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iPhone Ringtones, SMS Alerts and Physicians

2008-08-12 23:44:21

I'd like to buy an iPhone for my wife. She has a RAZR, and it's such junk. She doesn't get very much email, so the simple iPhone email app would be great for her to get her email and check her voice mail. (The phone system at her office sends voicemail as attachments.)

But there is one huge hurdle that's blocking me. It's a big problem, and it's extremely frustrating because it could be solved so simply. It's really just a tiny little thing, and it sucks that stopping me from buying that shiny, shiny new phone.

My wife is a physician, and part of that means being on-call. What happens is this: patients call the office at 2 in the morning, they leave a message, and the phone system sends an SMS message to her phone. Currently it's her RAZR. So I set up her RAZR to have the longest, loudest possible SMS alert sound. It's important, because if she happens to be at home, and her phone is in the kitchen, and she is in the other room, you want her to hear it. So she can call you back and prescribe your meds. But if she does happen to be WAY down the other end of the house, and the kids are yelling, and she doesn't hear the loud, long alert, the RAZR has a persisent page. So 5 minutes later when she is back near the phone she'll hear a little "beep." Then she'll know she has a page and she can return it.

The iPhone fails this use case in two ways. First the selection of tones is pathetic. Apple has decided that there are only 10 or so sounds that are suitable for an SMS alert. And they are all quiet and short little dings and beeps. Second, there is no persistence. The iPhone won't beep every 5 minutes until you at least look at the screen and see the message indicator.

I even bought a custom ringtone in the hope that it would be selectable as an SMS alert. No dice. Wasted $0.99.

I don't see how any physician can use an iPhone as their sole device. Apple has basically forced all of them to also carry a pager, or RAZR, or Blackberry. Why? I don't get it. Most UI limitations Apple chooses really contribute to overall cleanliness and simplicity of the interface. But the SMS sound selection ALREADY has a choice of sounds. Why not let somebody choose annoying, long sounds for SMS? On the surface, it might seem like a tasteless, annoying thing to do. But in some use cases, it could save somebody's life. Think about it.

I'm hoping some clever developer creates an iPhone app that will solve this.

[I know I could buy her an iPhone, and she could carry both the iPhone AND the RAZR. But... yuck, and you know, it costs money to have two devices.]

Update: I was hoping the iToner app from Ambrosia would work, but, alas, it only customize the phone tones.

Update: there is a lot of info out there on how to hack your iPhone to do this, but it requires Jailbreaking, which won't work at the moment on 2.0.1. But that might be an option for us.