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How to temporarily mute notifications on iOS

Lex Friedman | Jan. 18, 2013
On Tuesday, I shared my frustration with iOS 6's lack of a systemwide mute switch for notifications that silences such alerts even when your iOS device is in use. As I complained about then, I find it annoying when incoming notifications interrupt streaming video or turn-by-turn directions, and Do Not Disturb is no help in those situations. I don't want to disable those notifications entirely; I just want to silence them when I'm using certain apps.

On Tuesday, I shared my frustration with iOS 6's lack of a systemwide mute switch for notifications that silences such alerts even when your iOS device is in use. As I complained about then, I find it annoying when incoming notifications interrupt streaming video or turn-by-turn directions, and Do Not Disturb is no help in those situations. I don't want to disable those notifications entirely; I just want to silence them when I'm using certain apps.

Since then, I've discovered two workarounds. To be clear, neither of these workarounds is ideal or resolves all the concerns I laid out in my original piece. At the same time, they're distinctly better than nothing.

Oh, and if you're thinking that the answer is Airplane Mode, note that--as I mentioned in the original piece--I'm specifically looking to silence incoming notifications when my iOS device still needs an active connection to the Internet.

The mute switch

One incomplete solution that I neglected to mention is iOS's mute switch. On the iPhone, that's the switch that shuts off your ringer. On the iPad, it might be the hardware switch--but that depends on your preference in Settings > General > Hardware switch; that switch can also work as an orientation lock that prevents your iPad's screen from rotating (ideal for if you're using the tablet while, say, lying down).

(If your hardware switch controls orientation and not mute, you instead mute the iPad by double-pressing the Home button, swiping on the multitasking bar from left to right, and then tapping the Mute icon at the left-hand side.)

So a huge benefit of the hardware mute switch is that it will silence the sound of incoming alerts. Normally, such audio notifications briefly duck down the volume of whatever else you're listening to--movie dialogue, say, or spoken directions. With the mute option enabled, you'll still get the visual interruption of incoming notifications, but without the audio interference that otherwise comes with them.

I was mad when Apple initially switched the iPad's hardware switch's functionality from an orientation lock to a mute control, and cheered when the company eventually added the preference for controlling its function. But I realized recently that, since I've returned to a Kindle for in-bed reading, I almost never use orientation lock these days--and I use streaming options like Netflix more frequently. So I've now set the slide switch on my iPad to mute again, since it does a fine job of minimizing the annoyance of alerts sounding while I'm trying to enjoy a movie.

That said, the visual interruptions don't stop. And worse, some apps--including some third-party navigation apps--actually silence their own audio when you use the mute control--making this solution a no-go in those cases.

 

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