As smartphones age, one common problem that can occur is diminished audio quality from the earpiece during phone calls. This can make it difficult to hear the person on the other end of the call. There are a few different reasons why the earpiece volume may decrease on an older iPhone or other smartphone. Understanding the potential causes can help guide you towards an effective and inexpensive solution.
The earpiece on a smartphone contains a small speaker that outputs audio directly into your ear during calls. Over time, dust and debris can build up in this speaker, blocking sound waves from coming through clearly. Additionally, the speaker cone itself can degrade, becoming stiffer and less responsive. Both dust accumulation and natural degradation of the cone can reduce maximum volume from the earpiece.
Another factor is the battery. As batteries chemically age, they lose capacity and ability to deliver peak voltage. Since the earpiece speaker is powered directly by the battery, a weakening battery can result in lower peak power going to the speaker, reducing its output volume. Even if the speaker itself is not degraded, a diminished battery can make it seem quieter.
Software settings can also play a role. The iPhone and other smartphones have options to limit maximum volume, which may have been enabled either on purpose or accidentally. Ensuring these volume limiters are disabled can allow the earpiece to reach full loudness if hardware is still functional.
So with an aging iPhone, how can you restore loudness to the earpiece without breaking the bank? Here are some easy solutions, all costing around 25 cents or less:
1. Clean the earpiece with compressed air – Canned compressed air used for cleaning computers can be sprayed into the earpiece speaker hole to clear out any dust, debris, and dirt that may be blocking sound. A quick one-second burst is all that’s needed. The cost is about 25 cents per use at most.
2. Use a toothpick to gently scrape the earpiece mesh – A wooden toothpick can also be used to lightly scrape the exterior mesh covering the earpiece speaker hole, dislodging any particulate matter. This should be done gently to avoid damaging the mesh. Toothpicks cost mere pennies.
3. Check for earwax buildup – Earwax naturally deposits in the earpiece over time as you press the iPhone to your ear. Carefully use a small plastic tool or toothpick to gently clear any visible earwax obstructing the speaker hole. Don’t jam anything into the hole to avoid damage.
4. Update to latest iOS version – Apple sometimes adjusts volume settings in software updates. Updating to the newest iOS version can allow maximum loudness potential to be realized if hardware is still ok. The update is free.
5. Turn off any volume limiters – Check Settings > Sound & Haptics and make sure no volume limiters are enabled for headphone or speaker audio. Also disable any accessibility settings that reduce maximum volume. Changing software settings costs nothing.
6. Perform speaker calibration – Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch, then run the speaker calibration tool. This will prompt you with a series of test tones to optimize audio performance from the earpiece. Like other software adjustments, there is no cost for this fix.
7. Use a sharp pick to fluff speaker mesh – A sharp plastic toothpick can be used to GENTLY fluff or rearrange the earpiece mesh covering the speaker hole, which may get matted down over time. This can open up the mesh weave to allow better sound travel. But be extremely careful not to tear the mesh.
8. Replace battery – Swapping in a fresh new battery can provide the power needed to restore peak loudness capability. High quality replacement Li-ion batteries cost $15-25. Know the risks, and follow proper battery swap procedures.
9. As a last resort, replace the earpiece speaker – If all else fails, the actual earpiece speaker may need replacement. This requires soldering skills and part cost is $15-30, so not difficult but requires some effort. Watch speaker replacement tutorials first.
The key is to start with the simplest no-cost fixes like clearing dust, updating iOS, and adjusting software settings. If loudness is still lacking, move on to solutions like battery replacement and mesh fluffing which have a low cost. Only replace the earpiece speaker itself if absolutely needed.
Following one or more of these methods should be able to restore a loud and clear earpiece speaker on an aging iPhone, allowing you to once again hear phone conversations. With a minimum of effort, you can fix the problem for 25 cents or less and extend the life of your smartphone. The key is understanding the various causes of diminished earpiece volume, so you can enact the right solution.