On the Behavior of the iPhone Mute Switch

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On the Behaviour of the iPhone Mute Switch – Daring Fireball

Cripes, is there intelligent life out there? It’s a frickin ‘mute’ switch, not a ‘mute somethings’ switch. It mutes. If you want exceptions to that behaviour, the app in question should request explicit consent, either each and every time, or as an app wide setting. Much like location services do.

This is a design failure on the part of Apple, and they should be sending free tickets to every audience member who was rightly pissed off at the failure of the product. I hope the guy returns his phone, or his company does, with a note to such effect, then someone may actually wake up and realise who is meant to be in control of the technology at their disposal.

UPDATE – Actually, I’ll take some of that back. But it’s a confusing situation which Apple would do well to make clearer. On Apple’s tech specs page for the iPhone 4S they label the switch as ‘ringer/silent’ and not ‘mute’ (on the iPad, the switch is labelled ‘mute’ because there is no ringer). Also there is a different icon overlay shown when it’s used compared to the volume up/down buttons, which implies it is switching off the phone ringer. But there is no notification of impending calendar alerts. The notification screen shows upcoming events, but not if there is an alarm associated (let alone when it is)

So the upshot of this is, if you are going to a concert or other ‘do not disturb’ event, you need to both toggle the ringer/silent switch AND turn down the volume. Of course, you will then miss any reminders oro ther notifications, as they don’t necessarily have vibrate associated with them (alarms do).

It’s confusing because Apple has tried to distinguish between rings, alarms, alerts and notifications, when the users perception of the ringer switch is actually to mute the device (in which case most attention seeking alerts should the use vibrate as the way to bring attention to the device). Mind you, I know I’ve switched off certain alerts because when you are sleeping you don’t need the device buzzing on your bedside table just because you have a Facebook alert.

This is a prime example of how the utility of the device fails to cope with the intricacies of the human requirement for the device. It needs a thorough rethink – either provide sufficient visibility of how the device will operate from one mode to the next – or just remove the functionality because it’s fundamentally broken.




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