Why the iPhone’s Speaker is on the Bottom of the Handset

By , Nov 2, 2011

Have you ever wondered why Apple chose to place the iPhone’s speaker at the bottom of the handset? It’s a minor detail really, but the minor details is what Apple prides itself in most. The company has been known to really focus on the small things.

But Apple doesn’t do things without a specific purpose in mind either, and the iPhone’s speaker-placement is a perfect example of that. Designer Dustin Curtis found this out the hard way when he switched from his iPhone 4 to a Samsung Galaxy S II…

After switching smartphones, Curtis found himself sleeping right through his phone’s alarm in the mornings. He verified it was set correctly, and that the phone wasn’t turning off or becoming unplugged overnight, but it kept happening.

Finally he figured out the problem. The phone’s speaker is located on the back of the handset, so when it’s laid down on a flat surface the sound gets muffled. In fact, most Android phones are like this, including those from Motorola and HTC.

But because the iPhone’s speaker is located on the bottom of the phone, no matter how the device lays it isn’t blocked. “Yet another one of those design decisions that you don’t really appreciate until you see someone doing it wrong.” Interesting.

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  • Phil

    +1

  • Joe Mama

    All is dandy until u dock ur phone!

    • nk

      +1

      “no matter how the device lays”, you were saying ?

      • Bahndoos

        Most docks appear to amplify the iPhone speaker actually.

  • Brad

    Or try to play a game and your hand covers the speaker. Funny, never had that problem on my android phone. speaker phone does sound better on my iPhone when it’s laying down so I will give apple kudos for that.

  • hallahalla

    i still think it’s gay at the bottom -.-*
    And also why the hell is the speaker so quiet?!

  • RyanC

    I will say that I often sleep through my alarm too. Although I’ve found it to be because of a bug. A lot of times the alarm doesn’t sound if I’ve received a text message (mostly) and sometimes other notifications throughout the night. When I wake up the alarm and snooze button will be sitting on the screen, but alarm didn’t sound off. Crazy?

  • Will

    iPhone 4S speaker is no longer quiet
    i actually have to lower down the volume because it’s TOO loud

    • Digitalus

      ^ THIS!

  • Goofygreek

    I have not had any problems waking up to my alarm on my gs2. It’s alwasys laying on a flat surface, but I normally have the volume turned all the way up. It’s still louder then m i4. Maybe he has a bad speaker? Mine does get muffled out when I play games, but it depends on how I’m holding it.

  • Telejeesus

    If only iOS could adjust clock automaticly to winter time.
    I had to set it manually AGAIN and all my meeting get 1h earlier. :-( (iPhone 4 JB iOS 4.3.3)
    So be aware there in US next weekend.

  • Lol

    Nice bull sh*t article. Did u study marketing or management?

    • uMAD

      Nice Bull shit reply. Did u study Trolling or duchebaggery?

  • Lol

    Nice bull shit article. Did u study marketing or management?

  • Connor

    Posting a 2-week old article as news. Typical iDB.

    I only follow you because you have better jailbreak coverage than any other site I’ve found. Stick to what you’re good at, please.

  • Anonymous

    Makes good sense.

  • http://twitter.com/ProZack27 Zachary Sloane

    Oooo, Disqus!

    But yes, very cool design sense!

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      Yeah, I hope you guys like it :)

      • Anonymous

        Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

      • Anonymous

        Cool thanks

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        I love it xD it’s about time woooooo, now people cane like me xD

  • Anonymous

    Deleted, again. Jeez, iDB, not like I was ranting about your site or shit like that.

  • Aaron Kupferman

    Why not the top though. I’ve always felt that the top was a better location if anything to separate it from the microphone during a speakerphone call.

    • http://www.facebook.com/axel.hildebrand Axel Pedro Hildebrand

      hold your iphone in your hand, then put it in your pocket. most likely is that you will put the top of the phone in first and that way the speaker is left with the sound being project out instead of down into your pocket…

  • http://twitter.com/JailbreakMovies Jeff

    Off topic, but I just had to say I love the Disqus comments. So much better, and now we have poster accountability :)

  • Anonymous

    YOU GUYS DID IT! YOU GOT DISQUS!! I LOVE IDB AGAIN!!! THANK YOU!!!!

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      We did it for you :)

      • Anonymous

        So happy :)

  • Anonymous

    Awesome!!!

  • Anonymous

    Intelligent design. :)
    And nice new comment feature.

  • Anonymous

    And yet some people complain about how that other speaker does not work…

  • http://twitter.com/therealjdizzle joshua miranda

    Nice finally a log in!!
    This site just keeps getting that much better finally it shall be trollfree!!! And yeah I had the Htc sensation that speaker for such a nice phone was so small and barely Audible iPhones speaker while not that loud is much better in terms of placement .

  • Gdghgfgjy Ggjffv

    What if you put it straight up when going to sleep?

  • Anonymous

    I’m noticing a lot of sites this week switching to disqus, did they start hitting sites up or something ?

    • http://www.iDownloadBlog.com Sebastien

      No, but I guess site operators like me are tired of seeing trolls so they switch to Disqus, which supposedly does a good job at screening comments.

  • http://twitter.com/tomasalv Tomas Alvarez

    makes sense, but it also has to do with the esthetic that distinguishes apple products

  • http://twitter.com/tomasalv Tomas Alvarez

    makes sense, bit it also has to do with the esthetic that distinguishes all apple products. I would’nt be the same if the speaker were on any other place i think so….

  • http://appbuntu.com/ ivan90112

    owowow… Disqus.

    Thanks :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000447821026 JinWon Simon Chung

    One is Speaker AND One is MICROPHONE.
    ANOTHER MYSTERY UNSOLVED.

  • http://www.facebook.com/geovanni5 Gabriel Silva

    i had this samsung phone that had it directly in the earpiece. during calls if i got a text msg, it would leave my def for minutes

  • Bosun Oshikoya

    So riddle me this. Why is the speaker on the back of the iPad 2?

    • Anonymous

      It’s a curved back, so if it is put down on a table, the direct reflections let the sound spread better.

  • Rodrigo Sze

    and probably they are not on the upper side so that if you have it in a call near you ear and the call turn off suddenly and you receive another before you taking off you ear, the new call will make the ringtone roar pretty loud hurting you… That happened a lot with me when I had a phone that the loudspeaker was located near the call speaker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506736784 Tad Tsang

    In any case the iPhone still fails to have the 3.5mm jack at the bottom. Because no matter what position the iPhone is, on the desk, on your hand, in your pocket ( if you are like me the. You put your phone upside down in your pocket so it’s right when you pull it out of your pocket) the 3.5 mm jack should be located much more conveniently at the bottom of the phone. Think about it

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Angel-YoDuh-Castillo/674406718 Angel YoDuh Castillo

      I see your point, but I prefer the bottom. If i am driving an have my iPhone hooked into my aux port for my radio I can see the phone right side up with no problems, unlike an iPod touch it would be upside down, unless you don’t mind the cable wrapin around the side of the device..that’s MO tho.each had his own

  • http://www.searingarrow.com AlienSix

    Yes!!! Finally Disqus :)

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if it has anything to do with the back being all glass. Either way I love the design.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WOCUNJDHA7P54K6GCBKOQF7UOU Markell

    holding iphone in landscape mode to play game will have my hand covering the speaker that distorts the sound…. but a good bumper solve that problem. maybe apple shd just give out free bumper to all.

  • http://twitter.com/arnramong Arnia Ramong

    Nice article!
    But isn’t it common sense? I have an GS2 and an iPhone 4. I’m just happy that the iDevice can be placed any ways rather than the GS2 but for my GS2, it sucks I have to remember to put it face down everytime! LOL!

  • ic0n1c

    Yep makes sense to have on the bottom

  • http://www.facebook.com/mohgui Andrew Lee

    yay to Steve Jobs for those minor details which nobody gives a crap about…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cameron-Carlyon/100000384425704 Cameron Carlyon

    What happens if you place the phone standing up on the speaker… lol

  • http://twitter.com/jomacral jo-macral

    I use my iPhone as an alarm, and having it on the bottom is indeed helpful. My other previous phones, with the speaker on the back are a little more troublesome as I had to put the phone face down at night.

  • http://twitter.com/Jayquisha Jay Win

    I like the fact that Apple is always different to other products. And always better ;)
    I really like the microphone and the speakers down there because I’m often talking over speakerphone. So you easy can listen and talk while holding the iPhone upside down!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7S5E2MSXLEHMSCZV4UQ4VPY6XM pankaj

    nokia has it from past i dont know how many years. I used to have a nokia 5800 way back, both speakers were on the side. I feel pity on whoever thinks this is an innovation.
    Sorry Guys if anyone’s offended

  • http://www.facebook.com/doantuananh.vn Doan Tuananh

    Cool!

  • http://www.facebook.com/doantuananh.vn Doan Tuananh

    Cool Seb!! Nice comment

  • Anonymous

    the alarm also vibrate the phone while ringing thou, I don’t know why the author experience that problem with the alarm? Maybe a deep fully ear wax cleaning is his best solution now, not changing phone around.

  • http://twitter.com/shaf1n Shafin Anwarsha

    Oh and another thing, when you place it in your jeans pocket, the speaker is usually pointed up back at you – this makes it easier to hear when the phone rings!

  • Anonymous

    I have even better solution than Apple.
    Place one on the top and one on the bottom. Its perfect for the landscape mode, so good for gaming and watching movies. Listening to the music can be a better experience too, because the speakers are far from each other and make a better stereo effect.
    Should I be a designer?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Flynn-Like/1418197822 Flynn Like

    god almighty this curtis prick is the most annoying individual on the internet, isn’t he

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I find it a problem; the sound gets muffled when charging, when holding the thing sideways, or when simply trying to let someone listen; having it on the back fixes all these problems. You don’t want to put your phone on the back anyways because it’ll get scratched (for the iPhone/iPod); the back is a much better location, in my opinion, for a speaker.