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What Voice Quality? The Lost Art of Making Phone Calls on a Phone

Posted on: October 6th, 2015 by Max Valerio No Comments


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I bought an iPhone 6s last week lured by its sleek metallic exterior, colorful user-friendly apps and simple yet alluring user interface, high resolution camera, enticing  speed, and of course – Siri.  When I was touring smart phones, picking them up and weighing my many options, the salesperson was quick to point out all the features that made each phone distinctive: camera quality, ease of use, variety of apps, storage capacity, and battery life.  Not once did she mention voice quality.  Now, when you think about it, this is strange.  After all, the purpose of a phone originally and primarily is to make phone calls.  Or, so it has been in the past.  Isn’t it odd that nowadays the one feature that once defined a phone, a telephone call, is now the last feature mentioned and is often never mentioned at all?  It is almost like voice quality is an afterthought.  As though the phones we use are now, really complex cameras or hybrid storage devices, enhanced music devices, or telephonic television sets instead of — well, telephones.

Are voice calls out of fashion?

Possibly, this is because voice quality is the one aspect of a smartphone that is noticeably less reliable, and of lower quality, than what can be had on a simple and plain old landline.   Millennials are rumored to not even make voice calls and to prefer messaging or romping around on social media sending pictures, tweets, and texts.  There are predictions that someday, voice calls will be all but extinct.  Could this be a convenient prediction for VoIP phones and assorted smartphones?  I mean, if voice quality is their Achilles heel, possibly it is convenient to persuade the public to forget about the original purpose of telephones altogether. Forget that little voice thing, who needs to call people anyway?

But why then, do we still call these small computers “smartphones” and not smart cameras or storage pods or application launchers?  Why even have the pretense that the thing is still, a phone, that can and does make voice calls as its primary purpose for existing?

Will voice calls come back as an artisanal channel for communication?

Truth be told, there is still nothing closer to being there in person than speaking to someone on the phone.  The human voice is personal and immediate, the communication is direct and less calculated.  Voice calls are an efficient and spontaneous channel for human contact: a person feels closer, more present when you actually speak to them, even over a great distance on a phone.  While it may be slightly out of style now, I would wager that voice calls may come roaring back.  They will be repackaged and have a new hip veneer.  Calls will be both artisanal and postmodern, a way to make contact that doesn’t involve a keyboard.  Voice calls will feel spontaneous and disruptive.

High quality voice is becoming a priority

As if in preparation, iPhones have a new channel that promises the most reliable and clear voice quality.  While not advertised often, Apple has taken the lead for consumer smartphones with new technologies that provide higher quality voice calls.  There is something called HD Voice and it nearly guarantees that a voice call is crystal clear. However, there is a catch.  You must be speaking to someone on an iPhone 5, 5 c, 6 or 6s who also has HD Voice and the same carrier.  So it is a little tricky.  HD Voice is wideband audio and supports a wider frequency of audio signals than are normally transmitted, resulting in a clearer voice transmission.    Other innovations in voice quality include VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) which enables phone calls to be sent over LTE rather than traditional cell phone towers.  This results in more consistently clear calls.  Many carriers provide this innovation.

Overall, I am happy with the voice quality on my new iPhone 6s, even if it is not always as reliably clear as the landline I once used a few years ago.  Sometimes the voice quality is stunning, and other times it is very good and other times – it is just OK.  Even so, my iPhone 6s definitely does the job with extras like a fantastic camera attached.   And, I get to talk to Siri.

VoIP – troubleshooting for clarity

VoIP (IP phones) have also gotten much more reliable and clear over the years, though quality and consistency still varies.  There are ways to troubleshoot issues such as echo on voice calls.  Typically, the main cause of echo is the voice traveling from the earpiece or speaker back into the mouthpiece, this type of echo is called “acoustic echo”.  Simply turning down the volume of the phone can greatly reduce this type of echo.

Another kind of echo is electromagnetic interference.  This is often the result of positioning your VoIP device too close to other electronic devices like a computer monitor, computer, or power strip.  All of these devices have large electrical fields and should not be too close to a VoIP device (IP phone).

Set your UC phone system up now for consistent clarity

These simple precautions are helpful, but an engineer’s help is optimal in configuring and setting up an IP phone system so that voice is clear and other features are optimized.  Of course, here at streamWrite, we specialize in Unified Communications, which does include voice, and we can help your business choose and configure a system that will keep you talking, texting, and video conferencing – communicating – in all the many ways possible today.  Contact us now to find out more.

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