Mitel Mute Makes Me [Silently] Scream!

by Dave Michels

I’ve never really been sure the MUTE button was properly named.

A mute doesn’t speak, but typically the reason we press it is so we can speak and not be heard. Seems like a deaf button or a microphonally challenged button is more logical. Making matters worse is the mute button on the TV turns off the sound. Am I the only one confused? Does anyone else mute the TV before coughing?

Regardless of the name, you basically get it and probably use it. As I recall, we first started using the mute button on speaker calls. Most speaker-phones way back when were half duplex. The constant clipping as the microphone and speaker took turns was pretty annoying. Mute solved that.

However, I am done with mute only being useful on speaker-phones. This is a bigger deal as I work more at home now. Homew have lots of noise. Inappropriate sounds when you least expect it. Kids yelling “dad”, the dryer telling the world its done, my radio (which mysteroiusly is louder at home), not to mention the electric toothbrush (people find it so irritating). Also, I find my day filled with many more audio-conferences than it was a few years ago; a combination of acceptance of the technology, telecommuting, travel costs, odors, etc.

Well here it is; the gripe. The Mitel mute button only mutes when using the speaker-phone. As far as I can tell, there is no way to mute the handset or the headset. Sometimes the answer is supposed to be ‘no’ to the infamous ‘can you hear me now?’ Of course, if they actually said ‘no’, I might be suspicioius.

I have two phones on my home desk – the Polycom IP 550 (connected to my Digium Switchvox) and my Mitel 5235 (teleworked to the office Mitel 3300). Both phones are reasonably comparable in quality, price, and specs. Both have unique features. But I have to say, that more and more, I am making business calls (particularly conferences) on my home Polycom instead of my office Mitel because of the ability to mute. My headset migrated to the Polycom.

The folks at Polycom seem to have a lot to say secretly as they figured out that the mute button should work regardless if the phone is in speaker, handset, or headset mode. I don’t know what they are saying about me, but I know they are plotting something.

Keep in mind, both phone systems have music-on-hold, so I can’t press “hold” if I want to tell a kid to play on the freeway. The music would be a dead give away that I was doing something nefarious. This is exactly why they came up with the inappropriately named mute button. I am curious if this is a Mitel thing or if the other traditional telecom manufacturers have this ‘feature’ too.

Another thing is both phones use a picture of a [similar] microphone to indicate mute – but Polycom adds a line through it to represent ‘no microphone’. To mute, you press it and it lights-up. Conversely, the Mitel microphone has no line through it. Rather in speaker mode, it lights-up and can be pressed off to mute the phone. I prefer the Polycom approach, treating and lighting the mute button as the exception.

I have tried to communicate this to Mitel, but it falls upon muted ears.