One of the smaller but no less important features included in both new iPhone 7 models is an entirely new and “immersive” stereo speaker system that Apples claims provides twice the sound. Risking to be chastised in comments for bringing this up, I do feel we need to clear up the confusion and reiterate that a second speaker grille at the bottom of the phone does not actually house a speaker and is there purely for cosmetic reasons.
The graphics below was screenshoted from Apple’s official iPhone 7 webpage.
UPDATE: As confirmed by iFixit’s teardown analysis of the iPhone 7 Plus, the new speaker grille at the bottom houses a second mic, while the two times louder earpiece at the top of the device is used alongside the bottom speaker to form stereo sound.
According to iFixit, “in place of the headphone jack, we find a component that seems to channel sound from outside the phone into the microphone… or from the Taptic Engine out.”
As you can clearly see for yourself, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus still have a pair of microphones to the left and right of the Lightning connector at the bottom, just like the iPhone 6s series and older iPhones.
But the iPhone 7, in removing the headphone jack, has created space for a second grille with one of the microphones in it. The real second speaker that’s used to create stereo sound is located in the earpiece at the top of the iPhone 7.
If you think putting another grille without no actual speaker in it is kind of dumb, then you don’t know Apple. I perfectly understand why they’ve done this: symmetry
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, who has reviewed both new iPhones, acknowledged as much, saying this about the new stereo speaker setup:
The new speakers are great. Up until now, there was only one speaker on any iPhone, on the bottom right. The iPhones 7 now have a second speaker—the earpiece for phone calls now doubles as a proper audio speaker.
There are holes machined on the bottom, where the whatchamacallit jack used to go, that most people will think are another bottom-side speaker, but they’re just there for visual symmetry.
Gruber goes on to note that the new speakers are much louder even though they’re “on different axes” and it becomes especially evident when using an iPhone 7 in speakerphone mode. In addition to delivering two times the volume of the iPhone 6s, Apple claims the iPhone 7’s stereo system also provides “increased dynamic range.”
And because the new phones use speakers at the top and bottom of the handset, you will best experience stereo sound in landscape orientation.
There’s just one point to be made before I sign off: because it uses the earpiece instead of a second edge-mounted speaker to form stereo sound, the iPhone 7 won’t deliver as consistent stereo channel separation as your headphones.
In other words, in order to pick out discrete stereo channels your head should not be at a distance greater than about four feet from the device itself, according to audio engineers who spoke with AppleInsider. And the last tip: if stereo sound is important to you, maybe you should consider an iPhone 7 Plus due to its slightly wider distance between the speakers than the iPhone 7.
Your thoughts on the iPhone 7’s second grille?