Pavlov's Phone

UPDATE: I failed to define my limitations at work. I’m stuck on Windows and must go through Exchange. My iPhone connects to corporate Exchange. I have no Mac access to Exchange email. Sorry for the confusion.


My job requires that I respond to urgent system outages in a timely manner. Fortunately “urgent” is well defined and does not happen often. But I do need to know when it happens. As a result I have my iPhone set to alert me of email messages.1 After five years of an iPhone in my front right pocket I have developed phantom phone syndrome which causes me to imagine my pocket vibrating even when it is not. Ivan would be thrilled. What to do?

I switched my phone to flash instead of vibrate and I moved my phone to my shirt pocket. By bringing the phone within my field of vision, I rationalized that I would still know when I received email but I would avoid pocket-buzz.

To turn on flash, go to the device settings and then into Accessibility. Half way down there is a toggle for “LED Flash for Alerts”.

This accomplished two things:

  1. I stopped experiencing phantom phone syndrome.
  2. I started experiencing phantom flash syndrome.

After a week, I began to imagine flashes out of the corner of my eye, which is far more distracting than a pulsating pocket. My phone is back in my front pocket.

I don’t have a good conclusion. I’m hesitant to turn off vibrate since I need to know when I get a system alert. There’s no setting to only alert me to specific email senders in iOS 5. I can’t route corporate email through a third party service to alert me either.2 Perhaps iOS 6 will bring some magic with VIP’s..3

  1. System down time is routed to email. It’s the modern pager. A pager would be better. ↩︎

  2. Seriously, if you are doing that without approval of an IT security group at work, you’re being dumb and are likely the source of a great deal of email spam. ↩︎

  3. There is another solution that is very time consuming. Create a new address book entry for each alert system at work. Set a custom vibration for each one. Finally, go through my entire address book and set everyone to have a custom vibration of as short as possible. That’s just crazy talk. ↩︎