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 Post subject: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:22 pm 
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I was the last person in the world to get a cell phone. They are wonderful for traveling or emergencies, but if the truth be told they are a bane as well. One thing I don't like about them is the terrible sound quality of calls made from such devices, even (in my experience) those made from a high end smart phone. It's so poor that all the nuances of speech are obliterated, making communication hardly any better than text messages. My mother's voice is the only comforting sound in all the world, but when she sounds like a robot....

I used to think that the poor quality was necessary because bandwidth was scarce and the data stream had to be clipped down to the last possible iota. But last night I realized "How can bandwidth be that scarce if you can stream HD video to your phone?"

So maybe people just don't care about sound quality. Perhaps because so much cell phone chatter is just banal business talk or meaningless drivel. Or maybe it's because, expensive as these devices are, they have the smallest possible crummy microphone.

If anyone knows anything about this I'd be attentive.

Also last night I read about the pCell. http://www.techspot.com/news/55729-pcell-promises-mobile-data-breakthrough-wired-like-reliability-no-more-congestion-or-dead-zones.html, http://www.artemis.com/. Sounds downright amazing!

Maybe all the more reason to up the quality of voice calls.


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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:37 pm 
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In my limited experience of the usage of cellphones and the opinions of friends and relatives that I have spoken to about this very issue there seems to be a concencus forming.

Not withstanding a poor connection, or someone on a train or in a car there seem to be 2 "companies" (I have no doubt that their is quite a bit of variation between models) that seem to have much better quality phone call "quality", Nokia and Blackberry.

The ones that don't seem to be so good, Apple.

The ones that seem to have massive variations, Samsung, and probably many others.

I will repeat that this is partly anecdotal and partly personal experience and the opinions of others.

I still have a BB 9700 Bold and the call quality on that phone is pretty damned good, the iPhone 3 (3 for certain, not sure about other models) was poor (I no longer know anyone who has an iPhone 3), the iPhone 4 is better, but its still not as good as any Blackberry I have communicated with on the other end of the line to my 9700 Bold.


Andy

PS: I despise Apple a great deal, but I am trying my best to be subjective and to not discriminate unfairly.

PSS: I to avoided having a mobile for a very long time, and when I had my first 2 I was pay-as-you-go for many years (and never topped up) as I dint want to become the same anti-social bastards everyone else I knew already were.

Since then, I don't even have a land-line phone any longer and will likely never have one again, so one of the things I want my soon to be replaced phone to be capable of is good quality phone calls.

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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:33 pm 
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It really boils down to one thing - the carriers get more money for data than voice. So, they've been dragging their collective feet.Narrow band codecs for voice are used to stay within one GSM radio channel.

In the US, it's just been since the adoption of LTE that carriers are moving to "Wide-band" codecs (parenthesis are mine) where the voice quality is just now getting up to where Skype was 5 years ago :). Currently, only calls within the same carrier will connect that way...and not all carriers have it yet, nor do all phones (though that's more due to carrier builds than the mfgr). The marketing term is HD Voice.

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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:17 am 
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Does using a good quality headset help any?

I imagine that, once the voice quality does improve, you'd need to use a headset to really take advantage of it.


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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:01 am 
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It depends on the phone and the quality of it's audio path/speaker(s). Newer phones tend to have noise cancellation for the mic path as well as better quality audio. My current smartphone is certainly much better than the 5 year old flip phone. I used an earbud style Bluetooth headset on the old flip phone and it had a better signal path than the phone. Conversely, the audio path on my Samsung S4 is better than the earbud.

I've found that a stereo headset helps over using a phone speaker or a single earbud in some cases. Don't know whether it's because you are filtering out the distracting environment noises or because two ears provides a signal to noise boost for your brain. Might be both. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 2:24 pm 
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But then there's the the lag, the latency in digital voice. Is there any way to get rid of that? It seems to me from my limited knowledge that whereas analog is transmitted like a railroad train, with each car (and window in each car) following each other in real time, a digital transmission is sent in packets, and you have to allow for chaotic transmission of the packets, which have to be reassembled and loaded for play, and thus unavoidable delay. Or am I dreaming?

In any case, I called a number that offered an echo test, using each of three phone systems -- a Verizon land line, a VOIP device, and a cell phone. The echo test had a California area code and I'm in Massachusetts. With an idealized 6000 mile round trip with fiber optic and copper at 2/3 C the echo should be about 1/20 of a second. The results were:

Land line -- 1/2 second
VOIP -- 1 second
Cell -- 1 second

Even the 1/2 second delay with the land line is 10 times longer than the idealized scenario, which probably means that it had one heck of an interesting trip, but the important thing is that with land line calls I make or receive from, say, Boston, 150 miles away, the lag is proportionately that much shorter, and completely unnoticeable. Not the case, though, with calls from Boston over cell or voice, where it's distractingly obvious. I suppose people have gotten used to it, but it's not like you can undo thousands of years of language where delays in response are part of the communication.

No, it doesn't look like anything is going to adequately replace the analog telephone system, built with 100 years of hard work. Too bad that it appears that the telcos are giving up on it and just biding their time. Maybe only older cranks like me even care, but it just seems like the quality of communication is going to suffer, and that's a shame.


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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:50 am 
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Location: Calgary, AB, Canada
I thought I was the last person to get a cell phone. I got my first one two years ago. It was a Nokia flip phone, and the sound was so faint and bad I couldn't use it.

I agree the voice clarity on cell phones is horrible. I can't stand using them, and I haven't given up my land line yet precisely because of that. Any important calls I will always try to make or receive on my land line.

I searched around for a long time to find a replacement to my Nokia. I finally discovered a cell phone designed for seniors and the hard of hearing which promised increased clarity and volume. It's called a Doro. It is still miles away in sound quality from a land line but it's head and shoulders above any cell phone I've used or tried (through friends). The Doro isn't a smartphone, just a basic cell with an emergency button on it that seniors can program to call ambulances, fire depts., etc. You can send text messages with it, but there are no other features. The voice clarity and volume is quite good. I've always had trouble hearing the caller on my Nokia if I was around any ambient noise (e.g. a shopping mall, traffic, the street, a bus, etc). Unless I was in a quiet room I couldn't make out what the other person was saying, and that's with the volume turned all the way up! On my Doro, I don't have to turn the volume to the max even in heavy downtown traffic, and I can still hear the other person fairly well. It's still got that clipped cellphone quality, but it's at least loud enough and clear enough to be tolerable. I use it over the Rogers network here in Canada on a Pay-As-You-Go plan (I don't use it that often).

I really hope the voice quality improves in cell phones so I can finally give up my land line.


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 Post subject: Re: Do cell phone calls really have to sound so bad?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:35 pm 
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CA_Steve wrote:
... the voice quality is just now getting up to where Skype was 5 years ago

I had a cell phone some 14 years ago, hated it, and was THRILLED when I accidentally dropped & broke it. I subsequently avoided them until about a year ago; we had our first child and my wife insisted that I be reachable at all times. I think the phone is great (a used HTC Sensation w/cyanogenmod 10.2), but the call quality sucks. I use it on a pay-as-you-go T-Mobile MVNO. I was shocked at how much better Skype sounded the first time I used it. An added bonus w/Skype is it doesn't deplete my airtime balance. A friend of mine lives in Liverpool. Skype calls to him, 1/3 of the way around the world, sound better and have lower latency that mobile-to-mobile calls to family members in the same city.

Despite the lower sound quality, I don't regret exchanging our land line for the mobile phone. Mainly because I gained the ability to BLACK LIST callers.

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