“Forcing” Your iPhone Silent With Apple Watch

Computing Electronics Gadgets

The following is a public service announcement. If you or someone you know is suffering from the stereo cacophony that emanates from the Apple Watch owner who insists on having audible alerts on both their iPhone and their Apple Watch…there is a cure!

“The Force,” iPhone & Apple Watch…add in some Jedi silence and you’ve got a powerful combination (Photo by Skip Owens)

Really at this point in time, after the Apple Watch has been out on the market now for over two years, I would have thought that most people would have a good handle on how to configure their Apple Watch so that is both useful to them and NOT distracting to others. True story. I’m in a meeting at work with 20-30 people and one of my co-workers sitting in the room gets a phone call. Both his iPhone and his Apple Watch start going off at the same time. His iPhone ringtone is the Rush song “Tom Sawyer” and it is set at maximum volume. I’m a HUGE Rush fan, but the opening riff of this song is not at all subtle and probably not the best choice for a quiet office setting. As if that wasn’t enough noise his Apple Watch is also configured for maximum disruption. When he gets this phone call he is visibly startled and jumps up out of his chair awkwardly runs out of the room, not knowing which device to try and silence and/or answer first. Don’t let this happen to you!

One of the killer features, at least for me, of the Apple Watch is that it gives you more options on how to handle phone calls in a quiet setting like at work, school or church. You might say the Apple Watch gives you a more “civilized” option for answering a phone call…

“Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon… for a more civilized age.”
— Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

So here is how you wield that Apple Watch you are wearing like true Jedi Knight.

Step 1: Muzzle Your iPhone

The first step is to silence your iPhone. There is a mute switch on the side of the iPhone. Use it. You are wearing the ultimate notification device on your wrist now, so there is no need to use the ancient technology of a ringtone or a vibration notification (yes, even a vibrating phone in a meeting can be quite distracting). Get used to leaving your iPhone muted and if you are feeling truly brave go into Settings > Notifications > Phone > Sounds and at the very top of the screen select “Vibration” and select “None.”

Your wrist is already vibrating, so why not give your iPhone a rest (Figure by Skip Owens)

Your Apple Watch is providing a much more effective notification with the haptic feedback it delivers right to your wrist with the Taptic Engine. Use it and rely on it. “Feel the Force.” If you are worried about not feeling the haptic “taps” on your wrist there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Turn up the strength of the Taptic Engine and enable “Prominent Haptic” on your Apple Watch. To this, go into Settings > Sounds & Haptics > on your Apple Watch and turn the “Haptic Strength” all the way up and toggle on the “Prominent Haptic” option. Prominent Haptic will pre-announce certain notifications like iMessages and calendar alerts so that is helpful in those cases but doesn’t do anything with phone calls. You will need to rely on the maximum strength setting to ensure you feel the phone call Haptic feedback.
Turn the Haptic Strength up to 11 and don’t be afraid to turn on the “Prominent Haptic” option (Figure by Skip Owens)
  • If after adjusting the Haptic settings as prescribed above there is another option. Turn on sound notifications on your Apple Watch. Believe it or not, the subtle ring tone that is used on the Apple Watch to indicate an incoming call is so much less distracting than Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” blaring out of your iPhone speakers. Start by setting the notification sound level on your Apple Watch at the minimum level and increase the volume until you are comfortable with the sound level. When I first got my Apple Watch it took a couple of weeks for my wrist to get used to feeling the haptic feedback, so I used sound notifications to ensure I didn’t miss notifications. After a few weeks I got used to just the haptic feedback and didn’t need the sound enabled. But even with the sound enabled I found that most people wouldn’t hear my Apple Watch go off in a meeting with the sound level set at minimum. Even if they did hear my Apple Watch it was much less distracting than even a vibrating phone that was sitting on the conference room table.

Step 2: Answer Your iPhone Like a Pro

When you get a phone call in a quiet place and need to take the call, your Apple Watch gives you a couple of additional options (and none of those options include you running out of room awkwardly while your pants are blaring a rock ballad):

  • With the Apple Watch you can ignore the call and text the person back immediately with a couple of taps of the Apple Watch with a message letting them know you can’t take their call right now.
The call comes in on your Apple Watch (left), then scroll down the notification screen with the Digital Crown (middle) and the select a preset text response (right) (Figure by Skip Owens)
  • The other option is to take the phone call, but to do it without running out of the room. On the screenshot above you will notice that when you use the Digital Crown to scroll down on the “Incoming Call” notification screen there is another option there called “Answer in iPhone.” When you select this option the Apple Watch places the caller on hold and transfers the call to your iPhone. The caller is given an audible message that they have been placed on hold and to please wait to be connected. This gives you time to gracefully get up and walk out of the room to take your phone call…like the calm and collected Jedi that you are.

I get it. Sometimes you really need to make sure you don’t miss a phone call. A lot of us are parents and we need to make sure our kids can get a hold of us. But I can tell you that I have been using the methods I described above for two years now and I have yet to miss a single phone call, all without having to resort to doubling up on audio ringtones. Give it a try and your coworkers will thank you for it.

This has been a public service announcement from GeekDad…

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2 thoughts on ““Forcing” Your iPhone Silent With Apple Watch

  1. In the second bullet point under step 1, you say: “Turn on sound notifications on your Apple Watch.” You don’t specify how to do that. Could you please elaborate?

    1. You can turn on sounds by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch screen to reveal the Apple Watch “Control Center.” You will see an icon that looks like a bell.If that icon is red with a line through it your Watch notifications are currently being muted. Press the icon and it will change colors (back to dark grey) and this will enable sound notifications. You can also go into “Settings” on the watch and then “Sounds & Haptics” and configure sound notifications there as well.

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