Why iOS 6 Do Not Disturb is a failure

Summary:Great idea. Horrible execution.

I have to admit that I was really looking forward to the “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS 6. So much so that it was one of the primary reasons I decided to upgrade my various devices.  Not that I was looking forward to giving up decent mapping on my iPhones 4 and 4S (though I use a third-party navigation app most of the time) or that my 3rd generation iPad really needed to have Siri, but getting a way to handle the flood of spoofed numbers and telemarketers that have gotten ahold of my primary mobile number is something worth upgrading for.

In my case, that phone number is one of the 10’s of thousands of numbers that seems to get an unlikely amount of phone call spam. Be it from auto-dialers or vendors who have sold that information, being on the Do Not Call list has meant little. Some days there are dozens of calls, starting at 8 AM in the morning; answering them usually gets a recorded message of some sort or no response at all. Searching for the offending numbers on the web usually brings up pages of hits about telemarketers or automated spam phone calls. It’s gotten to the point where I only answer calls from people I know or numbers I recognize.  Otherwise everybody goes to voicemail.

From the early announcements it seemed like Do Not Disturb would solve this problem for me, at least as much as it can be solved from the consumer side. But the reality is that the feature is actually pretty useless due to the way that it was implemented unless all you want it for is to turn off notification while you are taking a nap or at the theatre, or some other short-term situation where actually turning of your phone isn’t what you want to do.

The first issue is that turning the feature on is universal; enable it manually and your phone stops making noise when contacted. To exempt existing contacts from the block, you need to add them to your Favorites list. This means that Favorites is no longer just those numbers you want to have quickly available, it’s now a list of those numbers permitted to ring through. So your short list of frequently called people is now everybody from your mother to your dentist.

And it’s possible that you now even have multiple entries in your Favorites list for many of your contacts since the exemption is on a number by number basis and if a contact has multiple phone numbers you have to favorite each individual number, rather than just a contact name. So your Favorites list grows even more cluttered. Which sort of defeats the purpose of having a Favorites list in the first place.

Yes, you can sort of get around that by creating contact groups in your favorites by either integrating all your contact information with your desktop computer and Microsoft Outlook or by purchasing third-party apps that allow the creation of these groups, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to exempt a phone number in your Contacts from the Do Not Disturb feature. How about a checkbox in Contact information that allows you to decide on a contact by contact basis if they can get through?

But even if you work out an easy method for allowing certain calls through there is still one glaring omission (at least on my iPhone 4 and 4S). Once you enable Do Not Disturb, even people on your Favorites list don’t generate a notification alert when they send you a text message. Given the text-centric usage of modern phones, this should not be the way that the feature works. 

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone

About

With more than 20 years of published writings about technology, as well as industry stints as everything from a database developer to CTO, David Chernicoff has earned the term "veteran" in the technology world. Currently the principal of an independent consulting business and an active freelance writer, David has most recently been a Seni... Full Bio

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