Comparison: silencing smartphones

Comparison: silencing smartphones

Summary: I'm not a big iPhone fan, but there's one thing it has basically right: a physical switch to go totally mute. Android is not as good and Windows Phone stinks at it.

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  • Shut that phone up!

    Being polite with a smartphone can be tricky. I have found that knowing when to have the ringer on and how loud to set it is one of the trickiest things about owning a phone.

    Some phones — actually, it's a matter of mobile operating systems — give the user more and better options.

    The OS should make it easy to make settings in an unrushed manner, but it should also be easy to silence your phone in a hurry. But it isn't always.

  • iOS

    Why doesn't everyone do it the way Apple does it? I had an iPhone 4S for a long time, but let it go this past Spring. There's exactly one thing I miss about it: The iPhone has a physical switch to silence the phone. Well, mostly. The button silences things like the phone ringer and notifications, which would make sounds without you initiating anything. Music, game sounds and the like still work. There's one exception: Alarms, which will still sound off if the device is "silent".

    The Apple silent switch is so straightforward you don't even have to look at it. You can reach into your pocket and change the switch without taking the phone out. It's so obviously the right way to do it that I wonder whether there's a patent involved.

    iOS also has a simple volume interface in the control panel, but here simplicity may not be a virtue. One volume level is not flexible enough. If I were designing these things I would make each app, including alarms, silenceable by the silent switch through a configuration setting. But Apple biases iOS more towards simplicity than towards power.

    One last issue with the Apple switch is that a case may easily make it inaccessible. The Otterbox, for example, puts it behind a flap that takes some fingernail power to open.

Topics: Mobile OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone

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43 comments
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  • Windows Phone Flip to Silence...

    "There is some interesting innovation in specific Windows Phones. The Nokia 925, for instance, can be set to ring silently when the user puts the screen face down."

    This works on all Lumia phones running the latest update for Windows Phone 8. It is not just the Lumia 925.

    The 8.1 update will have the ability to adjust the volume for different apps.
    toph36
    • Flip to Silence

      Great feature from Nokia, I remember this from Symbian (on my Nokia E52), and this function have also all Lumia handset with WP7 (and others WP7 phones with custom ROMs).
      Mr.SV
    • So, how do I put the screen face down

      In my pocket?
      baggins_z
      • Since we know you are a troll

        and don't have a Windows Phone, quit being an ass.
        hoppmang
        • May be a Troll...

          ...but it's a legitimate question.
          The feature means you have to park and/or carry it around face down for it to work. Not workable in enough situations for me.
          And I am not generally considered a Troll. At least I hope not. Ciao.
          PreachJohn
    • Flip to silence

      It came with the Amber update for pre-1020 phones.
      a hobbit
  • I think you've missed something...

    All the Android phones I've used to date also have a physical silence button... it's called the volume button, and I think it's implemented perfectly in Android.

    The volume up & down gives me several levels of phone volume (6 levels on my Nexus 5). Going below the lowest volume level changes it to vibrate only, and the next level down is completely silent.

    This seems to be an obvious way to have graduated control over the volume of the device, and there's always the software settings for individual sounds.

    If I want my phone on silent, whether it's in my pocket or not, I just hold the volume down for a second or two until it vibrates then, if I want vibration off as well, I give it one more press.

    Simple, easy & intuitive.
    Chooky78
    • And then you have to remember

      What volume level you had it at before that you liked when you unsilence the phone. A mute switch is a better implementation.
      baggins_z
      • That's what Shush is for

        Turn the ringer off, a pop-up asks how long to leave it silenced, and the ringer will be restored in that set time.
        fechhelm
    • Windows Phone

      does the same. Hold down the volume key and it will go to vibrate.
      roteague
    • Motorola

      My Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX has two options.

      First, on the lock screen there's a separate slider to set the phone to either mute or vibrate. Hit the power button as though you're going to unlock it and slide the control to either mute or vibrate - (in the Settings is where you change the mute or vibrate). Same thing back to sound to return it to normal.

      Second, and more impressive, is SmartActions. I have a SmartAction set so that when I am at work (determined by GPS) the ringer for the phone is turned down to 10%. I chose the 10%, but you can choose to completely silence the phone ringer. I don't choose to change the volume on notifications, but I could do that as well. The nice thing is that I don't have to remember to do anything. When I get to work, the phone is muted; when I leave work it's back to normal. And this is just one of many SmartActions.

      Unfortunately, SmartActions is only available on Motorola devices. However, you can use Mute By Location or Llama to do about the same thing.
      benched42
  • Thank you!

    I had a nomia 620 for 4 months this summer and i thought i was going mad! It's such a horrendous tool of a system for stuff like that!

    At first i found wibdows 8 innovative and different - the anti apple, but little pains like this drove me back to ios tablet, android phone.

    The apple system is good, but it's often bugged me that i have to lowwer the volume on my ipad as well as mute it incase i accidentally click a libk or whatever - on android and ios i would like a totally mute setting to be available easily.

    My motorolla could sure use a sounds off key like motorolas of old thsts for sure
    MarknWill
  • Hmmmm

    On all of my Androids, I just press and hold the volume (down) button.

    Can do that without looking at it, it's foolproof.
    5hagg1
    • But then...

      you have to struggle to remember the volume level you had it at before you silenced it!!

      Too difficult for some, it seems... :-P
      Chooky78
      • nope

        You just need to hold the vol down until it vibrates, then press down once more.

        Why you need to remember something the you can just hold all the way down for a few 2-3 seconds is beyond me.
        Samic
        • Restoring to the previous volume

          Is what he is talking about. Yes, it's simple to set it to vibrate/off, but not as easy to restore.
          aep528
          • Is everyone that lazy or stupid they can't remember their volume level!

            Just press the vol up key and scroll 2-4 up and you are at a medium ring level. Go up or down again to reset it...takes 1 second, and if you can't remember your volume you have many other issues far worse than the reset process.
            bttlk
      • It's a PITA

        and you know it. You're just making excuses because your phone doesn't have a mute switch. You can hold the volume down on an iPhone to mute it, too. The mute switch is a more elegant solution. And you know it.
        baggins_z
    • Screen Lock

      That doesn't work on my S4 when the screen is locked. I first have to unlock the screen. Is is the same on the iPhone, or can you accidentally turn off the ringer by inadvertently pressing the mute button in your pocket?
      DJL64
    • that's just the ringer

      If you do that you'll still get sound for notifications and alarms. To shut notification sounds you have to go into settings, etc. Possibly after unlocking the phone
      larry@...