iOS 6 Headphones

I have been pleasantly surprised by one small enhancement in iOS 6 that probably affected a very small number of people. I drive a 2006 Saturn Ion that has an auxiliary port in the car stereo for plugging in things like iPhones. I have about a half-hour drive to work in the mornings, and I listen to podcasts downloaded with Instacast. Since I want to control the audible volume with my car stereo knobs, and I want the best possible signal from my iPhone, I turn the volume up to maximum for the drive.

This works great, but I also have a ten to fifteen minute walk from the parking garage in Des Moines to the office where I work, so I unplug from my car and plug in Apple headphones to listen to the podcast a little more while I walk. However, I would frequently forget how the volume button works on the iPhone. When I unplugged the car stereo, iOS tells Instacast to stop playing. So, when I unplug from the car, and then turn down the volume, I’m not actually turning down the volume for Instacast, only the volume for the phone’s ringer. I can’t quite get my head around that, I’m not sure why we would not want one volume to rule all audio. After hitting the volume, putting in my headphones, putting them in my ear, and hitting play on Instacast again, I would get my ears nearly blown out by iOS turning the volume up to full blast again.

It makes sense, in a way, but it does not agree with my mental model of how I think it should work. I think that the phone should have only one volume button, for everything. So, after a few times running into this, and randomly forgetting about it for a few times, I trained myself to keep my headphones out of my ears until after I have started Instacast again and turned down the real volume. Until I updated to iOS 6, and I noticed something a little different.

It took a few times to notice the change, and when I did notice it I watched it to make sure it was doing what I thought it was doing. I would unplug from the car, and plug in my headphones, start Instacast, and hit the volume, I would not be able to hear anything, the volume was already down at around half. Then I noticed that when I got back to my car and swapped the other way, I did not have to turn the volume back up again. iOS 6 remembers the volume setting for different headphones.

It may only remember the setting between Apple iPhone headphones with the microphone and control on the right ear bud wire and a regular 3.5mm TSR to TSR plug, but it is still such a nice addition. Once I realized the change, it made me smile. Apple has removed one small point of friction from iOS, and it is the kind of change that shows their focus on everyday use, and not just technical excellence.