Help, my iPhone Won’t Ring!

Apple blogs had an outpouring of derision when a prominent, self-declared technology expert could not figure out why his iPhone stopped ringing. Of course this was because he’d flipped the Silence Ringer switch. John Gruber rushed to his defense with this comment:

It’s easy to laugh at, but I think it’s actually a non-obvious design. There’s no icon or visual indication as to what that switch does. You do get a small jolt of vibration when it’s engaged, but that doesn’t naturally imply “silent mode” to me. (Update: Yes, there’s also an on-screen icon, but that only helps if you toggle it while the screen is on.)

But the icon will also appear if your screen is off. If your iPhone is sleeping and has been inactive more than 1 minute, flipping the Silence Ringer switch will turn on the screen, and the big icon of a bell with a slash through it will appear. However, if your iPhone is sleeping but has been used within the last 1 minute, you only get the buzz of tactile feedback, indicating the phone is in vibrate mode. So the only possible way to miss the visual feedback of the Silence Ringer icon is if you turn off your iPhone and then immediately start flipping the switch.

But to me, the bigger question is, what kind of idiot would buy a $400 phone and not know how to operate the buttons? There are only 4 hardware buttons on the iPhone. Apple went to considerable pains to make the Silence Ringer switch functions as obvious as possible, even to technology experts.

Update: Comments Disabled. I have blocked further comments on this subject, I almost never do this. I continue to receive a steady stream of comments on this post, it has become unmanageable. It was not my intention for this brief article to become the #1 Google search result for “iPhone won’t ring.” It was not my intention to sneer at users who could not figure out the problem. It was my intention to sneer at one pompous software “expert” who could not figure it out (I have sworn never to mention him by name on this blog, but follow the first link in this story and you will figure it out). I am gratified by the positive comments from readers who discovered here the solution to their problems. I have ignored the negative comments from people who were insulted. Thank you to all who took interest (and those who continue to discover this article).

10 thoughts on “Help, my iPhone Won’t Ring!”

  1. I suspect D*** ***** is claiming ignorance, but completely understands the way his technology works. It’s his version of a MacGuffin.
    Whether it’s his laptop not working or his laptop not working, the “fix” is always obvious and therefore it’s likely D*** is just trying to a) drive traffic, and b) get people to comment and reference his post in their own blogs.
    [Forgive me for editing your comment to remove the name, but I have sworn that name will never appear on my blog, so I don’t become part of his publicity engine. –Charles]

  2. Just read this on DaringFireball. Reached over to my iPhone in its dock, which has been asleep, flicked the switch. Nada (just the buzz). Turned the screen on, flicked the switch, saw the icon.
    [Very interesting. I verified it doesn’t wake the screen and display the icon when the iPhone is in the dock, only when undocked. –Charles]

  3. I guess I’m one of your idiots. But I’m not sure that I’m in the wrong here.
    I must have inadvertently flipped the switch from ring to non-ring. I have no recollection of having done this. In fact, it’s possible that one of my children did this.
    For the rest of the day I missed a couple of calls because my ringer was off. While it is true that when you flip from ring to vibrate the phone vibrates and provides a visual signal for about 1 second, there is no ongoing feedback. In other words, nothing on the front panel changes to show that the ringer has been turned off. The button on the other hand does display a small red dot when the ringer is turned off.
    Personally, I would like to see some visual feedback that the ringer has been turned off displayed on the phone’s front panel. But what do I know. I’m an idiot, right?
    [I don’t see the point of having a continuous onscreen indicator of ringer status. Your phone screen is off and blank most of the time. I mostly keep my phone in my pocket, and I can feel the switch position without taking it out of my pocket. The switch position IS the indicator. –Charles]

  4. re:Mark
    From my experience the iPhone doesn’t fully sleep when it’s docked as evidenced by the fact that iTunes will still talk to it and (if you’ve “tinkered” with it) SSH works as well. Suspect that “sleep” when docked really just locks the phone and kills the display. You only get the visual feedback from the switch when the phone is completely suspended.

  5. I had this same problem and can’t remember switching it of.
    Apple told me to take it into a shop to sort out so even they don’t know about the switch.
    Why have one anyway, surley better to swich on in the software which is where I spent most of my time

  6. Did the same thing myself. Basic rule of thumb applies here… no matter how obvious it may seem when you actively *think* about it – if a high enough amount of users experience the same issue, it should be considered at least partially a design/usability flaw. Now that I realize what that stupid switch does, I’m glad it’s there 😉

  7. Rule number one, read the book. after spending for some of us what is about a weeks pay, take some time and read the directions. error code 1d10T
    [RTFM. Apple even has iPhone instructional videos online. –Charles]

  8. I typed in on google, my i phone won’t ring and this is the first page I clicked on. Thankfully I figured out why it wouldn’t ring. Being an idiot I didn’t even know their was that little silence ringer on the side. I don’t even know how I switched it. I thought I just didn’t hear my phone ring when I missed all those calls. I spent forever going through settings trying to figure out why it wouldn’t ring. Well thanks for the help, and making me feel stupid
    [I am happy to oblige. RTFM. I found the Ringer Switch illustrated on page 2 of the instructions enclosed in my iPhone. –Charles]

  9. I have to agree with some of the posters – it’s not obvious what this switch does. I too must have inadvertently flipped it. I have no idea when – maybe accidentally when I was putting the cover on it.
    Of course I’m one of those people who NEVER reads instruction books, so I guess this is a reminder I should at least read the first few pages.
    [Well, you should at least read page 1 and the diagram that shows the switches. Ironically, my ringer switch just stopped working after the iPhone 2.01 update. I can set it to silent mode and calls will still ring. I’m investigating. –Charles]

  10. it’s a good idea but with bad implementation… no question about it. Charles, stop defending it.
    I did RTFM and knew what it was and what the red dot meant, didn’t matter. during some activity the switch was somehow inadvertently switched to silent one morning. I used the phone quite a bit downloading apps and songs then placed the phone in a another room where I would still here it ring. of course it didn’t. when I saw I had a few missed calls, I checked the switch and of course switched it right back.
    unlike the volume buttons this switch will operate while the phone is locked. that’s good but it’s bad because it’s also raised so it’s easily switched inadvertently. I don’t know of another phone that doesn’t indicate silence on the screen… why is that? because when operating the phone, that’s where you’re looking!
    [My iPhone ringer switch has never accidentally switched due to bumping against something in my pocket. If your switch protrudes or switches easily, your iPhone has a hardware defect and should be replaced (they are all still under warranty).
    One tip I might suggest, dock your iPhone more frequently, it gives a little “buzz buzz” you can feel when docking it. This has saved me numerous times from forgetting to turn the ringer back on. –Charles]

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