This OnePlus 5 feature should be on every Android phone

The OnePlus 5 is a great-value big-on-specs phone that rivals the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8, but its smallest hardware feature is my personal highlight.

It has a mute switch on the side of the phone, allowing me to instantly silence notifications without ever having to look for an on-screen Do Not Disturb icon.

Yes, a physical mute switch has me excited.

OnePlus calls it the 'Alert Slider', and it's a three-step toggle between ring, do not disturb and completely silent. 

It's something that should be on every Android phone, but somehow it's a rare feature that seems almost exclusive to OnePlus 5 among today's Androids.

Why and when it matters

Having a physical mute switch on a phone like the OnePlus 5 has been a minor, but meaningful convenience in all sorts of situations for me.

1. The slick no-look-silence move in meetings

It's easy to silence my phone when it's in my pocket or flipped upside down on a table during meetings or dinner. I'm not that awful person breaking eye contact for several seconds upon sitting down just to press an on-screen 'do not disturb' icon; I may be the one thinking about standing up and leaving because you are.

2. Don't be the one with a screen-lit face in the theater 

I'm also faster at muting my phone in the movie theater without obnoxiously lighting it up to do so. I'm not the one with the screen-lit face trying to turn off their phone during the opening movie sequence. We can all see you!

3. Avoid looks of scorn during class or at speaking events

I always got in less trouble owning a phone with a mute switch when I was sitting in class or attending a speaking event. Contrast that to whenever I used any other Android phone. Occasionally, my accidentally unsilenced phone got one truly meaningless email – cue the loudest *DoDo DoDo Do* ever – and I sheepishly had the look of "Oh... yeah, that's – that's me."

Rare for an Android phone, but shouldn't be

The OnePlus 5 isn't the first Android phone with a mute switch, but it's rare today. Thankfully, the feature has been a OnePlus staple since the OnePlus 2.

Anyone moving from an iPhone will love the OnePlus 5 Alert Slider. Apple has always used it, from the first iPhone 10 years ago to the iPhone 7 today.

When I asked Motorola (and other companies) over the years why their phones don't have a mute switch, all I got was, "That's not a thing we considered". 

Other phones should be inspired by the OnePlus 5. The mute switch, to me, is a fundamental design feature. I want call and notification sounds on my terms.

Volume-down is not good enough

Sure, some Android phones use the volume-down button as a way to mute. But that's not a good enough solution – it's a bit harder to feel for.

One of these phones (OnePlus 5, left) can easily switch to silent on the lockscreen, the other (Samsung Galaxy S8, right) can't

One of these phones (OnePlus 5, left) can easily switch to silent on the lockscreen, the other (Samsung Galaxy S8, right) can't

More importantly, a lot of volume-down mute solutions don't work unless the phone is unlocked. That's actually really annoying (again, screen-lit face / you're paying attention to the phone, not doing the no-look silence).

The One Plus 5 mute switch is an everyday convenience. I'm confident that my phone won't ring, buzz or beep when sometimes all I want is... a little silence.

Matt Swider