Is there a recommended UX reason for including a Mute button in a mobile app for in-app sounds? It seems redundant since the mobile device itself (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet) has a physical mute and/or volume switches. Yet I see many casual mobile games have a Mute button in their options menu. As a programmer, it is easy for me to include it, of course, but I like to keep my UI design minimal (avoiding giving the user extraneous options). So I am just wondering if there is a good reason why this is done in some cases that I cannot think of.

  • 25
    simple, so you can mute that game
    – Fattie
    May 6, 2016 at 15:57
  • 18
    Suppose there are ten people in a room, trying to have a conversation. One of them is being annoying. Your question is, essentially, "Why would you ask that person to shut up, when you can just stick your fingers in your ears?" May 6, 2016 at 18:28
  • 5
    "the mobile device itself (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet) has a physical mute and/or volume switches" - if you write "and/or", this means that devices vary, and not all of them have a mute button in addition to volume switches. And this is your answer. May 6, 2016 at 21:57
  • 3
    The per-application mute control is usually "sticky" -- the app remembers the setting until you change it again -- so it allows you to express the preference "this application should never make noise" independently of "the entire device should not make noise at all right now".
    – zwol
    May 7, 2016 at 20:05
  • 1
    If developers don't give me an easy way to mute an app, I'll be uninstalling it faster than the speed of sound
    – Halest
    May 8, 2016 at 10:31

5 Answers 5


TL;DR: An app forcing me to use the global mute would be uninstalled in the blink of an eye. So they better have a mute function if they want to use audio at all.

EDIT: The previous was a bit too short for an answer, here's an explanation:

Audio is in essence quite intrusive, that is, you can hardly block it out. That's different from vision - you can chose to close your eyes, you can look elsewhere, you will not even notice your smarthphone screen if you don't look at it at least peripherically, and you won't see the UI of apps in the background.

So any audio signal from my smartphone will always cause a more or less strong interruption of my current train of thought. This means that I am quite selective of which app gets to play audio. This is basically the telephone app (incoming calls) and the alarm app (certain very important alarms) because I actually want them to interrupt what I am doing. Even those may be reduced to vibration only at times where I don't want sound.

Now. If some app which is mildly useful to me, but not essential (like the aforementioned) would insist on playing audio, I would have a problem. I would be forced to either mute everything (not good if my alarm/incoming calls are missed) or live with it. Since the app presumably is not essential, I likely won't live with it, but look for a replacement.

Hope that clears it up.

  • 5
    I did not downvote, but this answer aggressively states "I don't like this" without saying what the problem is. Explaining why users may have a negative reaction would make it better.
    – user31143
    May 6, 2016 at 13:24

The physical mute and volume buttons affect all other apps too. It's better to have a mute button in your app because as a user I may only want to mute the notifications from your app and not others. For example, there's a chance I want to mute Facebook notifications but not those from Twitter. So for that I'd need a mute button in Facebook because the device mute will just mute all apps.

  • 46
    You might want to mute the sound in a game, but not mute the phone so that you can hear it ring, or hear a SMS come in.
    – SteveD
    May 6, 2016 at 8:52
  • 2
    Another reason is that there are times when you may want to mute a different type of app but you can't access the device's physical switch (e.g. Your phone is in a cradle while you're driving and you can't access the switch, but you can still touch the screen).
    – Monomeeth
    May 6, 2016 at 9:56
  • Agree with above explanation. May 6, 2016 at 11:31
  • 1
    And also the physical button is sometimes assigned to another functionality than "mute" -> on iOS for instance it can be used to lock the display orientation... In that case it would be handy to find a mute button inside the app.
    – Julien N.
    May 6, 2016 at 12:57
  • 4
    @Monomeeth, that's what a carkit is for: With physical buttons you don't need to watch while adjusting the volume so you can keep your eyes on the road.
    – jazZRo
    May 6, 2016 at 13:24

Just a small extra consideration but I'll make it an answer anyway. I tend to listen to the radio via an app whilst playing casual games so need to be able to choose which app's volume to control. If I had to use the volume control for all apps I wouldn't be able to complete half of my objective (as I want to do both). This goes beyond the other answers that refer to notifications as most modern devices make the distinction between notification sounds and app sounds but don't make the fine-grained one between two apps' sounds.

  • 2
    Yep, I often disable the background music in mobile games so that I can play my own music.
    – Navin
    May 6, 2016 at 18:15

Mobile OSes usually have broad scoped sound controls instead of app specific ones. Android (AOSP) sound volume has three separated controls: one for general effects and notifications, another one for multimedia apps and the last one for alarms. But those are system-wide, so adding sound controls into the app you can control the app specific sound volume without altering the system settings.

Games are a special case in where adding sound controls is recommended. By adding sound controls in games you allow players to switch on/off both background music and sound effects in separate controls. Personally I find most mobile games' background music annoying, but I like the sound effects, so I like when I can set this up at my will.


Another consideration is that physical parts can break, especially in cheaper devices. So it's good to have a software alternative on the OS or app level.

  • 5
    (Mobile) OSes always have device-wide software volume controls, OP is asking specifically about controls in mobile apps.
    – user11153
    May 6, 2016 at 11:30
  • They don't. Take iOS, for example. First, the pull up control menu has a volume control which is specific to audio playback (i.e., any track / podcast you might be currently listening to). Besides it's a shortcut menu that not all users would be familiar with. Second, in Settings > Sounds you have a Ringer and Alerts volume control which is specific to ringtone. Both are not OS-wide volume controls.
    – krychu
    May 11, 2016 at 14:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.