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iPhone 4: What’s with the call quality?


You might be familiar with reception bars dropping before your very eyes as you hold the iPhone 4 in your left hand and purposely cover the little gaps you’ve been told not to cover. We are; we’ve had hours of fun watching those little bars sneak off screen although we’ve never actually dropped a call.

What we have had real trouble with, however, is actual call quality. The external antenna and the inclusion of dual mics for noise cancellation are meant to give us the best call quality ever; but that’s not really what we’ve found over the course of the last three weeks.

First the good news: calls to fixed landlines haven’t been a problem. Both sides of the call enjoyed nice clear voices, even when we were calling from a busy London street.

But it’s not all fun and games; calls to mobile phones have been fuzzy, distorted and, in some cases, it’s been hard to hear the person I’ve been speaking to. Similarly, callers have reported struggling to hear me in many cases. These calls have all been placed in Central London on O2. It’s not just me that’s had the problem; Recombu editorial director Andrew Lim has found the same problems, as have several Twitter users.

This morning, we clarified with a bit of a test. Calls to the landline were absolutely fine, as stated above. But then we called another iPhone 4, which was terrible. Words bled into each other, there was interference on the line and at one point the caller’s voice became disturbingly robotic.

Our next call was to a Google Nexus One – this was slightly better but nowhere near the quality of the landline call we used as a standard to measure against. Calling an iPhone 3G provided the worst quality of all; voices were almost unintelligible and, trust me, I checked my caller wasn’t just speaking in tongues.

These calling issues weren’t something we noted in our original review; in fact, our reviewer didn’t have any issues with call quality at all. A quick scoot ’round the internet reveals that most other technology sites, particularly those based in the US, haven’t had this problem quite as badly. This raises the question, is it a UK network issue?

Perhaps a bumper would work to improve the call quality by keeping a bridge between flesh and antenna but forgive us if we can’t afford to shell out for one. Apple has called a sudden surprise press conference for tomorrow where most people are expecting the company to address reception concerns; let’s hope the ‘quick fixes’ we’ve seen (buy a bumper, hold it differently, slightly larger on-screen reception bars) aren’t the only answers we get. What good is a telephone if you can’t actually use it to hold calls?

[Image credit: Fantasyfan]

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