iPhone 7 Bluetooth Audio Stutter Problem

In September 2016, I purchased and iPhone 7 plus. Originally, I had purchased an iPhone 7 as the iPhone 7 plus was out of stock. I have iPhone 7 launch story, one that taught me that I would not waste any more time pre ordering an iPhone. That, however, is not the reason I write this today. My reasons for writing today are related to the Bluetooth “audio stutter” issue I have experienced since day one of ownership.

bluetoothThe Problem

I own a 2012 Ford Fusion that is equipped with a basic Sync system. All my prior iPhones have connected and played audio via Bluetooth since owning the car. The only problem I have experienced previously was sometimes the Ford Sync refuse to pair to the phone via Bluetooth. The fix required turning off Bluetooth on the iPhone and turning it back on. I took part in the iOS 10 Public Beta test over this past summer. During that time, I felt like my iPhone 6s performed the best it ever had in regards to Bluetooth.

Since owning the iPhone 7 plus the experience has been quite the opposite. While listening to my music or favorite podcast via the Ford Sync the audio would randomly stutter or more appropriately, it will garble for a few seconds and then resume to normal. The issue happens quite frequently, which makes listening to audio painful. This has been on ongoing issue since September and has yet to be resolved via an iOS 10 update, restoring my iPhone to new, updating my Ford Sync system, resetting the Ford Sync system and so on.

On Saturday November 19, 2016 I made an appointment to visit the local Apple Store. Through the troubleshooting with the Genius I was asked to “Reset Network Settings”. I was also asked to test my Ford Sync system with another device. In this case I used my wife’s iPhone 7. I completed both tasks, my iPhone 7 plus still experienced the audio stutter problem and my wife’s iPhone 7 did not have the audio stutter problems.

On Tuesday November 22, 2016 I again visited my local Apple Store Genius and it was determined at that time to replace my iPhone 7 plus. After setting the device up as new (running the latest iOS software) the phone still experienced the same audio stuttering.

My Research

In my search of the Internet, I came across this Apple’s Committees Discussion Board thread https://discussions.apple.com/message/31146947?ac_cid=tw123456#31146947. Based on the 27 pages of responses I am not alone in my struggle. In this thread, I discovered numerous vehicle types of various years all the way up to 2017 were having issues. Many of the comments noted taking the same steps that I have and the problem persists.

What I have learned from this thread is that I can prevent the audio stuttering by turning off LTE Data. This is done by going into Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE and selecting off.  What I also learned was that for the most part those with the audio stuttering issue are primarily to those who own an iPhone 7 plus on AT&T.

This was profound to me, due to the fact that Apple produced Model A1784 as a GSM only model used in the United States on AT&T. This model of phone is not capable of running on Verizon or Sprint as it does not have the CDMA chipset. In fact Model A1784 sports the new Intel cellular chipset, not the previous Qualcomm chipset found in previous generations of iPhones and Model’s A1660 (iPhone 7) and A1661 (iPhone 7 plus). http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/

Is it faulty Hardware?

If the new Intel cellular chipset is to blame for this audio stuttering issue, then I believe Apple has a serious issue on its hands. I have a limited data set to prove this as the issue, but given the Apple Community Discussion thread above and my own personal experience, taking LTE out of the equation solves the issue. It could be something faulty in the chip I don’t know. As of this writing, I am in the process of purchasing a SIM free Model A1661 to test my theory.

Is it iOS 10?

Software could always be an issue. To date no update has resolved the issue. Apple stated in the release notes that iOS 10.2 fixed Bluetooth issues, but the fixe failed to correct my audio stuttering issue. Given the Apple Community Discussion thread above had people noting the same issues on Verizon I am wondering if Apple has yet to identify the issue in iOS 10, but if that were true I believe that I would have seen talk about this issue cropping up with the iPhone 6s or later. However, I believe this is not true given many people in the thread have returned their iPhone 7 plus and downgraded back to the 6s plus and report no problems after doing so. One other note is that I have yet to see anyone commenting from any other carrier outside of AT&T and Verizon.

Hardware on iPhones has had some issues in the news lately, primarily related to the battery shutdown (https://www.apple.com/support/iphone6s-unexpectedshutdown/) and touch disease (https://www.apple.com/support/iphone6plus-multitouch/). This leads me to conclude that Apple is not immune to faulty equipment.

Is it AT&T?

This seems to be the most likely scenario. One common item to both iPhone models I have received is that the SIM card has never changed. I also have not noticed a Carrier Settings update on my iPhone in the whole time I have owned it. Could the iPhone 7 plus models shipped towards the beginning of launch have a faulty SIM? I am not sure, but a run to my local AT&T Store may be in order test my theory.

Parting Thoughts:

My issues are certainly not life or death, more along the line of first world problems. I am impressed with the iPhone 7 plus. It has nice battery life; it takes very good photos and is very fast. What I have a problem with is Apple not addressing the issue. I have a case started with a Senior Apple Tech Advisor and until I alerted him to the above thread he refused to acknowledge that anyone was having an issue. I am, as of Friday December 23, 2016 awaiting a call back. Given the Holiday’s here in the States my expectations are low that this will happen in the near term. If software, a new SIM free Model or new SIM card do not solve my problem I am left with a few options:

  1. Continue to leave LTE off. Okay that’s an option, but certainly not the ideal option.
  2. Hope that Apple or AT&T provide a software fix?
  3. Sell my iPhone 7 plus and downgrade back to a 6s or move to the Android Platform.

If it is a hardware issue, I hope that Apple has the “courage” to own up to its issues as Samsung did with the Note 7 and take the phone off the market. Yes this may be a bit extreme and not an apples to apples (pardon the pun) comparison, but a nearly equally misstep in my humble opinion.

If you are experiencing the above issue, please let me know.

Apple’s iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case Review

In December 2015 Apple debuted its iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case.  Originally I thought the design wasn’t good and at the price was not the best use of my cash flow.  There was also a video by Unbox Theory the helped seal my decision.

Fast forward to this past March 2016 and I decided to give the Smart Battery Case a two-week trial run.  Spoiler alert its now April 2016 and I am still using the case.  Let me get straight to the point, which are my likes and dislikes.

Likes:

  • Obviously having the ability to extend battery life is nice. My first few days I found that I didn’t need to charge the case and iPhone for a couple of days.
  • Based on the above I turned on more of iOS’ features that I typically turn off, which does make having an iPhone more pleasurable.  This did result in the case running out of power before the end of the day.
  • The speaker and microphone position really boosted the sound both in and out. Using the iPhone without the case I find that I miss the change in sound position.
  • The case is well built and I can grip the case well. Other than the battery bump the case is no different than the silicon case Apple sells.
  • The Control Center Battery Widget is unique to battery cases and helps to know if and when you should charge.
  • The lightning connector means I didn’t have to buy a different cable. Nothing worse then having to change out all your cables for your gear.

Dislikes:

  • The Smart Battery Case picks up dust and lint pretty easily.
  • The extra battery adds some weight, which is noticeable.
  • The case effects signal strength and I am not sure why. I’ve never had an issue with a case degrading the signal, but the Smart Case does.
  • The case isn’t as appealing design on the eyes. Its almost like Apple said to itself, we need to make some margin so let’s make a battery case quickly.
  • The case is $99.00 US, but it is Apple after all.

smartbatteryMy preference for my phone would be not to have a case at all and to have better battery life.  I fully believe Apple could design an iPhone that could have both, but I am not sure that fits Jony Ive’s mantra of smaller and thinner.

Though there were a number of dislikes I decided to keep the case.  I use the case Monday through Friday, but on the weekends I free it from its battery bumped shell.    If you are looking for better battery and unleash your iPhone’s full capability, then this is pretty good way to go. The case comes with Apple’s standard 1-year warranty and a month in it is holding up like the day I bought it.   In the end I believe it is worth the money and worth having enough battery to get through a normal day.

How to Remove Devices from the List of iMessage Text Forwarding

After selling my iMac and buying a MacBook Pro recently, I was left with the iMac as a device on my iPhone to forward  text messages in iMessage. I could turn it off, but I couldn’t find a way to remove it from the list of devices.

I tried signing out of iCloud and deleting the device from the web interface of iCloud, but neither resolved my issue.  After searching Google (as one does) I found an article from MacWorld by Glenn Fleishman.  It required changing your iCloud (or Apple ID) password.

But there’s an answer, found in discussions online among users with similar troubles: Change your Apple ID password, and the phantom devices disappear. Whether you’re using password-only, two-step verification, or two-factor authentication with your Apple ID, changing the password can mean re-entering it and going through a code-based verification step in a lot of places. But it will also solve this problem.

The answer is quite easy, but not well thought out by Apple.  It is actually rather annoying to have to change a password to remove a device.  I hope a future update corrects the oversight by Apple.

 

Life: Apple iPhone 6 Leather Case (Black)

My new iPhone 6 case arrived a day before my actual iPhone. Here are three shots of the actual case compared to my iPhone 5 size. The iPhone 6 appears to not be much bigger than my iPhone 5, which is why I went with the iPhone 6 versus the iPhone 6 plus. The iPhone 6 also looks based on the case to fit my hand better. If I had my way I would rather have a smaller sized iPhone.

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Life: iPhone 6 Pre-Order Meltdown

Let me first state that I live a privileged life compared to most of the world and not being able to order a $1,000 product from a $2,000 product via $50 a month Internet access is really unimportant, however here I am. It was 1:01am and I hit the refresh screen on the famous Apple Online Store screen, “We’ll Be Back Soon” and the Apple Online Store was still not back. I was also prepared to order my iPhone 6 via my cellular provider T-Mobile and hit refresh on their store and nothing.

Then I was reminded of my 9 plus hour per-ordering process for my iPhone 4S in 2011 and I began to question why I was up in the wee hours of the morning forgoing much needed sleep for a phone that I will eventually own. The problem is the way I am wired I couldn’t see giving up as I had already invested in two and half hours without sleep.

Glued to Twitter I see what progress others were making in their order attempts I found some I follow purchased their iPhone 6 using the iOS Apple Store App.

Of course as a T-Mobile customer it was not possible to order an iPhone through the app as it has never been possible. I am not sure why this is the case, but I am sure there is a good reason in Apple’s eyes. So I kept refreshing the page. I even went as far as to connect via my iPhone hotspot connection just to make sure it wasn’t my ISP’s issue, but still no dice.

This went on until about 2:45am. A few friends were on chatting and one was able to order, again via the iOS Apple Store App as he was an AT&T customer. The other friend was trying to get a T-Mobile phone as well. It was about this time I said to myself that I give up. Angry with Apple I went to bed and mulled over just tossing Apple to the side and move on. Lying in bed I could not sleep so to the Online Apple Store on my iPhone I went. Refreshing for at least another 30 minutes, I  eventually fell asleep. Roughly about 4:15am I woke up in a panic, refreshed the store on the phone again and finally, three hours and 15 minutes later I was in. I rushed to my desk and ordered.

Half out of it I triple checked that the iPhone I was ordering was indeed the 128gb iPhone 6 Space Gray model.  I purchased AppleCare+ and of course a leather case to protect my new precious. I had the choice to ship it to my work office or pick up at my local Apple Store. I ended up having in shipped to my work office. It was then I went back to bed. Later that morning I awoke and got ready for work late and extremely tired. Deciding at that moment I will never attempt this middle of the morning per-order thing again (yeah, riiiight!). After arriving to work I looked to see how Apple was doing with orders and put a test order in to find the same model of phone I lost roughly four hours of sleep over to order.  I found it was still available to order at 9am. Hand to face.