One of the new features coming with the iPhone 5 is HD Voice, unfortunately many will be unable to experience this new technology which requires that both parties have the necessary technology, that they are on the same network, and that the network supports HD Voice.
[Update: we have updated this story with feedback from Orange, who have confirmed that they will offer HD Voice on the iPhone 5].
[Update: we have inserted information provided by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), including a table of HD Voice launches around the world]
[Update: O2 has got back to us. John Maley from Telefónica UK Limited told us: "I can confirm that we have no plans for HD voice (WB-AMR) at present on our network." (O2 is a subsidary of Telefónica)]
[Update: Three (3) has confirmed: "HD Voice on the iPhone 5 will be supported by Three. We've already got a huge range of devices that are currently supported:http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Network/What_is_HD_Voice"]
What is HD Voice?
It might be good to talk, but the reason why talking to someone on the phone is never as good as talking to them in person is that the human voice ranges from 80Hz to 14kHz while traditional telephone calls are only able to achieve audio frequencies in the range of 300Hz to 3.4kHz.
HD Voice ups the audio frequency range from 50Hz to 7kHz or higher.
The technology was developed by Nokia and VoiceAge. A few handsets have already been produced supporting the codec, including models from Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Sony.
What are the benefits of HD Voice?
There are a variety of benefits to users able to take advantage of wideband audio:
- Sound quality is clearer
- It’s easier to recognise voices and understand accented speakers
- It’s easier to distinguish confusing sounds, such as close sounds like ‘s’ and ‘f’
- You should be able to hear faint talkers and understand double-talk (when everyone is speaking at the same time)
- Listening will be easier resulting in less “listener fatigue” and avoiding miscommunications and misunderstandings
- It will be easier to understand talkers who are using a speakerphone or in the presence of background noise
- It will also be easier to distinguish between individual voices on conference calls
If I get an iPhone 5 will I get HD Voice?
There are a number of reasons why you may not experience HD Voice with your new iPhone.
Apple says it has 20 carrier partners ready to deliver HD voice as soon as the iPhone 5 is available. Unfortunately not all the networks in the UK offer HD Voice, however. To date it would appear that O2 hasn’t launched HD Voice in the UK. We are waiting for them to return our enquiry about this.
The other factor to consider is whether the person you are hoping to enjoy a HD Voice call with has a phone capable of HD Voice, and whether they are on the same network as you. The only networks to offer extra-network HD Voice calls are EE, Orange and T-Mobile who are unified under the EE (formerly known as Everything Everywhere) umbrella.
We contacted all the networks in the UK. So far we have only had confirmation back for EE that they will be supporting HD Voice on the iPhone. However, a look around the web uncovered details relating to HD Voice on the majority of carrier’s websites. We will update this story as more information becomes available.
Which Networks offer HD Voice?
EE - YES
Back in June 2010, Everything Everywhere announced plans to roll out HD voice calling throughout its network by the end of summer. “EE will be supporting HD Voice with iPhone 5,” was the response from the press centre.
Orange - YES
On its website Orange states: “Crystal clear HD Voice calls are what the mobile world's been waiting for...and they're here first on Orange”
To date the following handsets have offered HD Voice on Orange’s network: HTC Desire HD, Nokia N8, Nokia E5, Nokia X6 16GB, Nokia 5230, Sony Ericsson Elm, and Samsung Omnia 7.
An Orange spokesperson told us: "Yes, Orange will be offering crystal clear HD Voice calls as a feature on the iPhone 5. HD Voice technology means that making phone calls on the iPhone 5 will be a better, more natural experience, taking any strain out of listening and making yourself heard. In the street or at the station, or wherever customers are, it’s easier to have conversations in noisy environments because HD Voice makes it easier to hear and be heard. HD Voice also reduces background noise too, and all at no extra cost on the thinnest and lightest iPhone ever.”
Three - YES
Three UK launched HD Voice calls onto their network at the end of May 2011, shortly after launch they were offering the Nokia C7, E7 and N8 phones, since then the company has added the Samsung Omnia 7 and the HTC Desire S.
“As HD voice calls are still new to us they’re only available between people on the Three network, and both the caller and the receiver need to have an HD Voice equipped phone,” notes Three. Back in June 2011, Three claimed that 15,000 of its customers were using its 3G network to make HD Voice calls every day.
Three contacted us to confirm: "HD Voice on the iPhone 5 will be supported by Three".
T-Mobile - To be confirmed
According to T-Mobile, its new HD network enables 450,000 existing customers with HD Voice phones to benefit from high definition quality calls. “You can make HD Voice calls as long as you and the person you're calling are T-Mobile or Orange customers, with HD-ready phones and 3G signal,” T-Mobile say on its website.
Vodafone - In Ireland, UK status to be confirmed
Vodafone boasts that its HD Voice capabilities bring “crystal clear connections by enhancing voice quality and minimising background noise so it's easier to hear and be heard”, on its website. Vodafone offers HD Voice for the Nokia: N8, C7, E7, C3-01, X3-02, E6, 700, Lumia; and the Sony Ericsson: Xperia Arc (LT15i ), Xperia Neo (MT15i), Xperia Arc S ( LT18i), Xperia Mini Pro (SK17i), Xperia Ray (ST18i), and Xperia Play (R800i).
O2 - No
John Maley from Telefónica UK Limited (O2 parent company) told us: "I can confirm that we have no plans for HD voice (WB-AMR) at present on our network."
For now it appears the closet users can get to HD Voice is via it’s Skype like Tu ME service. TU Me app offers O2 iPhone customers a free way to make texts and voice calls, user will need a data connection or be near a WiFi hotspot.
HD Voice: "45 mobile networks in 35 countries"
The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), which represents leading GSM, 3G/WCDMA-HSPA and LTE suppliers has confirmed that HD Voice services launched on 45 mobile networks (GSM, 3G/HSPA, LTE) in 35 countries. The report, published on 31 August, can be read here, although registration is necessary for free access.
According to the report the 35 countries with HD Voice are: Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong S.A.R., India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritius, Moldova, The Netherlands, Poland, Réunion, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, and the UK.
The 45 monuile networks, seen in the list below include Orange UK, launched 1September 2010 and 3 UK, launched May 2011. (T-Mobile and Orange fall under the EE umbrella, EE has confirmed that it will offer HD Voice, and T-Mobile states on its website that it offers HD Voice).
Vodafone Ireland launched on 18 April 2012, as yet Vodafone doesn’t appear to be offering HD Voice in the UK.
Is it the right sort of HD Voice?
Even networks that offer HD Voice don’t offer the right kind of HD Voice. There are three ways to do "wideband" voice calls, explains PC Magazine. Most European carriers are using the AMR-WB codec, over a 3G GSM (UMTS) network. Luckily for Europe, that’s what's in the iPhone.
In the US Sprint has announced HD Voice, but the HD voice capabilities of the iPhone 5 are not compatible with its network, at least not at this time, notes Forbes.
Unfortunately for Sprint users, that network uses a different new codec, called EVRC-NW to deliver wideband voice calls.
Verizion also won’t be compatible with the iPhone 5’s HD Voice. That network uses VoLTE (voice-over-LTE.) According to PC Magazine’s report, VoLTE uses the same codec as the GSM approach, but in a totally different overall transmission format. Unfortunately the iPhone 5 doesn't support it.
Despite the lack of support right now, PC Magazine predicts that the other networks in the US, AT&T and T-Mobile, will probably also go to HD Voice over VoLTE, because that's the real future.
That report notes that, at least in the US, HD Voice will be a disappointment. “There are too many incompatible approaches.”
Sounds a bit like LTE 4G…
Which other phones offer HD Voice?
Even if your network does, not all phones support it. If the handset of the person at the end of the line doesn’t support HD Voice then you will not experience HD Voice.
Luckily (?) there are a number of Android phones, as well as a number of Nokia models that support HD Voice (many are listed above.