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Why don't more phones have audio profile switches?

OnePlus 3T
OnePlus 3T (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

If you've ever used an iPhone or a recent OnePlus device, you've undoubtedly encountered the switch on the lefthand side above the volume buttons. While the exact functions of the switch will depend on which company's phone you're using, the main idea is the same: a hardware switch that instantly mutes your phone, without having to turn on your screen and adjust the volume manually.

Few would call this switch a necessity, but it's convenient all the same.

It sounds a bit lazy, sure, but in practice, this switch can be a lifesaver. If you're in the middle of a meeting, job interview, or movie, you can't (or at the very least, shouldn't) pull out your phone at any point, but an unexpected phone call can cause an embarrassing scene if you forgot to silence your phone beforehand. With the volume switch, you can put your phone into Silent or Do Not Disturb mode right from your pocket, without alerting anyone around you.

Particularly in the case of OnePlus, this switch is also useful for quickly switching between different audio profiles. Rather than a simple on/off switch like on the iPhone, phones like the OnePlus 5T use a three-spot slider that switches between the Silent, Do Not Disturb, and Ring profiles, all of which are configurable in the phone's settings. You can set different volume levels for media across different profiles to quickly switch between, or leave media volume completely off in Silent mode to quickly mute video ads and games you don't want to hear.

So why aren't more manufacturers implementing some variant of the audio profile switch into their phones? It's a simple, yet extremely convenient hardware feature that takes up no more space than the Bixby button on the Galaxy S9 — and I don't think it's terribly controversial to say that between the two, the volume switch is a lot more useful.

Maybe the reason most Android manufacturers don't bother with an audio profile switch is that, frankly, most users don't care — and even the ones like myself that do probably wouldn't call its absence a dealbreaker. It's a treat any time I get to use a OnePlus phone with the audio slider, but that alone doesn't make the OnePlus 5T a better phone for me than, say, the Pixel 2 XL. The audio slider is considerably more convenient than the simple volume rocker almost every phone defaults to, but in the end I'm still going to go for the phones with the better cameras and more important features like water resistance — and so will almost everyone else.

What's your take on audio profile switches? Do you yearn for them in every phone like I do, or are you completely indifferent towards them? And if you fall into the latter category, have you ever used a phone with the switch before? Let us know in the comments below!

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

99 Comments
  • Not a deal breaker at all but yeah it would be great to have one. One of the iPhone features I still miss and a great way to check if your phone is on silent mode without having to wake the phone
  • it would be nice if other had it
  • Meh. My phone's always on vibrate mode.
    Last one I owned that had the switch was an iPhone 3GS.
  • I just tell Bixby to turn on do not disturb. Tried telling Google assistant and failed. Told me how to turn on do not disturb on an iPhone WTF 👎
  • +1000
  • Just tried the with Google assistant.
    "Make my phone silent" seemed to work.
    Still much more discreet to just turn it off rather than talk to your phone.
    I'm still the only one I know that does it much to the amusement of friends.
  • All that did was turn my media down. Try saying do not disturb
  • Lol you literally just say ok Google, do not disturb and it will put your phone on dnd... I just tried it on my phone and it worked without an issue
  • That's too easy. Lol
  • yes, because you could do that in the middle of an interview, meeting etc....
  • That's because Google and Bixby have two totally different functions
  • What gets me is how people who do not turn their phone to silent often don't know that simply pressing the volume button will stop the ringing. No, instead they'll just look at the screen while the phone goes on ringing and driving everyone crazy. So while a switch would be nice, usually all it takes is a quick tap of a button (which you can do even while it's in your pocket) to make it quiet.
  • *power button
  • *volume button - power button typically hangs up the call, at least on the Android phones i've owned.
  • Nah not for me anyway. Power button stops the ringing without ending the call on my Huawei Mate 10 Pro and it was the same on my Samsung Galaxy's. To end call with the power button you have to actually enable that setting in the call settings. Edit - just phoned myself off my other phone and power button and volume button's both work so we're all right 😉
  • You can set all manner of ways to silence a phone.
  • I like having the switch. While it might be"easy" to have Bixby put in DnD or silent mode, it's much more discreet to just flip a switch when you're already in the meeting, etc. And yes, with enough foresight and configuring, you may be able to program the phone to automatically set it using location. But I'm rarely in the same office week to week or day to day. Switch just works best for me.
  • As an iPhone user for years, I have to say it's nice, but I don't miss it. On HTC phones, you can turn it to silent in your pocket so easy (without unlocking) that I don't think about it. It's not even necessary because it will go into silent mode automatically when you have a meeting or event scheduled, or you can just flip the phone face down and it will stay silent as well.
  • I have been missing this feature in my daily meetings ever since I moved from OnePlus 3T to Samsung S9
  • Seems a rather inane use of a hardware button. Is that all it does - silence the phone?
    2 seconds before I walk into a meeting - "Bixby, turn on do not disturb". Some dislike the Bixby button but it does a lot more than just silence the phone.
  • Hoping the phone control Bixby gives will come to the Google assistant soon.
  • you can set up multiple Bixby commands like.. in meeting... at work... going to bed.. etc... each can be configured exactly how you want it
  • Damn, we had that 10+ years ago on Pocket PCs and Windows smartphones (before W10 mobile). They were called profiles. You could set a bunch of settings, volume, brightness, radios, and call it Outside. You could create another set and call it NightTime. You could initiate them based on time, location, calendar entries (in a meeting), or even just select them. Wonderful that we are getting these things back. Shame they were lost for so long.
  • I prefer them, and actually it's one of the things I enjoy when using a iPhone. Phones without a silent mode that go into Do Not Disturb mode are annoying. I wouldn't not use a phone for that but when I have it, I love it!
  • Does apple have a patent on the switch that perhaps oneplus got around by using a 3 option switch??? I like the switch on my op3, but the middle option is unnecessary - usually I want the phone to be silent or not. I don't care about the subtleties of the middle option. Also the downside to OP switch is that they disable automatic rules for silent time.
  • Wait, people still use the ringer on their phone?
  • I actually didn't know that was a thing...now I want one.
    Ok, someone seriously needs to make an app that repurposes the damn bixby butten to do that. Yeah I know, you still need to check your phone...so make it vibrate when silent mode is on.
  • Seriously, it takes only 5 seconds to press the volume down button far enough to mute my phone (or set it to vibrate). People can't do this before a meeting? It takes longer than that for me to walk to the nearest conference room at work.
  • I use mine so infrequently I forget it's there.
    Is it really that much of a hardship to pull down notifications and silence it needs hardware to fix it?
    Just a shortcut on the screen would do the same thing. Same with the Bixby button or squeezing to activate Google assistant.
    I would rather better speakers or camera as extra hardware.
  • I'm an iPhone user, mine is forever on the mute side, but in the dark it can be hard to check because you can't see the orange part in the dark, so have to switch back and forth to check, or recently I've dedicated it to show on the assistive touch, just to check if mute is engaged. I'm so cautious about mute, I usually turn on do not disturb in cinemas, so that the screen won't light up and all calls will be blocked save for important ones.
  • You could remap the Bixby button on Samsung phones to toggle the sound.
  • Just to reminding everyone... Palm Treo had this also. Apple copied them.
  • No one should care about Palm Treo nor care who copies what since every single phone is "copying" some feature the previous had. Get over it.
  • That slider is one of the things I miss from my 3T.
  • Volume down key and done. Not a big deal and don't need yet another mechanical switch.
  • I agree. I would probably never use it, but I'm also always keeping track if my ringer is on or not depending on my environment. Not a big deal at all. I don't think a mechanical switch will help people remember to turn their ringer on or off in the first place.
  • I would rather have a MUTE switch. Like BlackBerry had. So I can easily mute/unmute my conversation without looking at my phone.
  • Yes, I do wish that every phone had a mute switch.
  • I just automate it.
  • You left out the group I fall in to. I have an iPhone for work, and that switch drives me nuts! It is constantly inadvertantly switched off in my pocket, and then I miss emergency work calls...
  • Then turn on vibrate on silent.
  • In the same boat. That switch on my Work iPhone is always turning off making me miss important calls. I very much hate it and want to disable it, but can't.
  • Never had that issue on my 5T, it's quite hard to turn on/off.
    With a case even more so.
  • I use the volume rocker. It's never been an issue.
  • so many way to silence just a simple tap tap with My lg v10 I think I would actually hate a mute button personally
  • I just reassign the Bixby button to do exactly what is suggested in this article. Simple, eh?
  • I would like a button similar to one plus one phones. It is a great idea. Camera is the main feature that I look at. It is just a nice to have.
  • If Samsung added one, all the Google fanboys and AC writers (but I repeat myself) would complain: 1. I hate it, because I keep hitting it by accident when I grab the phone by the top.
    2. Why can't I disable this switch?
    3. Why can't I reassign the switch to do something else, like launch Google Assistant?
  • All hardware switches or squeezing functions should be customisable. At least let developers add apps to change it.
  • No. Samsung put a lot of money into Bixby and they want people to spend more than 5 minutes to see what it can do.
  • The slider is the only thing I hate about my one plus 3t. With a physical switch there is no way to automatically restore your ringer setting back to what you want. On the one plus you can only turn the ringer volume down to minimum, it will not go any lower. Every phone I've owned before the volume down all the way takes you to silent volume down again takes you to do not disturb. And if you do it that way you can use apps to restore the ringer so you don't forget after the meeting, movie, or church. Have not found an app that will do that with one plus's stupid slider switch volume control. I love my 3t and would consider the one plus 6 if they got rid of the dumb slider.
  • I have the 1+6 and love the slider. Missed it since my old Palm Pre. The complaints noted above bothered me for about five minutes - got it figured out now. For me, it works better than Google assistant or the silly Bixby. If I'm sitting in a meeting, I can switch to DND discreetly without using a voice command. Never once have I accidently moved the switch by grabbing the phone in any which way. The switch has the right amount of resistance to eliminate that for me.
  • Yes! I wish more companies would add the switch, and I've wondered why they don't. I assumed Apple had patented the idea. It's a great feature.
  • Shush! is a free app that will silence your Android phone for as long as you choose to do so.
  • I used Shush for a while. Then a friend recommended Silence Pro. It does the same thing as Shush, but has the added benefit of me being able to set a schedule.
  • not one phone needs a dedicated APP to silence a phone. you people Totally don't get it... it's a HARDWARE SWITCH. it can be turned on/off ever if the phone is in your pocket. no need to take it out. jus flip the HARDWARE switch and its on silent. if you read the article he said "if you were ALREADY in a meeting, or interview, or anywhere that it would be inappropriate to pull your phone out and even more inappropriate if the phone rang or text notification sounds were going off every few seconds....
    if you don't NEED to be discrete, jus pull the phone out and use volume or Android software to change the sound to off or vibrate....
  • Yes because in 5 years that nearly happen once. And turning the volume (hardware switch) takes nearly 2 seconds.
  • One of the things I miss about iPhone is
    having a silent switch and other than OnePlus, no other Android OEM has a silent switch, but it's still minor as I've gotten used to not having a silent switch on my Android phone.
  • I don't really care about that feature, is easy enough to turn phone to vibrate.
  • I use Llama. It mostly automates going silent (at night, in the cinema, hospital etc) or somewhat more quiet (office area), but with a quick click I can lock the audio profile of my choosing for the duration of a meeting.
  • I'd love to have a hardware switch on my phone that can be programmed to toggle things other than toggle mute on/off...such as:
    -Auto-rotate toggle
    -Airplane mode toggle
    -Battery saver toggle
    -Flashlight toggle
    -Color inversion toggle
    -Send to voicemail toggle
    -User profile toggle
    ...
    -Bitcoin mining toggle
    The possibilities are endless
  • I miss the one on my old Oneplus 3 so much. I wish I had a physical button for muting. So MUCH.
  • It would definitely be a life saver for me I would use it every day
  • The last iPhone I had drove me nuts with the slider. Maybe it was just me but moving my phone between bags, hands, and pockets it kept toggling. I was constantly missing calls except when I was in a meeting or movie theater (when it was somehow always toggled on to ring!)
  • I certainly wouldn't trade my Bixby button for a redundant slider. I have the toggle in my quick settings for silent/vibrate/sound. Volume keys set to control media volume. Bixby is extremely useful to me, and I have Google assistant from the home button. To put it simply, there is a simple reason more phones don't have this slider, and that's because it's completely unnecessary.
  • I use the option pretty regularly on my 3T. I used it on my OnePlus X, and use it nightly on my iPhone 6. This needs to be on more devices. Android used to have a very elegant to do this via software, on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, and swipe left to silence the phone. I think that died with Android 2.3.X. Android certainly improved when they hired Duarte, who was design guru at Palm (think the PalmOS), but he also made a lot of stupid decisions, such as not being able to separate ringtone and notification volumes. If you are a Samsung/LG user, you never noticed.
  • Never owned a phone with one, but since my phone needs to be silent when I'm asleep or when I'm at work, it's silent 99% of the time.
  • It's quite useful but not a deal breaker in case of the pixel
  • Interestingly the iPhone switch mutes all audio EXCEPT alarms. That is by design. You can go into a meeting, or to bed, and not deal with calls, notification beeps and boops, but it will still wake you up in the morning. That's good and bad. There was a fellow who got a new iPhone and flipped it to silent, not realizing the alarm exception, and that there was an alarm set, during a performance of Hamilton. It made all the papers since the cast stopped to chastise the poor fellow.
    So, a hardware switch would be nice, but it's function needs to be clear, or configurable. The iPad one can be configure for silent or rotation lock. The latter is surprisingly useful on a device you are using for reading in bed. Another under represented hardware button is a dedicated shutter release. As much as we use our phones as cameras, why isn't that a common thing? If you've had a phone with it, guarantee you'll miss it when it's gone.
  • It's not a deal breaker for me but I actually used the switch quite often on my old Palm Pre. I kinda miss web os
  • I am using Letv LeMax that has a physical mute slider. It is useful.
  • I worked for a carrier retail store. I couldn't tell you how many times per week someone came in with their iPhone not ringing and it was because the switch was flipped. Best to not help confuse the masses. It's just as easy to slip flip do not disturb before you go in somewhere or just leave the ringer off.
  • My boss got a new iPhone that wouldn't ring and he asked me for help. All I did was to unslide the mute switch and the phone started to ring.My brother has the iPhone and my Android too has a physical mute slider
  • I had a Palm Treo that had this switch. It was handy but I find it's even better to use an application (Profile Manager) that will put it in silent/vibrate for a timed period and then automatically resume the sounds after a period of time, that way you don't miss calls later on from forgetting to turn the sounds back on. If I can get on a soap box for a minute, one would HOPE that even if you forgot to activate this profile in a meting, you could--oh my goodness--pull the phone out and activate it before returning it to your pocket. I don't see the need for "discretion" for doing this. Any job that gets that bent out of shape because, egads, I pulled out my phone for 3 seconds to activate this setting, I don't want to work there. I think people like that are being way too touchy about that sort of thing, it's really not a big deal and especially if you're doing it to activate a setting of this type you'd think they'd APPRECIATE it rather than getting all bent out of shape over nothing. It's better to do it beforehand, yes, but if you forget and have to pull your phone out to turn it on, big woop. I think people crucify cell users too much that way, they act like you yelled "Hail Mary" at the top of your lungs. People like that seriously need to lighten up, big time.
  • Missed the switch since my Palm Pre. Glad to have it back on my OnePlus 3T. Having the switch does add to my preference for OnePlus phones.
  • While not a huge thing. It is something I miss being on android. Once you have it it is useful. Since I do use the ringer and have the volume at a certain level, it's nice to be able to mute your phone when in a meeting with a flick of a switch and back to the volume you have it set to. Again not a huge thing, but it is nice.
  • Wow, the writer should do a little more homework. Android already has this physical key option to end a call! 1. Settings. 2. Accessibility 3. Answering and Ending Calls. 4. Swipe on: Press power key to end calls. There is also an option to answer calls by pressing the volume up button.
  • It's not just calls. It's texts, notifications from apps, calendar appointments, emails and even keyboard feedback too.
  • It's not necessarily to end calls but to silence calls
  • It's one of the things I actually really miss about having an iPhone! I would be thrilled to have that on my current phone!
  • Read the reply above.... LMAO
  • Read the reply below that..LMAO!!
  • I love Android but one major annoyance is being able to easily mute the phone. I can have my Note 8 on both "Do not disturb" and "Mute" and videos in the browser play with sound coming out of the speaker. With my previous iPhones, the mute button muted (almost?) everything. In addition, when I got my first Android phone, a Note 3, I was in the library listening to music with earphones and my phone rang through the speaker. With literally every other electronic device I have ever owned (cell phones, laptops, TVs, receivers, portable stereos), the external speakers were automatically muted when earphones were plugged in. Not with Android. Why is beyond me. Is this a feature people really want?
  • That's note how my Note 3 worked.
  • I'd absolutely use it if any of my phones had one. It's a smart idea.
  • Try OnePlus.
  • Why do we need to manually mute the phone? Google should already know when we are in a meeting and should automatically mute the phone.
  • Definitely one of the things I have missed since leaving the iPhone.
  • if you are good to remember to flip the physical switch before *and* after a meeting, that's great. I'd likely remember the first one, not so much on the second. to me that's very similar for using volume keys, interacting with phone display, or even talking to phone assistant. (can you ask assistant to vib/DND for a certain time period?) i just let the phone figure it out based on various information. you could use android's DND automatic rules to do this. i go beyond that and use Tasker. my auto rules involve calendar, location, time and day-of-week, power supply, bt connection (like in car), and more. i rarely have to manually manipulate ring, don't ring, DND off, priority, total silence, etc., usually just when entering a movie theater (a type of event that often doesn't make it to my calendar). also, for me DND and vib/ring are set [automatically] separately for different reasons. often vib/DND are set together, but not necessarily! i do have Tasker place a quick tile that toggles all DND or vib/ring auto changes OFF for when I want full manual control. and much like the physical switch, i have to remember to turn it back ON!!
  • Waste of space. You can already do this holding down on the Vol Down button.. and android allows things like Find my phone which would need to override any side switch. It's just not a practical feature.
  • So reach into your pocket during a meeting and try to find that button
  • Teeny tiny remark: you can NOT set the switch on the OnePlus to ALL sounds and alerts off. Alarms will always sound. So no peace of mind when in a meeting or a concert.
  • Hey you know what other physical features are nice on a phone? Headphone jack, home button, no camera bump. In an era when phones are removing all external physical controls you're lamenting phones not having a physical mute switch? Wrong direction, my friend.
  • Bingo... but the Joe Marings of the world will tell you a phone with an inferior display, no headphone jack, and no micro SD storage is the best phone because it has Android 8.1..... 🤣 Truth is, Samsung leads often with new features in what is now called Samsung Experience 9.0 (formerly touchwiz).... Yes, better hardware on possibly older Android... I'll tske that every time. 5G LTE is coming.. the data transfer speeds & affordable unlimited data plans will mske micro SD expanded storage a necessity... unless 512GB intrrnal storage is adopted.
  • The truth is, you can't fix stupid. If you are in a meeting or are so exceptionally important or it is absolutely vital to your job or to the monent that your phone not interrupt you... BUT you can't turn your phone off.... and thus you have jeapordized your career... Then guess what? Maybe you are not good enough for your job... Maybe the phone interription that happens to you is your own lack of attention to detail... or it's a Charles Darwin moment... You will be replaced due to your failure. Accept personal responsibility.... if it really mattered, if your life depended on it, your phone will never interrupt you. #complacency Or maybe.... you never were that important.... If it's a ringing phone that gets you canned... then it likely wasn't the first straw.... likely the last straw, or final domino to fall.
  • Think it has more to do with the embarrassment of your phone going off in a meeting than fear of getting sacked.
    But in just about every meeting I've been to after someones's phone goes off everyone else in the room checks their phone just to make sure.
  • That's a stupid comment. No one is perfect. How pompous can you be?
  • I'm an Android user, but I prefer the Apple switch with Ring/vibrate to the Android "profile" switch. I have never been a fan of the Android DnD option. Mainly because it doesn't just silent the notification, it stops you from seeing to to come in.
  • My Palm Treo 600 had that. Any further back in time, you're looking at rotary dial.