I have an iPhone 4, and I have the switch on the side set to switch silent mode on and off.

I'd like specific contacts (for example, She Who Must Be Obeyed) to ring when they call, even in silent mode.

I've seen various hacks on the internet suggesting using a "silent" ring tone, but that's not what I want. I basically want two states:

  1. All callers cause the phone to ring (according to their individual ring tone settings)
  2. Almost all callers are silent except for VIPs

Is this possible?

  • The mute button has priority over other controls. An app that made noise while the mute button was set to mute would not be approved by Apple so you'd have to get a jailbroken phone and custom app.
    – Old Pro
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 21:29

7 Answers 7


This is an old question but I stumbled on it when trying to find an answer for my iPhone 8. There is now a real solution to this problem— edit the contact and turn “Emergency Bypass On”. The text says it overrides Do Not Disturb, but I tested it and it overrides the silent switch too!

  • 1
    This option is also there on the iPhone 7 with iOS 11.0.3. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 8:19
  • 8
    This option is inside "Ringtone" field. Commented May 17, 2018 at 22:25
  • 1
    This doesn't seem to be how it works in iOS 12. I have Bypass set for a number and when the phone is on silent, it doesn't make any noise.
    – jzadra
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 19:52
  • @jzadra hmm, I just retested on iOS 12.1 running on an iPhone 8, with the phone sent to silent and with Do Not Disturb turned on, and I got an audible ringtone. On the "Sounds & Haptics" settings menu, I have Vibrate on Ring and Vibrate on Silent turned on (not sure if that's related or not), and my volume is midway on the dial (and Change with Buttons is turned off). Hope that helps.
    – josh
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 16:47

This is an old post, but I came across it today looking for the same thing. For an iPhone 5c, running iOS 10.3.3, I found that going to Contacts' > 'NameOfContactYouWant > Edit > Ringtone (or Text Tone) > Emergency Bypass On will allow calls/texts to go through when the phone is otherwise silent.

  • Can confirm it also works in iOS 15. Thanks!
    – Jan
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 22:05

That's one of the benefits of the "Do not disturb" function in iOS 6:

  • assign all contacts which can reach you even when you don't want to be disturbed int a contact group via iCloud
  • activate "Do not disturb" in Settings and configure the Notifications settings to still allow calls from the contact group you created. You can also schedule a time range when you want Do Not Disturb to automatically activate.
  • silence switch will still work as intended (silencing the phone)
  • Thanks for the suggestion. Does that mean I'd need to go and manually switch DND on/off in the Settings app? I can't quite wrap my head around how many "modes" that would leave me with when combined with the switch. I really just want the two modes - anyone can cause a ring and only VIPs can cause a ring.
    – dty
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 11:21
  • In this case leave the hardware switch in the On/non-silent position and just toggle "do not disturb". While in DND calls will still come in and go to Voice Mail unless the caller is in the VIP list.
    – nohillside
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 12:32
  • Ah, I don't want them to go to VM. I still want the phone to vibrate - just not make a noise. I want to be able to answer the call if I choose. I just don't want it to be disruptive for my colleagues. But if the wife calls, I want to make sure I don't miss it because it's only vibrating with its feeble little vibrate! :-)
    – dty
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 13:29

One (painful) workaround is to give She Who Must Be Obayed access to your Apple ID so she can use Find iPhone to "Play Sound" if you don't answer your phone. AFAIK that is the only Apple-approved way to play a sound on an iPhone while the phone is muted.


Don't use the mute button. Instead, use the Do Not Disturb manual function in settings and select "Allow calls from Favorites". Open a contact and select the star from the bottom right to make it a favorite.


What you are looking for is not possible with the defaults settings available to you. The only way you can differentiate users is via the VIP, and so you need to do the workaround you suggested in order to only have a selection of users ring.

  • Use a silent ringtone as default
  • Choose an actual ringtone for your VIP's

Of course, the obvious drawback is that when not muted, your non-VIP contacts are still muted. You can then perhaps further workaround this by setting a vibrate setting, and then setting vibrate when silent to off, which will mean that VIPs always ring, but non VIPs bibrate, or do nothing.

  • What you are suggesting seems to be what @dty is not looking for as stated in her/his question.
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 9:12
  • This information is no longer relevant.
    – mlambie
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 9:51

If you're open to simply controlling who is allowed to cause your phone to ring (not necessarily dependent on whether or phone is on "Silent"), here are some options:

Option 1: Use Do Not Disturb

Turn on "Do Not Disturb" and set the "Do Not Disturb" settings to only "Allow Calls From" your "Favorites" (add/remove Favorites in the "Phone" app or directly on a contact in the "Contacts" app).

Note: this will silence all other notifications, because "Do Not Disturb" will be active.

More info on The Verge.

dnd favorites

Option 2: Silence Unknown Callers

Another option is to silence all callers that are not in your contacts using "Silence Unknown Callers" in your "Phone" settings.

More info on CNET.

silence unknown callers

Personal Choice

I always keep my phone on "Do Not Disturb" as I like to be in control of when I decide to look at my phone. I allow calls from "All Contacts", and make sure to add anyone that I expect calls from to my contacts. If I'm expecting a delivery or something, I'll temporarily turn off "Do Not Disturb". If I'm expecting unknown calls within a wide time range, I'll just allow all calls temporarily so that I can keep "Do Not Disturb" on.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .