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Silence on iPhone is ignored by many apps

Silence on iPhone is ignored by many apps

The iPhone has a “silent” switch on the left side. This is a physical switch that silences your phone’s ringer, text message notifications, email notifications, calendar alarms, etc. This could convince users that with the switch in the “silent” position you can safely use your iPhone in places where making noise is not acceptable.

But it’s not like that.

Many apps, including some from Apple, simply ignore the switch, and will happily send their sounds to the external speaker, upsetting everyone on the plane, or waking up your wife (this actually happened to me). The only way to silence iPhone is to turn on the “silent” switch and plug in a pair of headphones.

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Here are some Apple apps that ignore the switch.

Timer (Clock app)

Alarm (Clock app)



texas hold’em

Here are some apps from third-party developers that ignore the switch.

At Bat (MLB)

Tap Tap Revenge

Phone Saber



AOL Radio

I’m willing to pass up the timer and alarm functions as exceptions. Alarms (and timers) are alarms, and they’re supposed to wake people up. You don’t want to miss your flight because your alarm didn’t go off- But why are YouTube and iPod apps making noise? There’s probably no point in using them without sound, but keep in mind that unless you quickly plug in your headphones, the “play/pause” functionality could accidentally kick in as the contacts are active and start blaring. And there is no excuse in the world for the Texas Hold’em app to make noise in silent mode.

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I am undecided about the solution to this problem. After all, I don’t think it’s possible for Mac OS X applications to make noise when audio output is disabled. (Unless they have tampered with the option directly.) So why doesn’t the switch block audio at the OS level? The only problem with this is the alarm functionality.

Perhaps there should be two ways to access external audio: the regular mode governed by the operating system and the “emergency” mode, which ignores the switch. It should be clear that the “emergency” mode should only be used by alarm type applications that would be useless if they had to use the switch. What other apps ignore the switch? Have you ever been embarrassed by unexpected iPhone noises?

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Source: Mark Jaquith