because a moron forgot to turn the alarm off in a concert hall doesn’t mean Apple has to change its firmware.This discussion is silly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shu-Tse/100003031122741 Shu Tse

      The whole ideal of apple isn’t that the user has to be smart to operate the iphone. It is all about convenience. And in most situations where you have to be silent, it’s unconvenient if you also have to switch of all your alarms. Some people use alarms more heavily then others. I have a few repeating ones myselfe and I don’t feel like I should do what the mute button should.

    • Jas God

      100% agree.

    • http://twitter.com/nickurey Nickurey Huy Nguyen

      It’s working well as other cell phones in the market. Yes “Silent mode” means NO SOUND at all except for the alarm, even when the phone is turned off the alarm should still be activated. It’s called standard, people.
      The whole post just doesnt make any sense, silly.

    • Chaotic Buddhist

      You see, moron, the problem is he HAD it muted. The alarm sounded anyway. ON MUTE.

      it’s not a mute switch. Read the story then comment. Idiot.

      • Anonymous

        Lololol… Who is getting pissed off and insults someone, who you don’t even know, because of a statement in a public forum? Am I the idiot? Am I the moron? Are you sure? Pal, get a LIFE!

  • http://twitter.com/tech_plus Cezar

    Yes yes yes!!! One mute to rule them all! Except the alarm… sorry for that guy but I like it as it is

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shu-Tse/100003031122741 Shu Tse

    I only use the mute switch if I actually do want complete silence, so I would like a change in that. For now I use switcherringer to manage both my normal volume aswel as my ringervolume.

  • Anonymous

    Is it too hard for apple to let users decide how their phones should behave?. I switched from a blackberry to an iPhone and one of the things I miss from the blackberry is to customize your profiles. Yes, there must be an jailbroken app to solve this problem but it should be an option from stock

  • Anonymous

    There should be a jailbreak tweak that mutes both the ringer, all alerts, and media volume when the switch is on so that we don’t have to do it manually. Agreed?

    • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

      I’ll make this tweak right now.

      Ad@m

      • Anonymous

        Awesome dude. Are you gonna release it on Cydia? If so, under what name? I’ll be checking for it! Ever since I got my iPhone a year ago I’ve always wished that the mute switch muted EVERYTHING (ringer and media sounds all the way down as well as the standard mute feature). Thanks so much!

      • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

        You’re welcome :) It’ll be in Cydia as “AlertNuke.”

        Ad@m

      • Anonymous

        Which repository are you uploading it to?

      • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

        ModMyi

        Ad@m

      • Anonymous

        I never saw it uploaded to the repo and searching in cydia doesn’t give any results. Have you added it yet?

      • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

        Not yet, but I’ll try to get it in by tomorrow.

        Ad@m

  • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

    The switch name is very misleading, it should be renamed “silent switch” or similar. Apple should also add a setting to choose what the switch mutes: sounds or everything.

    Ad@m

    • J D

      Actually it is called “ring/silent switch” in the iPhone manual.

      • http://adamscode.sourceforge.net Adam D

        Aha, didn’t know that. You see, I don’t read manuals…

        Ad@m

  • http://twitter.com/BruceRTL Bruce Donaldson

    Here is a very simple solution. First off, make the mute truly mute EVERYTHING. Then add to each item in the notification center, a “Quiet” time. You probably would not set a “quiet” time for your alarm clock, but for email notifications you might set it to be quiet between the hours of 10PM and 7AM. Text alerts could be quiet between 9PM and 9AM. Now we can turn the mute on to truly make the phone quiet. Leave the mute off for the “Quiet” times to be active.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Chambers/1371602241 Nick Chambers

      This times a thousand. I have wanted this forever. If I am in a situation where I need my phone muted for 2 hours (movie) please give me that option. I don’t want to have to remember to unmute it later. I miss calls because of this way too often.

  • Chaotic Buddhist

    Mute should be fucking mute. Just last week my wife’s phone, on mute, sounded an alarm she had forgotten she set, so in the dark theatre she had to dig into her purse, find the phone and acknowledge the alarm. On mute. Did I mention the fucking thing was on mute while it was making all the noise? MUTE should be fucking MUTE.

  • Dan

    yeah I agree it should mut everything, can be really embarassing during an office meeting. (happened to me in the past)

  • http://twitter.com/damianvines damianvines

    I don’t mind the way the iPhone mute switch works for the most part. What really pisses me off and is ridiculous, is that when you’re unmuted, like during the day when you need to hear your phone and notifications, and you’re on a phone call you still hear all the notification sounds going off in your ear when you’re trying to listen to someone, this is just assinine! Why can’t the phone automatically mute or vibrate those sounds while you’re on a phone call!

  • O. Bakerman

    I say, keep it the way it is and throw in another option to make the switch mute everything for those who frequently visit concerts / opera with alarms set. :)

    I also mute my device constantly and use it as an alarm clock in the morning. An option to mute everything would be great so that I can completely mute it as soon as I enter a cinema etc.

    Imagine there would be an option to mute everything for XX minutes… oh, I see another cydia tweak coming!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1294167832 Jhonneri Munoz

    I would want a feature in the settings that would allows me to decide which would sound and would not in a update

  • Anonymous

    I use my mute switch the same way. What I do wish is that the mute switch was a global suppression of any sound APIs with a customizable white list. Things to include would be: Alarm app and Find my iPhone

  • http://twitter.com/lilbitbrit Zach Brogan

    I prefer to change the function of the switch to orientation lock rather than mute as I often accidentally switch it in my pocket. (I use ringerswitchtool from cydia)

    Mute can be toggled via SBSettings, or the task switcher.

  • J D

    I think they should add a second switch that mutes everything. They could put it right next to the current one.

    • http://twitter.com/danhixon Dan Hixon

      My buddy created a device for it. Not as good as a built-in switch would be but it looks nice. It’s called mutator – you’ll be able to find it on kickstarter.

  • Mirwan Ashran

    i think this is where a mute icon on the statusbar comes in handy.. ppl won’t forget that the fone is in mute because ppl look at the status bar (ppl won’t look at the mute switch as often as the status bar)..

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.collins.351104 Brian Collins

    There can’t just not be a mute! That’s one of the primary functionalities of any device that makes sound. Well, I guess a microwave is an exception, but I think that should have a mute button too.