Goodbye iPad Mute Switch, Hello iPad Orientation Lock Switch


Something has changed on's revamped iPad specs page -- the mute switch is gone and in its place, a physical hardware button for "screen orientation lock". That's right, now you can sit or lounge without fear of the iPad spinning around willy-nilly every time you shift one way or 'tother. However, you can't quickly turn the sound off. (We're guessing you're supposed to hold down the volume rocker for that function now).

We've long hoped for a Settings option for that, but hardware is certainly more convenient to rapidly turn it on and off at whim. Sacrificing the mute button though? Couldn't it be (will it be?) user assignable like the home button? And what's with the last minute change? Focus groups give feedback, or did Steve Jobs get tired of his screen flipping around, stormed down to the underground lab, and demand the change? Will it be confusing to have orientation lock on the iPad where mute is on the iPhone? Or will the 4th generation iPhone get the same change?

Are we reading too much into this, or is Apple not reading enough into what's being hailed as the next great leap forward in personal computing?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Goodbye iPad Mute Switch, Hello iPad Orientation Lock Switch


Mute button is so much more useful on a phone. I use it everyday for meetings, lectures, etc. Its really convenient. This device is less likely to make noise without you having asked it (i.e., no phone to ring/texts to recieve). Makes sense. I like it.

I love this, I'll find this a tad bit more useful at times. It's not that big of a deal to just have to hold down the volume button for a couple of seconds to mute it.
But hey, maybe they've come up with some other solution to muting it. OR maybe the rotation lock only works once in the OS itself, so maybe at the lock screen it'll mute.

Right on with what Alex said, a mute button makes much more sense on a cellphone than it does on a ipad.
I like the change, makes more sense for my ipad experience I Just reserved my pad with some accessories. April 3th can't come any sooner.

It's not bad. But what would have been better was a 5 finger screen rotate gesture. Where the screen senses your 5 finger tips touching the screen in a turning motion. That would give you a screen lock popup asking you to lock the screen. Only downfall is not having 5 fingers! :P

There exists a rotation lock toggle for SBSettings on jailbroken iPhones.
If apple implemented a similar settings manager, they wouldn't need to mess with a dedicated button/switch... just swipe the top display bar and lock your rotation.

I agree. Hopefully the next software update for the iPhone addresses this without the need for a hardware addition like this. It's easily handled via software upgrade. The question is will Apple deign to do this for their existing iPhone user base or make them upgrade to the newer iPhones this July?

This is a great change! And I agree with everyone else, being able to quickly mute isn't as necessary on the iPad as it is on a phone. However, the same switch having a different purpose are two different devices could potentially be confusing. Switching the iPhone to this design wouldn't be as good because being able to mute the phone without even taking it out of my pocket is almost necessary at times. Holding down the volume rocker would kinda work, except that you don't want the volume changing in your pocket which means you'd have to unlock the phone in order to mute it - this would be horrible... too many steps. Being able to quickly mute my phone while it's ringing is important.

"Will it be confusing to have orientation lock on the iPad where mute is on the iPhone?"
Not for me because I have a lefthanded iPhone with those buttons on the left side of the phone.
The buttons on the right side of the iPad might only cause confusion for the righthanded iPhones which I think are only sold in the southern hemisphere. ;)

Wow, they must have had a ton of complaints from the early reviewers about how difficult it is to read an eBook or watch a movie while lying down in bed. It drives me nuts trying to read email or use the iPod (switches to CoverFlow) with the 3GS while lying down. I am very excited about this new switch and hope they have some sort of an iPhone equivalent down the road. @Greggs multi-finger gesture idea is great!

I would love this function on the iPhone as well, but definately NOT in place of a mute switch. Although as others have said, it makes a lot of sense to have it on the iPad, whereas it makes a lot more sense to have mute on the iPhone.
Ideally of course, both. One on each side of the iPhone 4G would be fine

I think this is a good move, and I also wish it'd be introduce to the iPhone.
My suggestion would be to use the current Mute button on the iPhone as the screen lock, and then find a way to use the up/down volume buttons to also mute the phone. For instance, holding both up AND down for 5 secs would mute/unmute.
That's how I would do it. No more buttons, no definite loss of functionality (except mute would be software) and a big addition for a lot of us tired of the screen flipping when we dont want it to.

The mute switch on the iPhone sucks. Everytime I had it set to mute and then after having the phone in my jeans pocket the phone would go off in class.

I love the idea, phones NEED the mute switch for meetings, lectures, movies etc. The iPad will less likely need it but the orientation how I hate using my phone in bed...this feature sounds awesome!

I keep rotation off on my phone in SBsettings. I think it's annoying. The only time I turn it on is when I take a picture, so it gets the orientation correct.
I noticed when Stephen Colbert was waving the iPad around at that awards show, the orientation was flipping like crazy. I can see the point of the orientation lock...

Same here — use 'Rotation Inhibitor' for iPhone, and say "goodbye" to useless landscape mode... which is only good for watching videos and taking photos... and beyond aggravating for anything else.

I could only hope that in iphone 4.0 they could add a option for that but i wonder if its a hardware issue but it would be usefull for the safarie app

Should have been an option in the settings from day one. Orientation lock was one of the few jailbreak features that were truly useful however dealing with the perils (not getting into that right now don't ask) of jailbreaking isn't worth this little change.
Apple: put this in the setting for all these devices.

I'd love it on the iPhone, and I think it's more useful on the ipad, but I can't incision myself using my ipad while lying down far enough to one side for it to flip. It would be too big to prop up while lying on my side.

This is a great change! And I agree with everyone else, being able to quickly mute isn’t as necessary on the iPad as it is on a phone.

After discovering this, I reverted back to 3.2.2... and without jailbreaking the iPad. I never knew this, but if you SHIFT+Cick the "Restore" button in iTunes (not sure of the Mac equivalent), it prompts you for a .ipsw file to restore from. So I just chose the 3.2.2 .ipsw file and hey presto, back to 3.2.2, and back to the proper (useful) function of the switch.

To clear up the air for all of you, the 4.2 software update changes the switch on the side of the iPad to a mute switch... BUT, there still is a way to control the orientation lock. WIth 4.2, it adds the ability to multi-task, so, double-click your home button to bring up your active apps, then swipe to the right, to display the far LEFT side of the apps and there is a new icon there that is a round arrow... THAT is your orientation lock!
Also, if you have an iPhone (or iPod Touch) that supports multi-tasking, you can take advantage of the orientation lock the exact same way!!!!