One of the key principles of user interface design is that you don’t make things harder for the user without a good reason. Google seems to forget this at times.
Android 5.0/Lolicon is the latest release of the Android operating system. It just installed on my Samsung Galaxy last week, and I’m still learning my way around it. A number of features have changed, but most of the changes are neutral — a slightly different way of doing X, that doesn’t interfere with how I use X. Except for one thing.
Under the version of the OS that came with the phone (KitKat, I think, or maybe KlondikeBar), you had an icon you could control phone sound with — default mode was on, one tap was vibrate, two taps was mute, and three brought you back to on. Mute stopped all sounds except for alarms, so if you wanted to use the phone as an alarm clock, you swiped down to get the icons, and tapped twice for mute. Once your alarm had roused you, you could do a swipe-and-tap (while saying wingardium volumosa, or something) and you’d be back in business. With Loli, that all changed.
Under the new system, mute means mute. No sound. All silent. If you want to hear your alarm, you set it to on, and you get to hear everything — alarms, email notifications, phone calls, everything. Fortunately, there is a workaround. Of sorts. You can go into Priorities, and tell the phone to only let certain alerts through at certain times of day or night. Unfortunately, it has to be the same times for every day. So, if you want to go to bed at 11PM, that’s when it switches to Priority mode. If you want to stay up late one night, you have to re-set it. If you want to go to bed early, re-set. Get up late, re-set. And so forth.
On the bright side, doing the re-sets might be annoying, but it’s also difficult. You see, sounds are controlled in Settings, which is an icon on page three in your applications list. Or you can hold down the Sound icon, which will change the mode for you, and then switch to the Sounds page. That’s where you control the sound from. But not the Priorities, sorry. Priorities are accessed only through the volume control rocker button on the left hand side of the phone. Hold the rocker down with one hand (the volume setting will change), and up pops another menu, with a typical settings-gear-icon on it. Tap the icon and it brings you to the Priorities Interruptions page, where you set your priority days and times. This, I find, only applies to things like email notifications. The swipe tones the phone makes (like when you wake it up in the morning) still sound loud and clear. So, you can no longer use the phone as a discrete flashlight if you get up at 3AM to go … get a drink of water.
Meanwhile, back on your phone, you can still swipe down and hit the Sound icon to switch to priorities-vibrate mode whenever you want less of an interruption. All done with your quiet time? Tap the icon to move to mute, and then again, to sound on.
Oh, did I mention that changing the mode to mute will turn off Priorities, and you will have to do the whole volume-rocker re-set thing again? Yeah.
You know what would have worked better, Google? Making the Sound icon a four tap system — on, vibrate, mute (with alarms), dead silent. And not throwing away my Priorities status just because I hit mute.