With the release of iOS 6, Apple announced the Do Not Disturb feature, which silences all notifications whenever you have it turned on. You can set it up so certain contacts can still get through — for example, people in your Favorites group. It also has a “Repeated Calls” option, so if someone calls you repeatedly, like in an emergency, the call will ring through. You can also set up Do Not Disturb to automatically turn on according to a regular schedule. See Lifehacker’s summary for more details.
Even before the iOS 6 launch, I had been looking for a whitelist app for my Android phone. I really wanted a way to silence my phone except for calls and texts from certain contacts. For this post, I set out to find an equivalent to Do Not Disturb for my older Android. Newer Android phones may have a built in Blocking mode.
It’s surprising that it’s only now that this feature is becoming more standard. If you’ve ever been woken up in the middle of the night by a wrong number, you’ll agree with me that it’s important.
I’m still exploring which app I’ll use regularly, but after a false start, I found a couple of great options. Unless otherwise mentioned, all of these apps are free.
First, I downloaded My VIP Calls. It promised all of the features I was looking for, but unfortunately, it crashed every time I tried to launch it. If you’re successfully using My VIP Calls, I’d be interested to hear what you think.
Next, I tried SemiSilent. It’s very bare bones but works as advertised. You select the contacts you want on your whitelist, turn it on, and turn your phone to silent. When a whitelisted contact calls, your phone will still ring. If you pay $1.99 for SemiSilentPRO, the ads are removed, and you get a widget to turn the app on and off. There are a few issues:
- SemiSilent doesn’t work for SMS. If a whitelisted contact texts you, your phone won’t make a sound.
- You can’t quickly see who’s on your whitelist — you have to scroll through a long list of all your contacts.
Then I found Auto Ring. Auto Ring has a cleaner interface, better functionality, and more features. You can:
- Choose to apply Auto Ring’s settings to SMS. I tested this, and it worked perfectly.
- Add “unknown” numbers to your whitelist. This allows calls from people who block Caller ID to get through — very important if you have a relative or close friend who blocks their number.
- Add phone numbers to the list that may not be in your contacts.
- See who’s on the whitelist without scrolling through all of your contacts. You can temporarily remove someone and easily add them back.
- Use “Missed” mode, where your phone rings if someone calls you repeatedly.
- Set the ring volume for whitelisted calls from within Auto Ring.
I did notice some user interface bugs.
When you’re permanently deleting contacts from your whitelist, Auto Ring frustratingly deletes the wrong contact (at least on my phone). [This has been fixed.] Also, when adding a contact by number or email, there’s a button that looks like it should confirm your selection, and instead takes you back to the Contacts menu. Hopefully, the developer will fix these bugs. I would also like to see an icon in my notification bar to tell me when Auto Ring is enabled.
SemiSilent is a much simpler app, which might be a plus for some users, but I’ll be sticking with Auto Ring.
Finally, I took a quick look at Silent Time, which allows you to schedule regular times when your phone goes into silent mode. Although I didn’t start out looking for an app to silence my phone automatically, I do think it could be helpful at night. Overall, Silent Time works well. It includes an Exceptions list, although it’s not as robust as Auto Ring’s whitelist and doesn’t include the option to let repeat calls through, or calls from private/unknown numbers. I like that Silent Time displays an icon in your notification bar when active. I also really like the Quick Quiet widget, which allows you to quickly silence your phone completely—good for meetings or a movie. But watch out for a strange bug: if you set the duration for Quick Quiet using number keys instead of the + and – buttons, it won’t work at all! Also, Silent Time does not seem to have an effect on text messages.
Now that I have Auto Ring and Silent Time, I’m looking forward to better control of my time and no risk of my sleep being interrupted by an unwanted call. (Next steps to blissful slumber: earplugs and blackout blinds!)
Do you have an Android phone? Are you using an app to block calls or texts at certain times? Please let me know in the comments.
I believe you can use Auto Ring and Quiet Time together, like this: Use Quiet Time to schedule regular times when your phone goes silent. Then maintain your whitelist using Auto Ring (and select its “Auto Enable” option). This setup should allow texts from your whitelist to come through when your phone is silenced.
The downside to this setup is that Silent Time’s Quick Quiet widget will not work as intended — that is, it will not completely silence your phone; it will still allow your whitelisted contacts to come through. You’ll have to manually disable Auto Ring if you want complete silence.
I’d appreciate feedback if anyone wants to test this.
SemiSilent screenshot from Lyote Apps via Google Play Store. iPhone screenshot from Lifehacker.