iOS 6's Swoosh Sound Sending Email Signifies: Nothing

Based on evidence accumulated so far, it appears that the swoosh sound heard in iOS 6 when sending an email doesn’t really confirm that the message has been sent. Only that you pressed the Send button. This appears to be a change from previous iOS versions.

I spend a fair amount of time emailing product photos from my iPhone to my iMac where I prepare them for publication. In times previous to iOS 6, a collection of photos could seem to take a long time from the press of the Send button until I heard the swoosh sound. I attributed that to the transmission of the image data.

Recently, two different events in iOS 6 have led me to believe that the now much shortened time from tapping the Send button and the swoosh sound is not a technical improvement, but rather a User Experience (UX) concession by Apple. That is, it’s no longer a technical indication that the message has been sent. Rather, it appears to be a quick audio confirmation solely for the sake of effect. Here’s the evidence so far.

Case I

A TMO reader told me a story recently, right after he’d upgraded to iOS 6, about a lost email. He was on the road, and his wife was driving. He got an email on his iPhone and he wanted to forward it to his home account as a personal reminder. So he forwarded the email and heard the swoosh sound.

Right after that, he tried to access Twitter but could not. He realized that we was out of cell tower range and had no signal. He wondered if his email had been sent. It wasn’t in the Draft folder, it wasn’t in the Sent folder, and when he got home, he determined that it never got sent. The swoosh sound appears to not have been any kind of real confirmation that the message was accepted by the SMTP server. The email went into oblivion.

Case II

Last weekend, my iPhone 5 was replaced under warranty for a defective 3.5 mm audio port. Even though I restored it completely from an iTunes backup, in line with Apple’s admirable security measures, I had to go about re-entering all my passwords when prompted. One that didn’t prompt me, however, was the email account outgoing SMTP password.

A few days later, I needed to email some product photos for a review I was doing, and, of course, I heard the swoosh sound right after I tapped the Send button. All along, I had been thinking that Apple engineers had cleverly optimized the outgoing mail process for several megabytes of images.

The emails never arrived on my iMac.

It was after some investigation that I discovered the missing password. In this case however, after I entered the password, the emails were transmitted. Again, the swoosh sound appears to be not a confirmation that the message was sent.

Analyzing the Evidence

The two different events described above strongly suggest that in iOS 6, the swoosh sound is no longer a confirmation that the message has been properly sent via the SMTP server. Rather, the sound appears right after the Send button is tapped merely as an audio indication of nothing more than a registration that the Send button was tapped. That’s a reasonable conclusion based on two separate incidents that are a different but validate the same phenomena.

However, it’s still possible that this is an incomplete description of a complex process. I’m open to additional evidence and analysis.


If this is an accurate assessment of how the software is working, then it is troubling. It’s one thing to treat email in a traditional sense, waiting patiently for confirmation, even if it takes a little longer in a mobile environment. It’s quite another to shortcut previous methodologies in order to make it appear to the customer that the process has been improved when, technically, it's worse.


Email image via Shutterstock