A little-known and somewhat confusing fact about the iPhone is that it has two different volume levels: one for ringtones/alerts, and one for general audio. And the confusing part is that both can be controlled with the iPhone’s volume buttons. Here’s how to set which of the two the iPhone’s volume buttons control.
How to Switch the iPhone’s Volume Buttons to Control Ringtone Volume or General Audio Volume
If you go to into the iPhone’s Settings and tap Sounds, you’ll see the following:
The slider for Ringer and Alerts does what you’d expect: it adjusts the volume level for ringtone/alerts. But it’s the Change With Buttons switch where things get confusing.
If the toggle is set to Off, the volume of ringtones/alerts cannot be changed with the volume buttons (with an exception).
If the toggle is set to On, then the volume buttons will change the volume of the ringer when other audio isn’t playing.
Whenever you press the iPhone’s volume buttons, you’ll know which of the volumes the buttons are changing via one of two graphics that can appear:
To Confuse You Even More…
There are a few exceptions to the above.
When a ringtone/alert is actually playing, you can lower/raise the volume of the ringtone/alert with the volume buttons, regardless of your iPhone’s settings. If you change the volume while the ringtone is playing, the ringtone’s volume will remain at that level until you change it again by either going into the iPhone’s Settings (if the Change With Buttons switch is set to Off) or via the volume buttons (if the switch is set to On).
Likewise, if you are listening to general audio (like music), the volume buttons will always change the audio’s volume, regardless of your iPhone’s settings.