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