Let me start by saying that I’m not one of those people who flies into a blind rage when a cell phone goes off during a meal or a meeting or even during one of my classes. It annoys me at the movies, sure. But I’m not so foolish as to think that dinner with me or one of my lectures offers anything close to the experience of getting “lost in” or “sucked into” a great movie. In a theater, the ring of a cell phone jarringly returns to you the reality of being crammed in a room with dozens of other people, and maybe even some bedbugs.
These days, however, our phones are not just mobile. They are smart. And if you have a smart phone, then there’s no reason to allow it to do dumb things like ring, buzz, or chirp when you don’t want it to. Fortunately a variety of Android apps out there allow you to quiet your phone on a set schedule.
On my phone, I use a simple little app called Silence Scheduler (shown at left). I just tell the program the days and times that I have lectures, discussion sections, and meetings. And the phone switches automatically to silent mode during those times. When the time period ends, it switches the phone back to normal mode. No effort on my part required for the rest of the quarter. You can download it for free via the Android Market. And a quick search of the market also shows a number of other free apps that will do the very same thing for you.
If you have $6.23 to burn, you can also try out an Android app called Tasker. It can silence your phone on a schedule and much, much more. Tasker allows you to set conditional automation for nearly everything your phone can do. Want your phone to be silent and send calls directly to voicemail if it detects that you are driving based on your GPS signal? Tasker can do that. Want it to activate the GPS and network data whenever you open Google Maps? Tasker can do that too. I’ve just started working with it so I won’t give a full review. But I’m already very impressed. I’ll let the folks over at Lifehacker fill you in with their review of Tasker and their subsequent post detailing some of the creative ways they were using it.
For the iPhone users out there, I’m sorry to report that none of these apps and features are available on iOS unless you have jailbroken your iPhone. If you have taken that brave step, and torn down the walls Apple has erected around your user experience, then you might try Auto Silent for functionality equivalent to Silence Scheduler. However, even for jailbroken phones, there doesn’t appear to be any iPhone app as flexible and customizable as Tasker.
This quarter when a phone goes off in one of my discussion sections, I plan to let my students know how I’m handling this aspect of twenty-first century etiquette and to suggest they try to do the same.