How to Ignore Unwanted Callers on iPhone

Sometimes I wonder why I even have an iPhone, and don't just use my iPad mini for everything I do. Aside from the I-gotta-have-one-because-I-teach-and-write-about-this-stuff reason, I still wonder.

Fact is: I hate talking on the phone. I hate receiving calls. I am not a hateful person, but there are people who call me that I simply do not wish to talk to. Ever. I know people who love to call just to hear themselves talk. Yet, they have nothing to say. I don't have time for them. I have ex-clients who keep pestering me for free support. I don't get lots of calls from telemarketers, but I see an increasing trend.

Don't get me wrong, I love to communicate. In fact, I feel that I am a great communicator. But, I'm a huge fan of email, texting, and voicemail. I know I am not alone in this love-hate relationship with my iPhone.

I have set up my iPhone in such a way that I am completely oblivious to certain incoming calls for the simple reason that I am not alerted to them. Let me show you how to do this.

OK. Let's say you have a nasty person in your life whose voice you simply cannot tolerate. You know that person whose voice… just hearing it, even in voice mail, causes the very core of your being – the very essence of your soul – to react in horrific and uncontrollable ways.

Of course, you could set your iPhone to Airplane Mode, and that would be that. But this would compromise your other means of communications: WiFi, cellular data, bluetooth. In my case, there are a few callers I do want to hear from and yes… even talk to: people who mean something to me, my wife, my goldfish, people with whom I do business, people who have a burning desire to give me cash for no apparent reason, etc.

I found that the next best thing is to assign a "silent" ringtone to specific people in my Contacts. Their calls will indeed come in, but there will be no audible ringtone or vibration. The caller can still leave a message on my voice mail. Later, if I want, I can just delete the voicemail without even listening to it.

I know this whole thing sounds really crass and unfriendly, but I really think this could be quite useful to many of my readers. And, it's just another way to help reduce stress in one's life.

For this technique to work, you will need to load a sound file of… well, nothing! A blank. If you know how to use GarageBand on your Mac, you can create and save sounds formatted specifically for use as iPhone ringtones. Perhaps the easiest way, if you have the GarageBand app on your iPhone, is to create the ringtone right on your device, then have the app transfer it into your on-board directory of ringtones. You can even have GarageBand assign the ringtone directly to a specific contact.

Three screens from GarageBand on iPhone where you can create ringtones.

GarageBand on iPhone can be used to directly create and install ringtones.

If you don't want to go through the steps of creating your own sounds-of-silence from scratch, and you have a buck-twenty-nine (U.S. dollars) to spend, you can purchase and install your silent ringtone right on your iPhone directly from the iTunes app. A convenient way to do this is to go to Settings > Sounds. Scroll down to the Sounds and Vibration Patterns section. Notice that, although I am illustrating the configuration of ringtones, these procedures also apply to tones generated by other functions – such as incoming text messages, email, etc. All of these share one common pool of sounds that you can populate to your heart's – and your iPhone's – content.

Focusing in on the Sounds and Vibration Patterns on the Sounds Settings panel.

The Sounds and Vibration Patterns section in the Sounds Settings panel allows you to assign different sounds to various iPhone functions.

Look at Ringtone at the top of the list in the Sounds and Vibration Patterns section. It will show you the default ringtone. That is the ringtone that will sound for all incoming calls unless they come from callers whom you have assigned specific ringtones to.

Next, tap on that Ringtone's entry to view the list of all your on-board sounds. From here you can pick-and-choose the sound you want as your default ringtone.

The list of Ringtones from the Sounds Settings panel  highlighting the

Tapping the Store button will take you into the iTunes app and to the iTunes Store to purchase, download and install ringtones.

Notice the Store button at the top-right on the title bar. Tapping that will take you directly to the Ringtones page on the iTunes store via your iTunes app. From here, you can search for, and purchase, all the pre-made tones you want. Search for "silent" or "silence" and you'll find so many choices that you'll lose sleep trying to decide which one plays the best rendition of silence for you. So, be sure to sample the silence before purchasing.

The iTunes Store page in the iTunes app showing a search results page for

Before purchasing a ringtone, you can tap on it to get more information and to sample the sound.

When you make your choice and tap on the appropriate button for completing the purchase, you are asked if you want the new tone to be your Default Ringtone or if you want to Assign it to a specific contact you want to put the quietus on. If you accidentally assign your new silence ringtone as your default ringtone, you won't hear any or most of your incoming calls. To fix this, simply go into Settings > Sound > Ringtone and reset your desired default ringtone from the list. In any event, your purchased ringtone will always appear in your list of ringtones for you to assign to any sound function.

A dialog box asks if you want the purchased ringtone set as the default ringtone or assigned to a specific contact.

You are given the choice of how to have your purchased ringtone configured. You can always change this later.

If you want to assign your silence ringtone to other contacts, simply open each contact's info page in the Contacts app. Go to the Ringtone entry, tap then select the silence ringtone from the list. Note that you can also set Vibration to None on this panel.

A Contacts record showing where a ringtone can be assigned to that contact.

You can assign a ringtone and a vibration pattern for each contact.

That's pretty much all there is to it.

To keep other incoming calls silent – those from whom you do not even wish to have listed in your Contacts, such as telemarketers and loan sharks – you can collect them all in one catch-all contact entry as the calls come in.

Let's say you just got a call from a telemarketer. After abruptly hanging up on the guy, go to your Phone app, tap on Recents in the toolbar at the bottom, find the caller's number, tap on the blue arrow on the entry's right side – NOT the main entry, or you will be returning the call! Finally, in the Info Panel for that recent call, tap on Create New Contact.

To collect these kinds of incoming nuisance calls into a single contact record, I name it something obvious, like PITA BOZO. Then I assign my silent ringtone as well as select None for vibration.

A Contacts record that acts as the aggregator for all incoming phone numbers I want to silence. The ringtone for all these numbers is set to the silence ringtone and vibration is set to none.

You can collect lots of unwanted incoming phone numbers and assign your silence ringtone and no vibration to all of them.

From that point, as more of these calls come in, I assign them to the same PITA BOZO contact by tapping the Assign to Contact button when later reviewing these calls in the list of Recents. I haven't reached a limit to the number of phone number entries per contact yet, but I can always create more of these records for bogus callers in the Contacts app.

Hopefully, in some future version of iOS, we'll be able to just hit a button to have iPhone ignore specific callers altogether – or better still, to have Siri tell the callers that they are a PITA Bozo, and to go away.