The Speaker Quality of the iPhone 4

By , Jun 21, 2010

iphone-4-press-007_mediumAfter sifting through article after article of early iPhone 4 reviews, I still have one large question unanswered. We all know about the new high res display that Apple has touted around, and 3rd party reports have verified its beauty.

But what I’m desperately wondering is if the audio quality has been improved. Speaker phone quality as well as general media volume is very inadequate for such a premier device.

I wondered if maybe I had just been spoiled by my work phone, a Motorola Droid, but in my quest for an answer I actually came across several different forum threads on various Mac and gadget blogs where users have had the same complaints. As a device used to watch and listen to your media and share funny YouTube videos with your friends on the go, headphones are not always readily available.

I noticed how bad the speaker quality was when I tried to watch a funny YouTube video with a few co-workers out to lunch one day, and you couldn’t hear a word on full volume, and there was very little background noise.

The exact same video on my Motorola Droid however was easy to hear at 2/3 volume. I also enjoy listening to music sometimes without headphones, when I’m playing Madden on my Xbox or watching Sport Center late at night. With my current 3G iPhone, it’s just not possible.

So although it certainly wasn’t mentioned in Steve Job’s keynote, and has yet to be commented on in early iPhone 4 reviews, I still have my fingers crossed that there will be an improvement to the external speaker quality. But judging by the picture of the tiny speaker port above, I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Currently, speakerphone is also a joke, whether in the car, or sitting at my desk, it’s almost impossible to hear the other caller with any type of background noise. It would be nice to have speaker quality reflecting the technical advances in the rest of the device.

But when attempting to make a lot of advanced technology fit inside such a small, thin casing, something’s gotta give right? Chances are the speaker port is kept so small to not intrude on the aesthetics of the phone.

Either way looks like the jury’s out on this one until June 24, when the first real hands on reviews will start pouring in. Seems though if you were dreaming of higher quality audio in your new iPhone 4, chances are your going to be disappointed.

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  • kirk

    my 3gs is much louder than my 3g was. Im pretty satisfied with the volume of the 3gs. Maybe cause your still on a 3g, you dont realise that its been improved since then.

  • AppleBits

    I agree with kirk…I have the 3GS, and my speaker quality isn’t bad at all. I never had the 3G to compare it to, but I can’t complain about what I have. So even if the 4 is only equivalent to the 3GS, I’d be OK with it. Maybe not cartwheels..but OK. :)

    • http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com Sebastien

      I have been complaining about the speaker quality since the very first iPhone. I now have a 3GS (soon an iPhone 4) and I am still very disappointed with the speakers. The speaker on my iPhone 3GS is so bad that it’s almost useless. Try to put the speakerphone on while driving a car, you can’t hear anything. Try the speakerphone with 2-3 people chatting around you, you can’t hear anything. The only time I really use the speaker is when I am by myself and want to play a little music (that is if I’m not close to my stereo of course).

      Like Cody, I hope the 4 will come with better speakers.

  • http://elixelle.blogspot.com Adel

    I have a 3GS and have no problem with the sound quality and volume. I watch YouTube vids at half the volume, much better than my brother’s Sony Ericsson 705i and the speakerphone is loud enough I usually have to lower the volume. My only complaint on sound is that the ringer tends to be MIA some times although mute is off.

  • el_chupacabra

    Uh, yeah. It’s a mobile phone, what did you expect the tiny little speaker to sound like? Even in the best case scenario, speaker phones suck. It doesn’t matter what type, how it is set up, etc. Speaker phone calls suck in general and should be avoided in any and all cases. If you need to make a hands free call, get a headset. Whenever I want to listen to music, I hook it up to my receiver or a set of external speakers. If that’s not an option, I’ve found that sticking the phone speaker down into a glass works in a pinch as a decent amplifier. Also, holding the phone so your palm acts like an amplifier for the speaker works when sharing youtube videos with friends. My biggest complaint about the speaker on my 3G is the volume is low that if you’re out in the mall or something, you can’t hear the damn thing ring when it is in your pocket.

  • Bradley

    Sebastian and Cody,

    I think that there must be something wrong with your phones… I am partially deaf in my left ear (normal hearing in my right ear) and I can easily hear the speakerphone on my 3GS when I am driving down the highway in my car with the windows cracked (plenty of noise).

  • Idgaf syndrome man

    Honestly speakers good on 3gs but the part that gets me is the part holding up to your ear is horrid !!!! Motorola razors have better quailty then this thing ,PATHETICLY EPIC FAILURE !!! come on apple !!

    • Rob Sussman

      I agree my motorola razor sounds much better than my iPhone 3G. Listening without the speakerphone is horrible and using the speakerphone is just a shitty. Apple s/b ashamed to put out such trash.

  • Joel

    I too have a 3gs and am pleased with the speaker quality. I agree the speaker phone volume could be improved but for music it’s great. I listen to music while in the shower and the 3Gs works just fine.

  • Jason

    I have a 3G and I agree, the speaker quality sucks bobo. I really hope they improve it with the iphone 4.

    One other thing I wish they would do with the iPhone 4 is allow you to create different ring profiles and be able to customize SMS notifications etc with your own sounds.

  • Idgaf syndrome man

    Zomg I use for shower myself thank you bathroom eq ,but yea thinking about waterproof case ,

  • Jim C

    I had wondered about the specs of the speakers of the iPhone 4 as well. Since Jobs made no special mention of any improvements to their quality, I would assume their quality level at or about that of the 3 GS. But, you never know.

    Maybe Steve saved us a surprise!

  • Jason

    Yeha i told my girlfriend about the new phone and all the great features, and she said “is it louder”.
    The only thing she was interested in. We both have 3GS at the moment.
    So fingers crossed the answer is, Hell YES!

  • Jay

    I’ve heard nothing about the quality or loudness of the speaker which leads me to believe its still the same. Compared to droids its definitely less than half the loudness. I’m really dreading another two years of not being able to hear someone on the speakerphone unless I’m in complete silence.

  • lee
  • http://www.realsoftware.com Geoff Perlman

    I switched from a 3GS to an iPhone 4 today. I was playing Doodle Jump and noticed that the sounds seem clearer. It’s as if the sounds had a greater frequency range but the 3GS just couldn’t play the whole frequency or something. I’m not an audiophile so I don’t know the exact terminology but if you have Doodle Jump, try it on your iPhone 4 and I think you will see what I mean.

  • Bigfish

    Finally I find people on the Internet who care about the sound quality coming from the speaker of the phone. The people who say the 3GS has decent volume never had a true speaker on there phone before. Heard of the N95? If you ever had that phone you know what a speaker phone is suppose to sound like! On that note I desperately wanted 2 things from apple for iPhone 4 along with some of the nice upgrades and features they gave us. I wanted a bigger screen and a nice LOUD speaker phone, and guess what, it didn’t happen this year! Matter of fact the iPhone 4′s speaker is a tad bit lower than the 3GS’s however it is clearer and doesn’t distort when all the way up.

  • jeff

    Just compared the speakers on my 3gs and my new Iphone 4–playing the same Ipod song on both and switching between them by raising and lowering the volume on the two- and there is no doubt from my test that the older 3GS has a lot more presence and the sound is more robust and deeper — I think it’s because of the body of the phones. THe 3gs has a bigger and rounder body which likely acts more like a speaker box while the 4 just doesn’t have any room inside to help the sound build some character. I’m disappointed — as I play my old 3gs often just in my pocket while doing chores or working away from my desk. They dropped the ball on the speakers as far as I’m concerned.

  • Eva

    Just switched to my iPhone 4 today and honestly, I think I’ll be switching back to my 3GS (obviously for other reasons besides just the speaker). I sat the two side-by-side…The speaker is absolutely awful on the 4…I’d say it’s comparable to a regular iPod TOUCH. The speaker is very flat and no base. I’m highly disappointed.

  • Rick Package

    I listen to sirius, pandora or pocket tunes on my iphone 20 hrs. a day. Normally I use headphones or external speakers but while moving around the house I’ll bring it with me and use the phone’s speaker.

    So I upgraded to the iphone4 from a 3G and teh speaker’s sound is definitely not as good. It’s louder but not as deep or true.

    Still, the speed and new features make upgrading a no-brainer- IMO.

  • http://www.webngames.com Robbie

    I have the new iPhone 4 and the speaker is AWESOME! you have to put it all the way up but the fidelity is great!

  • jeff

    so you must not have had a 3GS before your 4– I compared the two this morning and there is no doubt the speaker is not as good on the 4 as it is on the 3gs – I think again it may be because of the smaller thinner case and maybe the metal frame– also the 4 doesn’t have as much volume either. Definitely no improvement in the speaker or volume. Perhaps they opted to make the speaker more durable and less prone to being over driven but at the cost of less quality and volume– its still within the range of acceptable as I often bluetooth stream music from the phone to my Bose units.

  • Noodles

    I got an iphone4. Is it me or doesn’t both speakers need to play sounds?? Only bottom right one. Left is no go. Music, ringtone, speakerphone Convo. This is wrong correct anyone experience this?

  • Idgaf syndrome man

    @noddles the second one is not a speaker it’s your mic man ,and iPhone 4 noice cancelation mic ,so clearer speaking audio

  • bobzilla

    I just upgraded from the 3G to the 4, and the speaker on the 4, in my opinion, is louder, much less prone to distortion at high volumes, and has more depth. The only distortion I’ve heard so far is from it trying to pump out bass, but then it’s extremely difficult for any phone speaker, especially one as small as the iPhone’s, to pump out any sort of bass. Take a look at iFixIt’s teardown of the iPhone 4 to get an idea of how small the speaker is. Getting any sort of bass out of a tweeter is a tough job, and for the size, I’d say it does pretty darn good. Past that, I have had no issues with the 4′s sound quality. It sounds great to me.

  • noodles

    ahhh thanks man. I was searching around and saw about it after i posted. GOod to know.

  • PJ

    Yes, my wife still has the 3g and the ear bud volume is louder on that one, sound quallity is is still the same. Right now I don’t know a cre for the speaker…but to raise the earbud/headphone quality watch this it’s so easy…This will fix it for sure.

    http://en.kendincos.net/video-pvprrlln-how-to-make-ipod-music-louder.html

    Once you test your headphones put the volume level on half,incase it’s too loud 75% should be loud enough.

    I’ll keep an eye out on how rto raise the speker on the phone itself, it won’t be long before someone figures it out.

  • Rhea S

    Now that the iPhone 4 is out someone should really do a review on all the features, especially the speakers. Because my 2G had horrible speakers! I could barely even hear my phone ringing sometimes!

  • Bigfish

    Someone already did a review on all the features, “Me”! My girlfriend and two other family members have the iPhone 4, I have the 3GS. Of course the 4 is a good upgrade and a better phone with it’s beautiful screen, great camera and HD video recorder, not to mention faster processor, HOWEVER, the 3GS is louder over all than the 4. When playing music directly from the device like Pandora or from the iPod you will easily notice the higher volume coming from the 3GS were the iPhone 4 seems greatly muffled. Anyone saying otherwise definitely and obviously hasn’t tested it for themselves. That’s the ONLY thing the 3GS does better than the 4 so no worries, but it’s always nice to have a loud speaker because in my opinon even the 3GS lacked in speaker phone quality, you could never hold a decent conversation while driving in the car on speaker phone or in noisy conditions. The only way you could carry on a decent speaker phone conversation using the 3GS was if you were in a quiet room with little going on in the background, then it seemed loud and clear, even then some people would report on there end that your voice was breaking up.

  • elizabeth

    my volume dont work????? only on loud speaker! i dont want all my calls on loud speaker.
    HELP!

  • Dean

    IPhone 4 volume Sucks big time…. The one thing I miss from my iPhone 3GS is my much louder volume :(

  • wize

    “The speaker on my iPhone 3GS is so bad that it’s almost useless. Try to put the speakerphone on while driving a car, you can’t hear anything.”

    Really? I’ve used the speakerphone on the 3GS while driving many times, and it’s great. I’ve even had it in my pocket playing music while walking down a moderately busy street, and we could all hear the music. And if you want it to be extra load, cup your hand around the bottom edge speaker while holding it.

    • Jeremy

      The speakers on the 4 suck! Like the one person said it seems to only use the bottom right for music and videos!! If it used both I think it would be much better?? I had a storm for verizon before this and it is about half as loud. I’ve been looking everywhere to find a fix….. Let me know if there is one!!!!!

  • wize

    …and in the car, that’s with the phone sitting in the seat next to me.

  • Steve

    iPhone 4 user here, the music and video sound from the 4 is weak in comparison to the 3GS (including YouTube, etc). However, the ring volume is MUCH louder. I suspect they will do a bit of software tweaking and the volume for music, etc will increase as it should. I also think the fidelity is crap.

  • Miss_My_3GS_Luv_My_Faster_4G

    I’ve done the test and my 3GS speaker is so much louder than my iPhone 4′s speaker. The iPhone 4 speaker sounds muffled. I googled to check if it was just my phone experiencing this and found this site where users agree 3GS was better sounding. Geohot please return and give us jb tools to free our new phones from crapdom!

  • Dracossaint

    I don’t think geohot ain’t gonna comeing back for a longtime ,in year maybe ,but that’s a big maybe ,he may never comeback ,cause people couldn’t stop fing withem >.>

  • Ari

    Just switched to the 4, and while I liked the nicer look and feel and video capabilities, I was startled when I first went to use the speakerphone that I couldn’t understand a word. Going to return this crap later today. I like all of the features but I need a phone and a speakerphone that work.

  • http://derryquinn.com Derry Quinn

    I dont know what was wrong with my 3GS but my iPhone 4′s speaker seems like it is about one and a half times as loud as my 3GS and I’ve been delighted with the improvement, seems like this hasn’t been the case for anybody else

  • keller

    I definitely agree that the 3GS speaker is louder than the 4′s…

    but what I also notice is that the iPhone 4′s speaker is clearer, and you can make out the tiniest sounds and effects, even each and every instrument being played while listening to music… YouTube videos also play very clear..

    I set my iPhone 4 on my couch and left the room, and from 2 rooms away I was still able to hear every word being said on the YouTube video being played…

    I think if they would add a second speaker it would please everyone, and I don’t care what anyone says, they can make the space for it without any sort of sacrifice…

  • franklin

    well i got the iphone 4 two days ago, and i know this that the left speaker of the phone does not sound the same as the right side im wondering if this is some thing that was designed like this from the actual apple store or what?

  • dimisx

    I agree with franklin. The left speaker sounds much lower than the right one.. Is anybody having the same issue?

  • Cone

    Speaker is a crap as on any 3gs,3g,2g SAME SHIT! You should hear the nokia 5800 xpressmusic and see the difrence.. Like Night and day. The mobile phone without stereo and 2 speaker for me is crap! I want a cristal loud sound for my money! Certainly for more of 1000Euro!!! Apple Fix the dam thing and give the people what really deserve!!! You should be shame! Cristal Picture od the screen for hd Video with ONE,CRAP,MONO,SPEAKER!!! Revolution my ass!

    • tony

      Absolutely right! what the hell is wrong with them one damn speaker everyone who reported about these speakers should hear the speakers on my motorola q9h global dual stereo speakers super loud as the speaker phone.

  • Jag

    Just for some clarification – the LEFT “speaker” is NOT a speaker but a noise cancelling mic. As for me, I’ve had the 3GS and now the iPhone 4. The sound level on the 3GS was noticeablly louder on the 3GS as compared to the 4G. But what i noticed is that if you put the phone on a surface, the noise gets louder – kind of amplified.
    So I tested this a number of times, but in reality, the 4G speaker is definitely not as loud as the one in the 3GS.

  • Unkith

    Ok there was a speaker fix for the 3G which involved physically poking a hole in the speaker. I did that and my sound quality went up drastically coz there’s a thin mesh to prevent dirt n shit to go in, which when pierced amplifies the sound to pretty decent levels. Of course you’ve gotta be careful about where you put your iPhone after poking a hole or two in it but I haven’t had any issues. Of course I dunno if the se is true for the iph 4 but jus wanted to share this with you guys.

  • Dude

    Hi, I havev a new iPhone 4, and I have to say that I was shocked that the speaker was so crappy. For those who beleive that it had to be sacrified for size: you should hear the beautiful quality and volume from my 4 year old Sny-Ericsson Walkmans phone. The Walkman phone is a slider, soooooo compact, hell ya, amazing sound quality and the volume can be heard 3 houses away, crystal clear.

    Just sayin.

    I suppose I shall have to appreciate the iPhone 4 for what it is, and keep the decommissioned Walkman phone for use as an iPod. Ya, that’s kinda funny, kinda.

  • Dude

    sorry about the typing….

  • Ryan

    I have an iPhone 4 and my friend has the 3GS and the iPhone 4′s speaker is way louder and clearer than my friend’s 3GS. We have played similar things outloud and the 4 always drowns his out when the 3GS is at full and the 4 is at half. People must not have good hearing.

  • http://www.iphonedowanloadblog.com Derek

    I also have been a SonyEricsson Walkman phone guy for years, and finally switched to the iphone 4. You can’t compare the speakerphone system on the two models… the iphone 4 is absolutely rubbish. I don’t care about playing music, but I do like to make hands-free calls. I can audibly hear the party on the other end… however much more volume would be apprecitated… but they simply can’t hear me. They say I sound very faint… off in the distance. I’ve never liked Apple products, but everyone was raving about the iphone. I think these mobile phone makers often forget that the primary purpose of the device is a PHONE. Consumers want a PHONE first and a cool media device second. Dropping calls is unacceptable, poor reception because of the design is unacceptable… and a lousy speakerPHONE is unacceptable…. get w the program!

  • Guy

    I too am disappointed with iphone4 32GB, spending a lot money I truly don’t feel it is worth it, fortunately I still have my blackberry 9700, just need to get another sim as iphone4 useless use a smaller sim card, mind you blackberry 9800 does looks good, just hope Mr Blackberry sends one to try…

  • Natalie

    I’m getting really pissed. I am an all things apple lover, but my 3G speaker/sound was great & my 4 speaker sucks the big one! What the heck is wrong with them (Apple)? They have the ability but don’t care to give it?

  • Sarah

    I have an iphone 4 and the speaker quality is great. I listen to music without headphones all the time at less than half volume. No complaints whatsoever.

  • Marky

    Nope, iPhone 4 speaker quality is still pretty awful. And I forgot who mentioned it, but someone correctly noted that the right speaker had more power than the left. One way to confirm this theory is play music at 3/4 or full volume. Place one thumb over and complety cover the left speaker – you’ll probably notice little to no difference in volume. Now place one thumb over and completely cover the right speaker – you’ll notice a significant drop volume.

    Very shocked when I first discovered this, because my friend owns an iPhone 3G and it has way better speaker quality.