The iPhone 5 packs in a number of audio related improvements including support for Wideband audio or “HD Voice,” a new noise-cancellation ear piece, three microphones (up from two in the iPhone 4S) and an updated speaker design.
CNET compared the voice quality of calls made on an iPhone 5 across all the three networks in San Francisco. While no U.S. carrier currently supports Wideband audio, other improvements should ideally make the call quality on the iPhone 5 better than the iPhone 4S and CNET’s observations confirm that.
On the iPhone 5’s performance across the three networks:
AT&T: You can hear the most background noise, and voice quality is perhaps the most grainy. Call volume is fine, and you can make out conversations via speakerphone and regular calls.
Verizon: At first listen, the Verizon and Sprint models seem better, but too close to call between them. Background noise is far quieter, nearly silent, and my voice is crisp and audible in all calls. However, notice on the test call to SF that there’s distinct popping and a bit of distortion.
Sprint: This is the winner, and the more, we listened the more we agreed. Background noise isn’t a factor, and my voice comes through loud, clear, and even a bit richer. I also noticed that Brian’s call came through clearer and louder on my end. The audio sample shows off how much better it sounds.
At CNET’s testing location in San Francisco, Sprint emerged as the winner. The results will of course vary from location to location. Besides, a lot of iPhone buyers anyway don’t pay much attention on voice calls, and base their buying decision on data plans, download speeds and reliability of the network.