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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.

Guided access

Convenient though the mute option is, it doesn't solve the issue of banners and alerts appearing when I don't want to see them. As Federico Viticci at MacStories pointed out, sometimes you might want to mute notifications because you're playing a game in which you don't want to tap on a banner accidentally. And as I pointed out in my original complaint about the lack of a system wide notification silencer, notifications folding into view when I'm using my iPhone as a GPS are an added distraction I don't need when I'm behind the wheel.

Developer Greg Pierce pointed out on his blog that a new feature in iOS 6 called Guided Access can act a hack notification muter. Guided Access is meant to provide assistance for iOS users with disabilities; parents can also use it to prevent younger iPhone devotees from messing up (or prematurely quitting) apps.

But Guided Access has a hidden perk: It mutes both the sound and visual effects of incoming notifications.

To enable Guided Access as an option on your device, head over to the Settings app, choose General, tap on Accessibility, and then scroll down to Guided Access and tap to turn it on. While you're there, set a passcode to use in conjunction with Guided Access; otherwise, you'll be prompted to set one every time you attempt to use the feature.

With Guided Access enabled, launch the app in which you'd like to experience some quietude--in my case, Netflix. After it's launched completely (Guided Access can have trouble enabling properly if an app is still on its loading screen), triple-click the Home button on your device.

That scales down your app and presents the Guided Access setup screen. In this case, you don't need to worry about disabling touch or motion detection; you just want to launch Guided Access, so you simply press the Start button at the upper right.

That returns your app to full-screen size, and mutes all those notifications and alerts you don't want to hear from at the moment. (Every once in a while, I find that my iPad or iPhone can get confused, and do the temporary sound cut-out that accompanies an incoming notification--even though that notification isn't visible. But it's clearly a bug, and a rather rare one at that.)

To exit the app again, you'll first need to exit Guided Access, which your device will remind you if you simply try pressing the Home button once. That's because Guided Access disables that button--along with the volume and sleep/wake controls. (You can still adjust volume within your app, if it offers in-app controls to do so.)


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