Of all the three major carriers in the United States, none is able to support the iPhone 5 high-definition voice technology at launch. Specifically, carriers AT&T and Verizon don’t yet support wideband audio and Sprint’s HD Voice technology is only compatible with CDMA x1 technology whereas the iPhone 5 taps WCDMA networks for the feature. There is, of course, hope that major U.S. telcos will catch up and update their backend for the iPhone 5 wideband audio…

According to PhoneScoop, Sprint won’t support HD audio:

Sprint spokesperson Michelle Leff Mermelstein confirmed to Phone Scoop that the iPhone 5 will not support Sprint’s version of HD Voice. Most carriers offering HD Voice around the world are doing so on WCDMA networks, whereas Sprint’s HD Voice service operates over CDMA 1x Advanced technology.

Apple’s marketing honcho Phil Schiller noted during the iPhone 5 keynote:

This [wideband audio] is a new technology, we’re just starting it and we have carrier partners around the world working with us on it. We’ll have 20 at launch supporting this.

Why is wideband audio important?

An audio technology used in telephony, wideband audio extends the frequency range of audio signals to enable more natural sounding voice. Most networks limit voice calls to the range of 300Hz to 3.4kHz.

Compare that to the human voice range of 80Hz to 14kHz and you quickly realize why your voice sounds flat during a phone call. Wideband audio uses additional bandwidth to transmit voice in the audio frequency range of 50Hz- 7kHz or higher.

In addition to software support for wideband audio, the iPhone 5 also enables higher quality voice calls via its three microphones: one at the bottom, one out the front and the third microphone on the back. This helps in many scenarios, from FaceTime video conferencing to recording a video with the back iSight camera to having a phone call.

Apple is also using these microphones for noise cancellation (which is important for voice recognition and Siri). Noise cancellation presumably taps the speedy A6 chip as Apple apparently dropped Audience for noise cancellation.

Another thing the iPhone 5 does: beamforming, a technique realized via the front and back mics that work together to help the phone focus on sound from the desired location for clearer audio.

The little hole you see between the iSight camera and LEF flash is one of the three mics that the iPhone 5 has.

On the speaker front, the design is now a fifth smaller and Apple is using a five-magnet transducer instead of two, providing better frequency response for audio. Finally, the handset’s earpiece now feature noise cancellation to remove some of the background noise both on your own voice going out and on what you hear through the earpiece.

Here’s Phil Schiller laying out the iPhone 5 wideband audio support.

Some carriers outside the U.S. have implemented, or are deploying, support for wideband audio.

For example, Deutsche Telekom enabled HD Voice for German cell phone users in November 2011. Australia’s Telstra activated the “largest HD Voice network in the world” in June 2011, Austria’s A1 introduced HD Voice in February 2011 and Switzerland’s Swisscom flipped the switch on HD Audio in February of this year.

What do you think about the advances Apple’s engineers made with the iPhone 5?

  • didnt know my voice could be heard in HD… how would you even tell the difference??

    • samdchuck

      Have you ever used a phone? The quality has always been terrible, this would make it sound better.

      • I can hear very well when talking on the phone ma’am, just thought this new hd tech. would be very nice. Just stating my opinion

      • ghulamsameer

        Not trying to hate, but you never left an opinion in the first place.

      • samdchuck

        Sure and you hear music in mono at 64 kbps very well as well doesn’t mean that the quality doesn’t suck miss. Rest assure that you can hear the difference between a phone connection and lets say a skype call.

    • Yeah, this would be at the bottom of my list of concerns. I’m more disappointed at the lack of NFC support.

  • samdchuck

    Ahahaha, suck it U.S.! (for once)

  • Would the person on the other end have to have HD voice also for it to work as advertised?

  • The whole presentation of the new iphone impressed me way more then i thought, and im really looking foward to the shared photo stream…. Pretty neat lol

    • Emre SUMENGEN

      I respect that, but the thing is: Shared Photo Streams (and many of the things that were demoed) will be available for lots of Apple products, including even the iPhone 4.

      Just a heads-up…

  • Mac_Guy

    Let’s not have NFC on the iPhone 5 (which can be used for more than just purchasing) and implement our own new technology which isn’t supported by most carriers…. I’m sorry but I don’t think that was the smartest move by Apple. I guess we all just have to wait for the iP5S 😛

    • tvonthebrain

      NFC isn’t ready for prime-time. Most people don’t even have a clue what it is.
      IF something like this comes out, it will be developed for Apple by Apple, not a 3rd party provider


    BAM! That lands to all those who think US comes first all the time… LOL! Funny 🙂 (What matters? None!)

    • tvonthebrain

      When the consumer is concerned, U.S. comes last, every time. This is further proof of that

      • Emre SUMENGEN

        It’s (HD voice) not a big deal… Average consumer doesn’t really notice or care (I believe).

        And, be sure that there are lots of other countries where the consumer is far behind in priority than they are in US.

  • James Body

    But *which* wide band HD codec are we talking about here?

    Within the VoIP community the G.722 codec is widespread; but I am guessing that Apple has implemented ‘Adaptive Multi-Rate Wide Band’ [AMR-WB] – which is the default codec within the LTE standard.

    The problem for most legacy operators – and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is that the standard architecture is based upon 8kHz sampled 64 Kbps voice channels. Any interconnection between this 8kHz infrastructure and a new 16 kHz wide band system is that it can only operate at the rate of the lowest denominator, I.e. 8kHz. The only way to achieve HD voice end-to-end is *not* to connect to the nasty old PSTN!

  • And what will at&t try and charge for that, an extra $20 per month? Not once have I thought man I wish this call had wider bandwith.