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?