In my iPhone X review, I wrote:
And for reasons I’ve never been able to understand, Android handset makers seem willing to copy everything and anything from Apple they can get away with (and even things they can’t get away with), but [almost] none have copied the iPhone’s mute switch, despite the fact that it’s a brilliant idea.
I didn’t mean to imply that the iPhone was the first device or first phone to include a mute switch, but I can see how “it’s a brilliant idea” could be taken that way. I’ve changed that to “despite the fact that it’s extremely useful”.
On Twitter, Dieter Bohn pointed out that nearly every phone Palm ever made included a hardware ringer switch. Seth Weintraub pointed back to the 1985 Trimline — a landline phone that included a ringer switch. (When I was a kid, the only way you could keep a telephone from ringing was to take it off the hook, which prevented any incoming calls from getting through.)
What I think Apple deserves credit for is defining which hardware buttons were necessary for the modern smartphone: home, power, volume up/down, and mute. Every other button moved to software, inside apps on the touchscreen. It was considered somewhat radical that the iPhone omitted the Send/End (green/red) hardware buttons that were present on just about every cell phone ever made prior to the iPhone. If Apple, the most hardware-button-averse company in the industry, has always included a mute switch, why don’t Android handset makers?