Why iOS 6 Do Not Disturb is a failure

Why iOS 6 Do Not Disturb is a failure

Summary: Great idea. Horrible execution.

TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone

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

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  • So....

    so your trying to use a feature in a way it wasn't intended (blocking all unwanted calls), and are upset it doesn't work...

    I love the feature and think it works great. You have the manual on off option for times you want it, and then the timed option you can set up so it works automatically. Its been running fantastic for me, but when I want "Do Not Disturb" on, that means I really don't want to be disturbed and I'm not trying to use it as a telemarketer blocker.
    • I would agree, but

      Apple has already pulled at least one app from the App Store with this functionality. It appears that they don't want users to have this granular capability, so a very limited Do Not Disturb feature is all they are willing to give users. The feature could have been so much more than just the minimal control it currently provides.
      David Chernicoff
    • ISecond That Mr. Anonymous

      Way to use an app way beyond it's intent.
    • Blocker

      Well, I have the time block set on, but I REALLY would like to be able to respond to a telemarking call with a 'do not disturb' button so I wouldn't have to take call after call from spammers, and telemarketers. The trouble is that almost all companies want you to be at the mercy of these people. The telephone companies get money, the telemarketers get money, their employees get money, and the companies that hire them to market their merchandise, or scams, get money, and WE get the SHAFT. We need to insist that the ability to block by number be added to this feature!
      • Unless you have their number

        how are you going to block them. Sure, you can block every call from every number you don't have in your contact list but I am sure just like me you don't have every number in your contact list that you could potentially receive an important call from.
    • I like it and use it!

      This is one of my favorite features and to set up a new group is easy and FREE just go to icloud.com and edit away. I use this icloud site on desktop for my calender,reminders and contacts.
    • I suspect his goal was for it to be a failure

      Not only is he trying to use it as something it wasn't intended to be as you point out his other complaints about upgrading sound like hyperbole. First he complains about giving up better maps (surveys are actually showing people like Apple Maps better) yet he goes on to say he normally uses third part maps. So what was the point of even bringing it up other than to complain about something that doesn't really affect you and jump on the band wagon. His second complaint was does his 3rd generation iPad really need Siri. Your complaining about that? Don't like it don't use it and you will never know it's there. This article was a complete waste and I suspect it's sole purpose was click bait.
  • Do not disturb means just that - do not disturb.

    I have no problem with this feature. BTW, the "Do Not Disturb" menu icon is a quarter moon symbol implying evening or night use.

    I use this feature when I'm about to retire for the evening. The buzzes and the chimes from notifications cease and I get a good night sleep in a hotel.

    I understand your points, David. But to say this feature is an absolute fail is a bit harsh, IMO.
  • Android wins again...

    Albeit Android does not have this feature natively, it does however give its developers the freedom to create apps which do provide a DND feature. They can create apps with all the robustness and features customers are drawn towards, like auto-reply via SMS to incoming callers when DND is enabled or when certain people call in, whitelist capabilties, individual notification controls of email, phone, SMS, and MMS while in DND mode and various DND profiles depending on the time of day.
    • Patrickg

      Thanks for the Android ad. We will put it on our list with the other telemarketers.
      • APIs

        You're missing the point, @rphunter42. There are lots of pieces of functionality which are not exposed to developers in iOS. With an Open Source development model, a foresighted app developer has a better chance to implement and provide hooks that his app might use in the future which enable arbitrary apps to add more useful functionality. In iOS, new APIs have sprung up.

        For example, iOS 5.x adds features allowing apps other than Music to display album art in the lock screen making things like Amazon's Cloud Player viable. But they lacked the foresight to allow the user to choose to use a music app other than Music as the default music app, so the user must unlock the device and manually launch the Cloud Player instead of just hitting the "play" button in the lock screen to listen to his music.

        This whole "do not disturb isn't what I want" problem suggests that many users want many different things when it comes to controlling notifications. I want a feature to disable all notification sounds when I'm in class. I should be able to add an event to my calendar and mark it as "do not disturb" or even just tag it with a custom tag. When any notification comes through during such an event, even if my device is unlocked, the notification sound should be muted. This problem could be solved if iOS had an API allowing apps to register themselves in some sort of "notification suppression" hook. Then anyone could write an app to fulfill their own "do not disturb" needs, be it based on geofencing, time of day or night, or some test of the notification's content such as the caller's number. The annoying thing about core features, such as the built-in Music app, the alarm from the Clock app, and Do Not Disturb, is that they rely on internal hooks which are not exposed to other apps for overriding/customization. Unless if we get more hooks, we'll only be able to make light sleepers happy (I have never woken up in the middle of the night to a notification... ever).
  • Call Blocker

    on my 9850 works like a charm. You should see if there is a comparable app for the iPhone. Though, judging by a previous post, it seems Apple has eliminated them.
    Fuhrer D
  • It's "Do not disturb" not "Block spam calls".

    In your "twenty years writing about technology" you'd think you might have learned to not make summary judgement about something based on a single instance of it not working for one person (ie. you).

    Rather than declare DND in iOS6 a failure, why don't you try being objective and review it based on what it was actually supposed to do, namely to stop users being disturbed by phone calls between two set times (usually at night), whilst allowing urgent calls from friends & family through.

    For me, this feature is one of the true highlights of iOS6.
    • Except what you describe

      is not the default behavior. You have to configure it to work that way. And that still doesn't address the text message issue.

      Why are you willing to accept such a limited option when it would have been simple for Apple to make it a more complete, and useful, solution?
      David Chernicoff
      • Call a spade a spade

        Your readers see through your distortions.

        You want more features, say so.
  • HTC One X blocks calls

    Not sure if its HTC Sense, AT&T or a combination but my One X can block phone numbers. Long press on a number and select "Block" and the number is blocked.
    • Blocker

      Nice feature, but I suspect most readers of this discussion don't HAVE that phone, so your suggestion isn't too useful.
    • Yeah, me too...

      It's probably HTC's Sense because my HTC rezound can also block calls and I'm on Verizon.
    • All Samsung phones do that too!

      Almost all Android devices have this ability through different skins. I was surprised that Apple (up till ios6) did not. I also agree that having to add users to a list so you can allow them through the call blocking is stupid.
      I just wish that blocking a call, also blocked their ability to leave a voice mail msg! Now that would be a kool feature!
      Pitting IOS to Android is a silly undertaking, as they are as different as water and oil. One is open and the other is closed. Can you guess which is which?
      • RE: Adding to a list is stupid

        "I also agree that having to add users to a list so you can allow them through the call blocking is stupid."
        How is this stupid when the sole purpose of this is to block all but what you consider the most important or emergency calls? What is the point of using this feature if you let everyone through? If like David you are trying to use it for a purpose it was not designed for then that is your failure not that of the device or OS.