1884: Ringer Volume/Media Volume

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Ringer Volume/Media Volume
Our new video ad campaign has our product's name shouted in the first 500 milliseconds, so we can reach the people in adjacent rooms while the viewer is still turning down the volume.
Title text: Our new video ad campaign has our product's name shouted in the first 500 milliseconds, so we can reach the people in adjacent rooms while the viewer is still turning down the volume.


Most smartphones, when this comic was published, have multiple system-level sound volume settings, such as, phone call ringer volume, timed alarm volume, phone communication volume, and media volume (which covers video, music, games and such). For comparison, personal computers tend to expose the user to a master sound volume control by default, which affects all the sounds emitted by system. Applications that emit sound (other than basic interface sounds, such as clicking) tend to implement a separate volume control.

Further, smartphones often have a pair of hardware buttons for raising or lowering sound volume. However, they don't differentiate which of the available volume controls the user wants to adjust. Smartphone operating systems tend to adjust the volume level of the currently emitted sound type, with some defaulting to the phone call ringer in the case no sound is playing. Adjusting arbitrary volume control is usually possible using a system settings app controlled by touch screen, which can take more time than pressing dedicated buttons, and/or stopping the program currently being used, depending on the smartphone in question.

The comic demonstrates, using a time axis, a typical annoyance generated by this kind of setup. A implied user wants to play a video clip but expects its sound volume to be too loud, so the user starts to preemptively press the volume down button. However, since the video clip just started loading while the user preemptively pressed the button, this adjusts the phone ringer volume instead of media volume. The user proceeds to raise the ringer volume and waits until the information box about ringer volume being adjusted disappears from screen, then tries again. Since the video is still loading this still doesn't work. Apparently the application needs to start emitting sound before the possibility of adjusting that sound with volume buttons arises. This is exactly what eventually happens - the video starts uncomfortably loud and the user's delayed reaction while attempting to readjust ringer volume level leads, in fact, to raising the media volume. At this point the graph ends, though the user is implied in the title text to proceed to reduce the video's volume directly afterwards.

Despite most applications implementing separate sound controls, Windows has also offered the option to adjust volume on per-activity basis since at least Windows 95. You can access this feature on Windows 10 by right-clicking the speaker icon on the tray, and selecting the "Open Volume Mixer" option. This setup is roughly equivalent to opening system settings on a smartphone, in that user can see multiple volume controls and select to adjust some. Additionally, some versions of Windows made the system tray volume control only affect the currently focused program, sort of analogously to described smartphone behavior, in that a single interface area can correspond to different volume controls depending on the context. However, this feature has been removed in more recent versions, presumably to reduce user confusion.

The title text presents a method of exploiting the phenomenon presented in the main comic by putting important parts of an advertisement very early in the video clip in loud audio form. Since user may have problems with adjusting video sound volume before it starts playing, this will result in the important part of ad (here, product name) emitted very loudly, to the levels of narrator of title text expecting it to reach people in other rooms than one the smartphone is in.


[A x-y-graph is shown and the header above is:]
Trying to turn down the volume before a video starts playing:
[At the line graph the horizontal axis is labeled with the text "Time" and an arrow pointing to the right. The vertical axis represents the volume but has no label. There are two signed lines, "Ringer volume" in black and "Media volume" in gray roughly at the same level. Below are eight smartphone screens showing the running app over time.]
[The first seven screens showing a circle indicating that an app is loading. At the second screen a volume control is depicted with an arrow to the lower button.]
[The "Ringer volume" decreases four times.]
[Further in time before the third screen the volume control is depicted again with an arrow to the upper button.]
[The "Ringer volume" increases to normal.]
[Nothing happens on the 4th screen but at the 5th the volume control is shown again with an arrow to the lower button.]
[The "Ringer volume" decreases three times.]
[Before the 6th screen the volume control is shown, again with an arrow to the upper button.]
[The "Ringer volume" increases back to normal.]
[At the 7th screen there is again the volume control with an arrow to the lower button.]
[The "Ringer volume" decreases four times.]
[Before the 8th screen the volume control is shown with an arrow to the upper button and the tapping starts:]
[The "Ringer volume" increases two times, still below normal, and the video starts at the screen.]
[The "Media volume" increases two times above normal.]
Person in the video: HELLO, AND WELCOME TO...

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So, is this about the volume buttons controlling all aspects of volume on the phone, and it being difficult to control sometimes (a lot!)? ~Chris (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yes, but it's strange because the default action of the volume control should be the main volume and NOT the ring tone volume. Nevertheless a video advertisement is often much louder than the movie where it is embedded. --Dgbrt (talk) 14:50, 1 September 2017 (UTC)
"Should be" is a weird concept. On Android (at least the mutilated version on my phone), there is no "master volume". Volume keys control the volume for the channel which is currently making noise, or the ring tone volume if there isn't any current noise. --Angel (talk) 16:49, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

Protip: on Android when loading a youtube video, lock your phone and then unlock it. The video will then start paused, allowing you to adjust volume and then press play. 15:06, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

On my Android phone, pressing either volume key results in the ringer volume slider appearing at the top of the screen. To its right is a downward-pointing caret. Pressing that caret adds sliders for media and alarm volumes. These can be moved using the touchscreen or the user can tap to select one to adjust and use the volume keys. D5xtgr (talk) 16:23, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

These didn't exist in Android Lollipop, and were presumably added in Marshmallow 06:57, 2 September 2017 (UTC)
My old phone has KitKat and still has this option... 08:16, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
With the android customization Gravity Box, you could alter the default volume slider to Media, the perfect solution in my opinion sirKitKat (talk) 14:43, 4 September 2017 (UTC)

Don't understand this comic at all... why would you frantically turn your volume up and down like that in the seconds before a video starts? Do other people do this?? 16:24, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

People aren't intentionally doing that. The viewer is trying to turn down the media volume; however, Android defaults to those buttons adjusting the volume for incoming calls, which people usually leave maxed. The viewer is accidentally decreasing the incoming call volume, but only wants the media volume turned down. Mulan15262 (talk) 00:46, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

Here's my understanding (though I don't have a smart phone and don't have first hand experience): The user has selected the video to start, it is about to begin (loading), and the user wants to turn down the volume on the video, but instead mistakenly turns down the volume on the ringer. Once noticing their mistake, they restore the volume to its original state and try again. Only to fail again. They repeat this cycle again, until the video finishes loading and catches them on the upswing. I believe once the video is loaded the volume controls on the side switch functions from ringer to media. -- 16:36, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

My experience (multiple Android phones, from a Droid, through a Note and back to a Droid, and now a Pixel) has been the same except for one thing at the end that changes this, pretty critically: when the video starts, the volume control stays controlling the system volume, and does not change to media volume, but blocks that switch until the window times out (usually a second or two after I stop attempting to adjust it). this behavior, I think, would prevent the comic timeline from actually increasing the volume of the media, but would certainly not allow you to decrease it as well... (?) -- Brettpeirce (talk) 14:47, 28 September 2017 (UTC)

Addressing "Interestingly, some earlier versions of Windows allow adjusting volume on per-program basis using a single on-screen control. This feature was eventually removed as it was deemed to confusing to users.", I use Windows 10 on my laptop, and I can right click on the sound manager, open volume mixer, and that allows me to adjust the volume of each active program. So I'm pretty sure this line is incorrect, as it is still a feature. (Alan) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think that line is supposed to refer to the quick volume control, rather than the full mixer. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

On iPhones, there is an option to have the buttons always control media volume, even when there is no media playing. 19:11, 1 September 2017 (UTC)

The title texts idea of using this phenomena to bring advertisement also in other rooms, reminds me a little of the clever PR idea of Burger King. They asked Google in their TV-spot, what a Whopper is. And since a lot of people have an active Google speaker next to their TV-set, Google started answering with the first lines of the Wikipedia article about the Whopper. Coincidentally somebody has edited the Wiki-article about the Whopper a few days before, so that it sounds much more like advertisement. Mario (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

My Android phone doesn't behave like that, although I wish it did. If you press the volume buttons before a video starts, and immediately after while the onscreen volume is still visible, it continues to adjust the ringer volume. This fixes the behavior in the comic, kind of, but it means that I still can't easily adjust the volume even after the video starts. 10:57, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

I have that problem too. I also note that at least some apps use the wrong channel; so videos use the media volume, but the ads come off the notification volume or similar. Also annoys me that certain fitness apps use the media volume for the synthesised speech to tell you that you're passed a mile; meaning you can't adjust it independantly of your music. Would really appreciate if each app could define its own output channels, which you can then connect to the system-wide volume channels (or apply filters to?) in whatever configuration you want. --Angel (talk) 16:49, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

Per-application volume mixer was new in Windows Vista; XP and previous versions only had the system-wide volume control. -- 11:00, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

That's not quite true, the mixer - the program allowing more specific volume control than a Master Volume - has existed at least since Windows 95. It was somewhere around Vista that I started finding it harder to find, somewhat hidden. Per-application might be newer, or somewhat, but then that would beg the question of what else was in the mixer. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:56, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

I have a game on my phone called Papi Wall which I don't even play anymore, but which has a silent menu screen when you open it, which despite its silence is somehow occupying the media volume. So I open the game, which opens quickly, to quickly adjust the media volume at the menu screen and then switch back to the other app. It's the reason why it's still on my phone despite the fact that I don't play it. I think any Papi game, such as Papi Jump, would work for this, if you want to try. 12:37, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

There's an Android application called Rocker Locker that plays a silent tone in the background, forcing the volume buttons to always control media volume. Cheers! 23:37, 2 September 2017 (UTC)

I like this idea, but surely the battery consumption is huge? I'd prefer an iOS style setting on my Android.Xseo (talk) 07:55, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
There are reports of increased battery usage, but from personal experience across 3 different devices, some of which having it for more than a year, I never noticed such an issue. In the battery use menu it will show that the Android media server used 1–2%, but that's frankly incredibly miniscule. 19:05, 4 September 2017 (UTC)

The video he's trying to load is certainly https://youtu.be/iAjCxadppcQ "Welcome to the World" (or one of the many remixes) by Kevin Rudolf. It's an on topic example media for what Randall is complaining about because it's a notably soft...THEN LOUD kind of song. 01:35, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

Could be, but I think it's just a common greeting (I thought of Let's Plays, personally). -- 03:13, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
Actually, "Hello, and welcome to..." is the starting phrase of just about every non-fiction show of the lifetime of television, LOL! Talk shows, interview shows, speciality shows... These days this extends to YouTube channels. "Hello, and welcome to OverwatchToday, where we discuss all the latest great plays and fails." :) Most likely a channel Randall likes is notoriously loud in their videos, that's all (lately in my looking for help on a game the Google results have frequently included this one channel where I found the reverse, that the volume is too low and I had to connect headphones, so I likewise started doing that ahead of time). Plus, from this description of "soft then loud" means it can't be the video. Randall's video starts loud. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:09, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

I initially understood this to mean that Randall wanted the ringer volume down during the video to focus on the video and hear it better, but is trying to minimize how long it's lowered for. I realize in retrospect this is silly, an incoming call will interrupt the video anyway, LOL! Understanding the issue now, I don't know what Randall is complaining about, I just checked, and if I start the YouTube app (for example) on my Android, the volume keys are attached to Media Volume already, before I even choose a video. As for the idea that the volume keys should be attached to Master Volume, I've never seen a smartphone that HAD a Master Volume, only the segregated volume controls. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:49, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

This comic was released 10 days qfter the release of Android 8, which changed the default volume from ringer to media. Thereby fixing the issue described in the comic. It should be noted that due to the release method used by Google and phone manufacturers, hardly any phone would have been running Android 8 at that time. Condor70 (talk) 21:00, 1 May 2021 (UTC)

I fixed this problem quite easily by just changing the settings so that the volume buttons change the media volume by default. Not sure if that's a newer Android feature or not, but I'm also not sure how old my phone is either. Tiny Desk Engineer (talk) "My user page can't be vandalized if it never existed" 20:33, 15 December 2022 (UTC)

This has been the default since Android 9 12:26, 30 March 2023 (UTC)