I've been curious about how the volume buttons for phones could be improved and how they currently work.

There are a couple different things that can be changed:

  • Ringer volume
  • Playback volume (videos, sound effects, etc.)
  • Vibrate
  • Screen lighting up

What's the easiest way for a consumer to modify these settings on the fly for their phone?

  • What do you mean by "screen lighting up"? Screen brightness? Waking up the phone using the volume buttons when its screen is turned off?
    – refreshfr
    Jul 29, 2014 at 9:41
  • @refreshfr I meant it lights up the screen even if silent... some people might want to disable that. Jul 29, 2014 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


The default behavior on Android (and iOS) is:

  • If you are not doing something, the volume buttons change the ring volume, going all the way down goes to vibrate mode, pressing once more goes to silent.
  • If you listen to music or watch a video, the volume buttons change the playback volume, not the ring
  • If you are in a call, the volume buttons change the voice volume of your partner.

Many custom ROMs of Android implement a really useful addition: Android expandable volume panel

Image source

The default behavior is still the same (the buttons change the volume of what you're using) but with a single tap on the Setting Icon, you can expand the panel to change all the different volumes (ring, media, notifications, alarms). Using the volume buttons on the expanded panel will still modify the "current" sound setting.

I think this implementation is the best (at least of what I've experienced so far) since it allows changing the volume quickly thanks to the unchanged default behavior (which is what you want 90% of the time) and it allows modifying every sound parameter with just a single tap without going to the system preferences.

  • Update: This feature will be included in the stock version of Android M, supposed to come out at the end of 2015.
    – refreshfr
    Jul 11, 2015 at 3:05

The iPhone (among others that have the same function) way is very efficient because you usually will want either loud or vibrate or silent. Changing volume of the ring is not used as much. So the ring OR vibrate/silent is very simple and efficient.

Having to press the button a few times to change the volume could be seen as a problem. A solution: different profiles of volume that you can select. But even then it's overcomplicating something that doesn't need to be complicated.

There have been ideas of putting your phone face down to mute the phone or put it on silent. It's pretty interesting idea. Here's an example of it.

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