The iPhone has a “silent” switch on the left side. This is a physical switch that mutes the phone ringer text message notifications, new mail notifications, calendar alarms, etc. That might convince you that with the switch in the “silent” position, you can safely use your iPhone in a place where noise-making is unacceptable.
Many applications, including Apple-made applications, simply ignore this switch, and will gladly send their noises to the external speaker, angering everyone on the plane, or waking your sleeping wife (this one actually happened to me). The only safe way to silence the iPhone is to enable the “silent” switch and plug in some headphones.
Here are the Apple applications that ignore the switch:
- Timer (Clock app)
- Alarm (Clock app)
- Texas Hold’em
Here are some of the third party applications that ignore the switch:
- At Bat (MLB)
- Tap Tap Revenge
- Phone Saber
- AOL Radio
I’m willing to let the Timer/Alarm functions in the Clock app slide as exceptions. Alarms (and timers) are alarms, and they’re meant for waking people up. You don’t want to miss a flight because your alarm didn’t go off. But why do the YouTube and iPod apps make noise? Sure, there may not be many uses for watching them without sound, but consider that unless you quickly yank your headphones out of the jack, the “play/pause” functionality can be accidentally tiggered as the contacts are bridged, and the iPod application will start blasting out music. And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Texas Hold’em app to be making noise with the “silent” switch enabled.
I’m torn as to the proper solution to this problem. After all, I don’t think it is even possible for Mac OS X applications to make noise while audio output is muted (unless they directly manipulated the setting). So why shouldn’t the switch disable external audio output at the OS level? The only problem with doing that is the Alarm/Timer functionality. Perhaps there should be two ways to send external audio: the normal way (which the OS governs, using the “silent” switch), and the “emergency” way, which ignores the switch. It should be clear the the “emergency” way is only to be used for alarm type things that would be noticeably neutered if they had to obey the switch.
What other applications ignore this switch? Have you been embarrassed by unexpected iPhone noises?