Thoughts on the Mute Switch

So there’s been some blog chatter this week about the mute switch on the iPhone. Of course it’s not really called a mute switch, and it doesn’t really “mute” the phone. It’s really just a signal to the OS that the user would like less sounds.

I fall firmly on the “the mute switch should really mute the phone” side of the fence, at least optionally.

If I’m in a location where I’m expecting my phone to be silent out of respect for something (like, in a movie, at a live performance, or at a funeral) then even if I have an alarm configured for that time, I don’t want it to go off. It’s going to embarrass me if it goes off. And yes, I even include the “Find My iPhone” sound in the list of sounds I don’t want my phone playing in these situations. There are some times when I want to know that my muted phone really isn’t going to make a sound.

But the difference is I don’t expect the phone to stay that way.

John Gruber mentioned that when he mutes his phone while in a movie, he almost never remembers to unmute it. That’s a common problem, but it’s not a hard one to solve.

There was a feature on an old phone I had, that would let you mute the phone for a period of time. “Mute for 2 hours”, for example. When you think about it, mute is almost always situational. You want your phone muted for a while, and usually you know how long. This would do away with the problem of “I muted my phone for a movie but then I missed my alarm clock the next morning because my phone was still muted”.

Better yet, make the phone muting part of a meeting setting. When I put the appointment in my calendar to go to a movie for 2 hours on Thursday, I’d like to set the phone to mute right there. That way there’s no chance I’ll forget to mute it, and no chance I’ll forget to unmute it.

This seems like an obvious feature but I’ve never seen any phone support it.