We want the iPad hardware orientation lock back

Xavier Verhoeven
7 December, 2010
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When Apple released iOS 4.2.1 for iPad, the Apple tablet gained a heap of new features. Not only the big ones – multitasking, AirPrint and AirPlay – but also smaller (but still useful features) like the unified email inbox. They’re all great, incredibly useful features. But there’s one thing I loved about the iPad that no longer exists thanks to iOS 4.2.1: a hardware orientation lock.

Of course, the actual hardware switch is still there where it used to be on your iPad. Only now it’s become a Mute switch. “Great!” you might exclaim if you’re a fan of muting Angry Birds so that your boss doesn’t catch you slacking off… But prior to the update – and even still with iOS 4.2.1 – it’s possible to mute the iPad by pressing and holding the Volume Down button (which is right next to the new Mute switch) for about a second.

It’s not just me that’s annoyed by the change. In a poll on AMW, 66 percent of respondents either wished for the old switch back or that Apple add it as an option in a future version of iOS. Only 9 percent find the Mute switch more useful. Almost all of the remaining 25 percent don’t own iPads, so are understandably not fussed about the ‘magical’ changing properties of the switch.

Assuming this poll is somewhat representative of the greater iPad-owning population, it begs the question “why did Apple switch the switch?”

The official answer is that the change provides consistency between the iPhone and iPad – but given that the iPad switch is on the right and the iPhone’s is on the left, there’s already a pretty major inconsistency there. Add that to the fact that it’s often necessary to silence the iPhone (such as in a meeting), whereas the iPad is rather unlikely to ring unexpectedly.

Even more annoyingly, the Mute switch (on both the iPhone and iPad) doesn’t actually mute the device. It turns off audio for notifications and system sounds. Music will still play, but game audio won’t. This is somewhat illustrated on the iPhone by different icons depending on whether you use the Mute switch (bell) or Volume Down button (speaker). On the iPad, it’s just the speaker icon. That’s what I call inconsistency.

When you look at the software orientation lock which is now in effect (introduced to the iPhone in iOS 4, and now on both devices by double tapping the Home button and swiping your finger to the right) there’s another inconsistency staring you in the face: the iPad has a screen brightness slider, but the iPhone doesn’t.

So please give up on keeping everything absolutely consistent, Apple. Or at the very least give us the option to choose whether we’d prefer a Mute switch or Orientation Lock. Judging by our small poll, the majority of those who want the Mute switch back are happy with an option in the settings.

Would that be so difficult?


12 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Kap says:

    I want the mute switch to be Settings customizable for 3 options:
    - Airplane mode
    - Orientation
    - Mute

  2. Oxdoc says:

    I want my orientation lock so much I have refused to upgrade to 4.2 even though I would quite like folders. Multitasking needs some work too. I want to be able to choose what will multitask. On my iPhone I end up with extra work closing a whole bunch of icons which I don’t want to multitask anyway.

  3. Bob says:

    Here here! I agree that the button function should be user selectable! Volume mute us useless to me.

  4. Richelle says:

    You can lock orientation by double clicking home and swiping to the right. It was driving me nuts not being able to lock it, because I mostly use my iPad while reading in bed laying on my side.

  5. Richelle says:

    Oh, never mind I just saw that you already have that. On mine it’s to the right, not left though.

  6. AMW staff says:

    I wasn’t sure whether to write that you swipe right or left. Because you swipe your finger to the right, but the options come in from the left. I’ve changed it to ‘swipe your finger to the right’. That should make more sense.


  7. Bruce S says:

    Absolutely agree. You can ‘mute’ the volume by pressing it all the way down, so what’s the mute button for? The slightest move the screen instantly switches from orientation to the other – can’t stand it! Apple, bring back the orientation lock immediately, please.

  8. Toni says:

    The new mute button is useless to me. The changing orientation decreases my enjoyment of using my iPad in different places (and postures). Please bring it back asap

  9. Anakowi says:

    There’s been quite a lack of user interface functional design consideration for iOS 4 in regard to the iPad. It’s cludgy. I agree with Oxdoc about the multitasking options – user defined is preferable. Mute on volume keys were fine before and rather intuitive. Double-click and swipe right is a poor substitute for the switch lock. In fact the extra double-click options on the home button are a worry – I wonder if the hardware can take it?

  10. Michael says:

    The argument that it is aligned with the iPhone is great for iPhone (toy) users…I would not purchase an iPhone but the iPad was bought as a device to use as a business tool…give me back my mute switch and do some market research before you make material changes to how a product works please Mr Apple!

  11. Milorad says:

    Is there an email address we can bombard to get this addressed?

    My poor home button is going to fall out from all the double-clicking I have to do on it. Given it was originally designed for a single click occasionally, I think this overuse of a single f&%^ing button to manage background apps and now lock the orientation, is making a ‘simple’ one-button approach needlessly complex.

  12. Lynn says:

    I agree with oxdoc. Orientation lock should be reinstated and I hate having to close down every single app I open now. We should be able to choose what apps we want to stay open and the rest should just close. Too many clicks now :(

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