When you press the volume up or volume down button what’s happening? Is it changing the volume of your phone ringer? Is it changing the volume of who you’re listening to on a phone call. Is it changing the volume of your notifications? Or is it changing the volume of music or videos?
In general, the volume buttons are context sensitive. That means, if a video is playing and you press a volume button, you’re adjusting the volume of videos. If you’re talking on a phone call, pressing a volume button adjusts how you hear the person on the call. But, what if nothing is going on? What does the volume button do?
There’s a setting for that
iPhone: In settings, Sounds and Haptics, you’ll find a setting for Ringers and Alerts, control with buttons? I kind of like the setting to be off. That way, I can set the volume of my ringer here – making it quite loud – and know that I’ll never accidentally turn it down. I miss so many calls that way.
But, it’s your choice, if you turn this on, then when no other sounds are playing, the volume buttons will set the ringtone volume.
iPhone mute button: on iPhones there is one more control over sound. You can easily stop the phone from ringing by switching on the mute button. It’s on the left side of the phone, directly above the volume button. If you see red when you look at it, that means your ringer is off and your phone will only vibrate if you get a call. This is very quick and handy for those times when you don’t want your phone to ring – but you need to remember to switch it the other way when quiet time is over or you’ll miss a lot of calls!
Android: when you press the volume buttons you should see info pop up on your screen about which volume is being affected. From that pop up you can tap the 3-dot menu and then tap a settings gear icon to see more choices. This screenshot is from my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultro phone. I pressed a volume button and initially saw a volume control just for Ringer, when I tapped the 3-dot menu I got several volume controls identified by icons. From there, I tap on the settings gear and get more controls with written descriptions. I get all these choices. Notice that the default for media is Off – that is why my first option was for Ringer. To avoid accidentally turning the Ringer way down low, I want this setting ON so that it generally controls media like music or videos rather than Ringtones.
Stop the ringing!
One of our very favorite smartphone tips is that, when your phone is ringing, you can make it stop by simply pressing a button. It must be a physical button, not any onscreen button. The up volume, down volume, or power button will do. So, if you’re in a quiet theatre and your phone starts ringing, you don’t have to fumble to get it out, open it, unlock it, find the phone call and hang up. No, all you need to do is press a button. Unless you have a phone case that covers up all buttons, you can usually just squeeze the sides of your phone and you’re bound to hit a button. So, even if the phone is in your pocket, you can grab and squeeze the sides and the ringing will stop. The call is still there – you can answer it, or let it go to voice mail – but the ringing will stop.
The camera shutter button
And now, for something completely different, did you know that the volume buttons can be used to take a picture? That’s right, when you’re using the camera on your phone you don’t have to tap that round button on the screen to take the shot, you can press a volume button instead. Sometimes this is more comfortable when you’re holding the phone in such a way that your finger is already poised on the volume button. Either the up volume or the down volume works. This even works on the volume buttons on earbuds – kind of like a remote control.
This works on both iPhone and Android phones, but some Androids may have a camera setting that lets you choose whether the volume buttons take a picture or zoom in/out.