Matthew Fitzsimmons

The iPad Mute Switch

There has been much hullabaloo about Apple's decision to change the hardware switch on the iPad from an orientation lock to a mute switch with the iOS 4.2 update, making the behavior match iPhone behavior.

Most of the scuttlebutt on the internet seems to be against this change. Personally, I love it.

Much of the backlash is about personal preference, but some of it involves significant misunderstandings. Even Ars Technica had some major misinformation in their post on the subject.

First, I'll address what Ars says about it not muting anything (later adjusting it to saying it just mutes notification sounds). Just like the iPhone it mutes two things:

  1. Notification Sounds
  2. Game Sounds

The muting of game sounds is no big deal, because you could already easily mute the volume of the entire iPad while using it.

The muting of notification sounds is actually quite useful, however. Now you can listen to music or watch a video without notification sounds being annoying. Before it was all or nothing. When it comes to video, the only thing this really affects is email notifications, since most other push notifications will pop something up on screen interrupting you anyway. With music it's more useful because you may be plugged into speakers or headphones and not be actively looking at the screen all the time, so push notifications won't affect you at all once the mute switch is toggled.

The biggest advantage to me, though, is that I can now mute the iPad without waking it up and typing in my passcode. Previously, I would often go to bed and set the iPad on the bedside table. Then I'd realize I hadn't muted it and I'd have to wake it up to do so. Now I flip a switch. I never had a need to lock and unlock screen rotation while the iPad was sleeping.

At first I thought it was just me and Steve Jobs who preferred it this way, until a friend of mine who also has an iPad was using mine the other day and discovered the mute switch change. She was quite jealous, so I guess there are more of us.