If you found an iPhone 11 Pro (or Pro Max) under the tree this Christmas, you’re hopefully enjoying all of the great advanced features it has to offer, but it seems that there may be a serious flaw in Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro lineup right now that is affecting quite a few users who regularly make use of the speakerphone feature on their iPhone.
iPhone 11 Pro Speakerphone Echo Problem
According to a number of reports on sites like Reddit and the MacRumors forums, users are finding that the people they’re speaking to are getting a bad echo whenever their iPhone 11 Pro has the speakerphone switched on, making such calls virtually unworkable in most cases.
We’ve encountered this problem ourselves, although whether it’s an issue will depend on how much you use the speakerphone capability.
Notably, it also doesn’t seem to occur with FaceTime video calls, perhaps due to different codecs being used, but user reports — and our own testing — have shown that it can occur on any type of audio call where the speakerphone is being used, including normal cellular calls, FaceTime audio, and even calls placed via third-party apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger.
The good news is that by all reports the problem only seems to have surfaced recently with the iOS 13.3 update, meaning it’s almost certainly an issue that Apple will be able to address in software, rather than a defect in the iPhone 11 Pro hardware.
In fact, many users are reporting that they only started experiencing the problem with the iOS 13.3.1 beta. However, it seems that this may be a matter of severity, with others suggesting that the problem still exists in iOS 13.3, but simply isn’t as pronounced as it is in iOS 13.3.1. Sadly, however, if the beta is making things worse, this doesn’t bode well for a fix, although Apple still has time to make more tweaks between now and the final release.
Of course, it’s fair game for there to be problems in a beta version of iOS — even a public beta — so running these comes with its own risks. However, it’s clear that the glitch also exists in the released version of iOS 13.3 for at least some users (including us), and it’s serious enough to be a real problem.
The most likely culprit in this case is a problem with echo cancellation, which is inherently a software feature. Since the iPhone speaker and microphone are in close proximity, when the speakerphone is in use, it’s necessary for iOS to “cancel out” the audio that’s coming through the speaker from going back into the mic. It makes perfect sense that without this echo cancellation working properly, users are going to hear their own voice coming back to them through the iPhone’s own microphone.
A number of reported user experiences seem to confirm this, with some users suggesting that the problem goes away if they simply turn the volume down on their speakerphone — although in many cases they have to turn it down to levels that are impractical — and definitely goes away if they mute the audio from their end. Some users have also reported better results depending on which case they’re using, since of course the attenuation of sound by a case can inherently cancel out some of the echo as well.
In fact, there were reports in the T-Mobile subreddit two months ago of users experiencing this problem and contacting T-Mobile customer care, who explained to them that the iPhone 11 Pro Max speaker was “too powerful” and recommending that users turn down the volume.
Since this was well prior to the release of iOS 13.3, it suggests that the problem has existed for a while, but may not have been nearly as severe, since that particular thread only reported the problem with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, not the iPhone 11 Pro, and most users said that turning down the volume to a reasonably quieter level solved the problem.
What Can You Do About It?
Sadly, until Apple issues a fix — hopefully by the time of the iOS 13.3.1 public release — your options are somewhat limited. Some users have reported that turning down the volume works, as do certain iPhone cases. If you’re on a call where you’re primarily listening to the other party talk to you, you can also simply mute your mic, which will block the audio from your end. If you’re running the iOS 13.3.1 beta, it may be worth stepping back down to iOS 13.3 as most reports suggest that problem is at least less serious in the release version.
Since it’s almost certainly a software issue, there’s likely not much to be gained by taking your iPhone 11 Pro in for service, although if you have and have an Apple Store nearby it may be a worth a call or visit to Apple Support just to get the issue on the record.
To be clear, however, the problem only affects audio calls that use the iPhone 11 Pro’s own built-in speaker. I got my iPhone 11 Pro Max back in November, and since I rarely use the speaker for audio calls (I have a plethora of other hands-free methods available) I wasn’t even aware the issue existed until our Managing Editor, Elijah Waeterling, discovered it on his new iPhone 11 Pro a few days ago.
Keep in mind that you may have other options too: Handsfree audio calls from your iPhone 11 Pro made through other devices such as the Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, the HomePod, and in-car CarPlay and Bluetooth systems, or even just your wired EarPods are all unaffected by this problem. Other iPhone models and Apple devices such as the MacBook Pro and iPad are also unaffected, and can be used to place handsfree calls over FaceTime audio and other internet voice services like WhatsApp or Skype.
However, the worst part of this problem is that you won’t even be aware that it exists unless the person you’re talking to points it out, since the call audio coming from your iPhone 11 Pro will sound perfectly normal on your end. This means that if you want to be sure to avoid plaguing your callers with a bad echo, your only real option is to avoid using the speaker for audio calls until Apple issues a fix.