Why is it impossible to completely mute the iPhone?

I use my iPhone in bed a lot. In the predawn dark, I scroll through Twitter to find out what happened while I was asleep. And every night, I read until my eyelids grow heavy. These cherished rituals bookend each day. I’m loathe to give them up, even if they do undermine my sleep.

But what about my wife’s sleep? I hate the thought that my bedtime habits might sabotage her rest. My iPhone’s LED-lit screen casts bright, bluish light into our otherwise pitch-black room. To minimize the impact, I dial down the brightness to zero, block the offending light with my body, and avoid apps that lack an eye-friendly “night mode.”

Noisy videos can also threaten my wife’s slumber. Frequently during my nighttime browsing, I’ll stumble across a clip that I want to watch. I can’t don headphones, since retrieving them would create a racket (Click. Tap-tap-tap. Draaaaag).

Instead, I resolve to watch the video with no sound. After all, many short snippets—say, a funny slapstick clip or a sports highlight—don’t need audio to be appreciated.

You’d think that muting my iPhone via the side-toggle would prevent the device’s speaker from making noise. Only it doesn’t. This mute switch applies only to the phone’s ringer and app notifications. Even when muted, the phone plays back media at full volume.

The next option, logically, would be to use the phone’s volume rocker buttons before hitting ‘play.’ That doesn’t work, either; by default, volume up / down applies only to the phone ringer—i.e., again, not to media playback.

So until the audio actually starts playing, I can’t tell how loud it will be. And I can’t change the volume until playback starts, either. All too often, I’ll tap ‘play’, and a video starts blaring. I desperately scramble to press ‘volume down’ until the damned thing finally silences. Meanwhile, my wife rolls over and groans at my stupidity.

Why can’t the iPhone’s “mute switch” act more “mutey”? When I silence my phone, I want it to shut up! No ringer, no media playback, and no notifications.[1]

UPDATE: Kudos to Joel Ross, who points out that the volume slider in Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen) applies only to media playback.

  1. Maybe user alarms deserve an exception. No one wants to obsess over whether she detoggled the mute switch—remember the nightly dance with old school alarm clocks? Then again, even if the alarm didn’t sound, the iPhone’s vibrator is loud enough to wake the dead.  ↩