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Three reasons why your phone stinks on phone calls

Three reasons why your phone stinks on phone calls

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If you want to scream because your phone calls sound like trash, it’s not just you.

The sound quality you get over cellular networks on your $1,000 iPhone is generally worse than when the only phone around was a landline.

“There’s a whole generation of mobile users who’ve never heard of a high-quality voice call,” said Sue Rudd, who manages research on mobile networks for Strategy Analytics.

You might be thinking: who cares about talking on the phone?! In the year 2022?!?!?! You use your phone for everything but the phone.

Yeah, well, the phone call is losing its relevance. But many of you still want or need to make calls.

And I want to continue the humble phone call as one of the most democratic forms of communication. On your cool Android phone, you can call a business landline in Warsaw or call a friend with a budget smartphone in Melbourne, and it (probably) works. You don’t all need to use the same technology or choose the same app.

The persistence of unwanted, garbled, or otherwise not-so-terrible smartphone calls is also a reminder that as we conquer artificial intelligence or the metaverse, we also can’t neglect old and boring technologies, like the phone call, that you use every day.

Let’s talk about three reasons why cell phone calls sound terrible, why you should care and what you can do about it.

Mobile communication technology is complex.

You may be familiar with what cell phone calls look like. But the experts I spoke with agree with what you’ve been missing out on and say you deserve better. They also say it’s a miracle that cell phone calls work at all.

Voice apps including TextNow, WhatsApp and Zoom have a lot of control over the steps of transmitting your voice to your dad, Tristan Huntington, vice president of product for the TextNow calling service, told me. The same was true of the landline telephone era, when there was a dedicated circuit for every phone call.

But in mobile phone calls, parts of your voice are passed from one technical medium to another and converted from one computer code to another, until those audio parts are synthesized in the other person’s ear. Some software used to transmit cellular calls clips parts of your voice frequencies and compresses the sounds through the equivalent of a narrow tube. All that tugging and soothing can make your voice sound hollow or muddy.

Plus, we’re often on the go and phone calls have to work with a mix of old and new technologies. Basically, there are far too many chances for cellular calls to go wrong.

“It’s 100 years of things that somehow have to relate to each other,” Huntington said.

Smartphone companies are cheap on microphones and speakers.

Your smartphone takes a bunch of tiny electronic parts and puts them together into a Hershey tape-sized space. It’s not exactly a recipe for perfect sound quality.

Mobile network professionals also tell me that smartphone companies tend to underestimate the quality of microphones and speakers — what you need to hear and be heard.

I’m not saying we should bring back the old rotary phone, but these things were Perfectly designed To fit the holes of your ears and the opening of your face.

“Old phones are designed to provide maximum speech quality during a conversation,” said John Berends, a voice researcher at TNO, a scientific research organization in the Netherlands. “The mobile phone is not.”

You’ve moved past phone calls, which makes companies less interested.

In the past, phone companies used to brag that you could “Hear a pin dropWhen I used their service. Not long ago, smartphone reviews were used to rate the sound quality on new devices as well as how good they were at taking pictures. Not anymore.

As I started making fewer phone calls, the companies involved focused more on improving how their phones and mobile networks handled videos and scrolling on Instagram. Phone call quality has been pushed down the priority list, which has stagnated call quality, causing you to care less about your phone’s phone function.

Some of these technical limitations of voice calls are beyond your control. But you can try a few things that might fix or improve the sound quality.

This is an easy suggestion, but I don’t like it.

Yes, modern applications such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Signal and Zoom have technical advantages that make their sound quality better than a basic mobile phone call. Companies also invest money to make sure you look (and look) great.

The downside is that relying on chat apps forces you to use the same app that your connected partner(s) are using, and that app is likely owned by some giant tech company. It’s also possible that you won’t contact the hiring manager about a new job via FaceTime. The phone call may be outdated and imperfect, but it is everywhere.

WiFi connection is your friend. (But not always.)

If you make phone calls at home or somewhere else with a reliable WiFi connection, your call will most likely be routed over WiFi instead of mobile lines. Calls sent over the Internet are often standard, depending on your smartphone model and mobile provider. Look in your phone’s settings for “WiFi calling” or a similar term, and turn the option on if it isn’t already.

But in some crowded places like coffee shops, concert venues or airports, lots of people connected to the same WiFi can do business. In these situations, you may want to try turning off WiFi calling and route a call over your 4G or 5G mobile network.

As silly as this advice sounds, if your phone call sounds bad, try hanging up and dialing the number again.

Try using headphones or taking the phone out of its case.

If you are connected to WiFi or you can see full bars on your mobile signal and resident You constantly have bad phone calls, the culprit may be the phone in your hand.

Ken Hiers, director of hardware technologies at Strategy Analytics, suggested using headphones when making or receiving calls. Even the lowest quality earbuds have microphones and software tuned to pick up your voice via cellphones.

If you have a protective phone case, try removing it to see if it makes your voice call look better. Hey, if you’re that guy using the speakerphone while holding the phone an inch from your lips, that’s not how the feature was supposed to be used.

Hiers said that if all else fails, a pricier phone will give you better call quality. “A thousand dollar phone will probably do a better job than a $200 phone,” he said.

5G will make things better – maybe?

Phone geeks are excited about a still-new technology for 5G phone networks called VoNR, or Voice over New Radio. (The language of mobile networking is out of whack.) One of its promised benefits is a huge step up in sound quality over older cell phone technologies.

But for the voice improvements to begin, device manufacturers, mobile service providers, and all intermediaries involved in voice call bounces must use the same technology. This hasn’t really happened in the era of 4G phones and probably won’t happen with 5G — at least not anytime soon.

➦ “Hearing the phone ring at all disturbs my soul.” Meet people who absolutely hate talking on the phone.

➦ Miss Manners Handles Whether you should text before calling someone.

➦ You are not the only one Accidentally turn on your iPhone’s flashlight.

If you’re in the United States and traveling out of the country, the easiest option for most people—but certainly not the least expensive—is to purchase International Day tickets available from AT&T and Verizon, if you get a monthly bill from one of those providers.

These passes, which typically cost $5 or $10 for each day you spend out of the country, allow you to use your smartphone mostly as you would at home and still use your regular phone number.

My colleague Chris Velasco has other alternatives to How to keep your phone working while traveling abroad.

Brag about your only small win! Tell us about A tech app, gadget, or trick that made your day just a little bit better. We may feature your tip in a future edition of The Tech Friend.



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