On cell phones, “silent” mode, and alarms
A story about the iPhone’s mute switch not turning off the alarm sound has somehow become big news, with both John Gruber and Andy Ihnatko weighing in on a debate about exactly what the mute switch should (or shouldn’t) do.
The furore has baffled me, because as far as I can remember, this isn’t even vaguely new.
For example, consider the manual for my beloved Sony-Ericsson T68i:
Even if you have set your phone to silent, the alarm and timer signals ring.
This was common to most or all Ericsson and Sony-Ericsson phones of that era.
It’s also true of Nokia. In fact, as a few people reminded me on Twitter, almost all (or all?) old Nokia phones would even sound the alarm if the phone was switched entirely off. From the Nokia 3120 Classic manual, for example:
To use any features in this device, other than the alarm clock, the device must be switched on.
So why are we now surprised that the iPhone works the same way? Consider this scenario: the iPhone mute switch does, as Ihnatko wants, silence everything. I want to use it as an alarm clock with the phone on charge on my bedside table (a not-uncommon desire, I believe). I’ve done this with every cell phone I’ve had, back to 2000 or so.
So: if Ihnatko has his way, I cannot mute the phone or my alarm will not sound. I am forced to leave the phone’s sound on and be woken up multiple times a night by beeps and gurgles as I receive Twitter messages or spam emails and what have you. That’s clearly not what I want, and as it’s not how any cell phone I’ve ever used has behaved, it’s also not what I expect.
I’d say Apple has it just right in the current implementation.