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Dear Aunt TUAW: How do I silence my iPhone?


Dear Aunt TUAW,

There is an article in the WSJ about how an iPhone disrupted a performance of the New York Philharmonic. I have experienced the same problem where it is impossible to turn the alarm off once it goes on.

If you set up a calendar alert and change your reminder sounds with the Alarm sound, when the alarm goes off there is no way to silence it. If you turn the phone to silence mode, it still makes noise. If you close the event, it still makes noise. I believe the only way to shut off the sound is to completely turn off the device.

This has been so annoying that I stopped using iPhone's calendar reminder alerts. This article reminded me of the problem. Can you explain how this all works?

Your loving nephew,


Dear Brian,

iPhone alarms aren't affected by any of the normal system volume settings. This ensures that you'll still be woken up in the morning, a major design touch point for iPhone users who'd prefer to get to work on time. In fact, the iPhone supports numerous independent volume controls.

For example, the mute toggle on the side of the phone controls the ringer without affecting audio playback. The iPod functions built into the unit have independent speaker and headphone levels. Siri audio has its own volume levels as well -- plus lowering Siri speaker audio doesn't change the volume for when you pick up the phone to your ear.

Apple designed these multiple controls to work in the most flexible yet reliable ways possible, ensuring that the phone responds as the user expects it to. A single system-wide volume setting wouldn't be able to handle these day-to-day nuances.

If you mute your phone for the movie theater at night, you should still be able to wake up the next morning. If you lower the speaker volume for your music, it shouldn't keep you from using Siri to call hands-free. Please note that adding headphones does not re-route alarm audio.

That means if you take your phone into a quiet event -- a meeting, concert, or other -- you should probably power off the device completely for the duration. Press the sleep/wake button for about 5 seconds, and then slide to power down.

If this is not possible, you'll want to set the ringer to mute, set the system audio to zero, launch Siri and lower the volume to zero, disable all alarms, and review the Settings > Notifications items in the Notification Center to switch off audio. There's probably some items Auntie is missing here, but she trusts her nieces and nephews will refine this list in the comments.

In the end, Auntie thinks Apple did a great job in designing the various iPhone audio systems. For those rare occasions where you really need to bypass these design choices, powering the iPhone down will keep it from embarrassing faux pas.


Auntie T.

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