I just got an iPhone 5 with iOS 6 and am struggling with all the different sound/vibration settings. It seems like there are so many different ways to control this (up/down buttons on the left of the phone, the on/off toggle on the left, Settings --> Sound, and individual in-app settings).

Ideally what I want is for the phone to be silent (vibrate only) all of the time, except when:

  • I do something explicit to turn the volume on (e.g. I am playing a game or listening to music or something)
  • It is plugged in
  • An alarm goes off

What I specifically do NOT want:

  • The ringer to ever ring while the phone is in my pocket (i.e. 100% of the time it is not plugged in)
  • The alarm to ever NOT make a audible sound, regardless of any other volume/sound settings (e.g. if the answer is "flip the toggle switch on before you go to sleep and flip it off when you wake up," that's not good enough because I know I'll forget to do that and miss my alarm)

Is what I want possible? What settings should I use? Does this depend on the choice of alarm clock app?

  • Jer, What you want is EXACTLY what I want. I really don't know why everybody doesn't want the same thing. I want my phone to ring while it's being charged, so I'll hear it around my house, but I DON'T want it to ring while I'm working, in church, in court, etc. All of my old phones, back to my StarTac acted this way. I know, just turn it to vibrate. I FORGET! I wish someone would design an app, I would pay for this feature.
    – user46958
    Apr 7, 2013 at 22:39
  • @Dave - yeah, it's frustrating, especially considering that my Nokia from 2006 had this feature. But to be honest, it hasn't been much of a problem. For one, I've gotten pretty used to flipping the vibrate switch at night when I set the alarm (and I rarely charge it otherwise). And two, I changed the vibration pattern to a really "intense" one - so I often hear it even without the ringer.
    – Jer
    Apr 9, 2013 at 18:13
  • Jer, Frustrating is right. Seems like it's a pretty simple feature, Blackberry came close when they made it so their phone would ring out of holster, but vibrate when in. I can't imagine why this isn't a standard feature. Think lawyers, doctors, police officers, ANYONE who can absolutely NOT have the phone ring while they're working. Dave
    – user46958
    Apr 10, 2013 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Sound on iPhone is reasonably complicated when you get down and start "taking it apart". This is because it is managed on a very much case-by-base basis.

For example, if you call up Siri, and adjust the volume, it will only be adjusting the volume for Siri, not something like the ringer volume.

So to divide things up and try to answer your question, I'll start with the basics.

If you turn on Vibration mode (orange position) using the switch on the side of the phone it will turn off almost all sounds. Unlock, keyboards and such sounds will no longer be on. Notifications and phone calls will vibrate but not be heard. You will have to turn the switch off (no orange) in order to hear normal sounds while in apps - (i.e. games). When alternating vibration mode versus normal mode, iPhone remembers your previous state, and will set the volume to what it was before vibration mode was active.

Exception: alarms set in the Clock.app are still heard. In fact, there is no way to turn off Clock.app's alarms from being heard unless you turn off the alarm(s) itself. As for other alarm clock style apps (for example, Sleep Cycle), it is up to the developer to make it behave like Clock.app. That is the case with Sleep Cycle, but it would be worth verifying with any other alarm style app.

If you turn down the volume in the Music.app (or double tap home button and swipe to the right twice), or while watching a video, or in Settings.app, that is the volume that is applied across the board, mostly. That volume reflects the volume for videos, music, and apps that in general make noise - as in, games. Note that iPhone remembers your settings when you have headphones plugged in vs. not.

When iPhone is unlocked and you are on the home screen and you adjust the volume, you are adjusting ringer volume. In other words if the vibration switch is off (no orange) then that would be the volume it would ring at.

Do-not-disturb suppresses basically all notifications (there are some configuration options there). Again, alarms (from Clock.app, and other properly set up apps like SleepCycle) will stay play.

The only thing you can't do is have it toggle sound settings when it is plugged into the wall vs. when it is not. I think you will find it becomes habit, however, to throw the vibration switch.

  • Thanks, this is incredibly helpful. I'm not sure why I thought that alarms wouldn't play with the vibration mode switch on - maybe because the alarm clock I was using gradually increases the volume and I didn't hear it at first. Too bad about automatically changing it when plugged in (my 6 year old "dumb" phone had that and it was great), but as long as it doesn't affect the alarm, I can live with occasionally missing a call or text message if I forget to flip the switch. Thanks again!
    – Jer
    Dec 27, 2012 at 20:32
  • I'm glad it was helpful. You bring up a good point, and I edited my answer to clarify. Developers must configure third party alarm style apps to have their alarm behave like Clock.app's alarms. It is possible that some developers could overlook that step, and that would result in their app falling into the category with Music.app and other general notifications. Dec 27, 2012 at 20:41

A jailbroken iPhone can manipulate a lot of these settings you desire as they are not options included in the stock iOS. Remember though, while jailbreaking may be beneficial, it has its flaws also.


Vibrate Things is an application tweak that allows you to customize a bunch of things to vibrate. It can be found in cydia after jailbreaking.

If you like to know you are in vibrate you can install muteicon which shows a mute symbol in the status bar.

The app Auto Silent will disable the ringer switch but I believe it isn't updated yet for iOS6. This becomes in handy when you accidentally flip the switch and not realize it...

There are many more application that do similar things ^^ googled those in seconds to edit this post to answer the comment.

  • It might be easy for you to google these apps, but maybe difficult for others. And sending everybody to Google instead if doing it once and supply links as well makes live easier for everybody. That's why we prefer to have answers which stand on their own and contain all the necessary details.
    – nohillside
    Apr 11, 2013 at 3:34

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