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.

I Wanted an iPhone 5, but I’m Not Getting One

I have been excited about the upcoming release of the next version of Apple’s iPhone. September 12 came and passed. The new iPhone 5 sports a new larger screen, its lighter,  a new A6 processor, LTE built in, dual band wireless radio, longer battery life, and new 19-pin connector. By all accounts it is a major step up from the iPhone 4S I purchased last year, which happens to be the reason I am not getting the iPhone 5 at this time.

For years AT&T, my service provider, had offered early upgrade discounts on the latest iPhone release. As I was not an early adopter of the iPhone I never actually was able to take advantage of this, but after purchasing the iPhone 4S on cycle I was convinced that a year later I could buy the new iPhone at the discount and sell my iPhone 4S to cover the cost. I even went as far as locking in the sale price on Gazelle.com of $320 until October 1.

Fast forward to this morning and despite looking non-stop for some signs that AT&T would be kind and grant me my wish, my eligibility for full discount remained at the May 7 date. However after checking today that date actually has been pushed back to July 7, for some unknown reason.

This change in AT&T’s track record has left me at a cross roads. I had been contemplating several different changes that included adding 4 additional lines to AT&T, but at this point it was based on my relationship with AT&T. Granted they are well within their rights not to offer me an early upgrade discount, but on the other hand they have set a precedent since 2008 of allowing early upgrades annually, something I believed would be happening for me.

Not all is lost; the following are advantages of not upgrading to the new iPhone 5 at this time.

  • AT&T has yet to roll out LTE in my neck of the woods. It won’t do so until the end of 2012 or so they say.
  • The iPhone 5 will undoubtedly have some early issues, due to the new redesign, thus being on what has been termed the “S” upgrade cycle allows me to have a more refined device.
  • The case and accessory market will be more mature in the next year. Like with the iPad 2, the choice of case type will be limited and I am not sure anyone has a car charger made for specifically for the iPhone 5.
  • By waiting until next year I will be off contract with AT&T and will have many carrier options open to me. My hope is Verizon learns how unpopular their current price structure is and makes a change. I can also go the Virgin Mobile route as well.

If you are in the same boat that I am in, hold tight and enjoy your iPhone 4S while you have it, because in 1 years time the new edition of the iPhone will be here for you to have.

My iPhone 4S Purchase and AT&T Activation Lesson

I wanted to be the first on the block to own an iPhone 4S. I waited 9 hours and 47 minutes the week prior to pre-order the latest and greatest iPhone. It wasn’t until the morning of October 12th that it shipped from China.  I tracked it landing in Alaska that very same day (actually gaining 7 hours). By Thursday it had landed in Louisville, Kentucky. By the time I had gone to bet Thursday night, it had traveled to Salt Lake City, UT.

I went to bed feeling knowing that it would arrive in the Boise Metro Area during the early morning hours and put on a UPS truck for delivery. The iPhone arrived sometime after 10AM Friday October 14th. I had read on Twitter that AT&T was having issues activating the newly arriving iPhones.

This did not detour me. I took some snap shots of the un-boxing with my iPhone 3GS. Posted them to twitter and then began the process. I found that I needed iTunes or a wireless connection to activate the phone. I thought this was weird, but I had alternatives as iTunes 10.5 was not available on my work PC and wireless signals were weak at best.

I took a stroll to the local coffee shop in an attempt to secure a wireless signal for activation. I was in luck and began the process. The new phone displayed a message it would take a mere 3 minutes and I would be activated. After about 3 minutes I received a new message stating:

“Your activation is still pending. You will receive an email notification once your activation is complete. We’re sorry. There was a problem connecting to the server. Please try again later.”

Though my new iPhone 4S was activated around 7PM my time, what transpired in between receiving the device and afterwards is a lesson learned. I tried to complete the activation at an AT&T store in my local area at lunch. I was met with brick wall of “you ordered it through Apple, there is nothing we can do”. I headed to the Apple Store, and was met with yes we have been activating AT&T all day with one problem.

The Genius tried, but failed two different times. An AT&T representative was trying her best to get me along with 5 other with the same issue activated, but with no luck. While about to leave, I ran into a gentleman that walked in, bought an iPhone 4S, activated it on AT&T and walked out of the Apple Store in less than 30 minutes. He said that it was true of many people that day.

Apple Store employees said the same, but could not help in my situation since I had pre-ordered the phone. The AT&T representative only made matters worse by having me complete several non effective tasks in order to complete activation. Discouraged I headed back to work a few minutes late from lunch.

After arriving back to work things got worse.  I read an article that many people were able to activate there pre-ordered iPhone 4S with an AT&T representative over the phone. I made a call. I was greeted by a warm voice that was more than happy to help. She discovered that my data plan was not matching the SIM card. She put me on hold, worked some magic and came back on the line. It was about then the call on my 3GS failed and I had now lost phone service on my 3GS and my iPhone 4S was not activated, but something new appeared, a 3G signal.

After several attempts to activate I continued to get nowhere. I called back to AT&T to see if the process that had been started earlier could bring the phone to life, but no such luck. I was also told that my 3GS was dead in the water as well.

It was time to head home for the day. I attempted over the newly acquired 3G signal to activate the 4S while driving home. Driving home in rush hour I have frequent and long stops. While picking my daughter up from daycare I returned to my car to discover that my phone had been activated. At last after about 8 hours I was finally activated. However, I needed to connect to my iMac to restore my settings.

The next day I arrived back at the Apple Store to purchase a case. I found droves of people purchasing phones without activation issues, most of which were AT&T customers. For all my waiting, complaining and pure madness through purchasing and activation, I could have kept my sanity and walked into my local Apple Store and been in and out in 30 minutes. I learned a valuable lesson in all of this; it’s not worth being the first and AT&T is a terrible iPhone launch partner.

My 9 Hour 47 Minute iPhone 4S Pre-order Experience

I stayed up to early morning hours of Friday October 7th to order an iPhone 4S. I had already decided on a White one with 32GB of storage. As a current iPhone 3GS owner I had been eligible to upgrade since the early part of September.

At 1:01 AM I promptly refreshed the Apple Online Store homepage to be greeted with the standard “We’ll be back soon” message. While I waited I headed over to twitter to see if any other followers were running into the same thing.

Forward to 1:32 AM and the store is still not up. I respond back to Chris Breen about his complaint about the store being down “@BodyofBreen imagine how east cost people feel. #iPhone4S #applestoredown”. No reply back, but he was on Pacific Time and far better off than the rest of us. It’s at this point I decided to give up for the moment and get some rest. I felt I was in for a long wait.

2:25 AM I wake startled to find that the store was up, but after numerous attempts I can’t get past the eligibility screen. I try AT&T and still no luck. Errors and more errors until 3:01 AM, I get a message that an iPhone had been reserved and that an email would notify me when I could come back to Apple Store and place my order. Not trusting system, I try one more time and get the same message. Well nothing more to do, but back to bed and get some rest.

4:53 AM I get the email telling me the Apple Store is ready for me. I have until Saturday October 8th 5:00PDT to order. I start the process yet again, but run into the biggest issue of the day. I can’t change my shipping address. I try about everything possible for the next hour to make a change in shipping, no luck. I am completely frustrated as I can’t be home on the 14th of October and wait for an iPhone. Why can’t I ship it to my work address? I go back to bed.

10:26 AM I attempt to pre-order via AT&T. I get to the shipping address and find I cannot change it via AT&T either. I scroll down and discover that “for security reasons” I can only have the phone shipped to the billing address of record. I am dumbfounded as why this is a policy, but I play the game. I switch my billing address to my work address and at 10:48 AM my order is complete.

1:44 PM my email Order Acknowledgment arrives solidifying my order. As of this post my iPhone 4S has yet to ship, but I expect it to. I am hearing that people ordering Black 16GB models have received notification. In fact a co-worker ordered a 1 black model and 1 white model, with the shipping confirmation coming for the black model.

The pre-order experience was far from flawless. I believe AT&T was to blame for a lot of the issues. Apple had a great back up plan in place this time. Verizon and Sprint from what I read had little problems, which says a lot about those two companies. Obviously Apple did not intend for customers to wait as long as I did to fill an order. At this point I need a few naps to recover all the lost sleep. Good Night.

Possible “No New iPhone in June or July” Rumor Correlation

According to MacRumors an AT&T customer called regarding his iPhone upgrade date being changed.

(The) customer noticed his eligibility date for a subsidized upgrade had been pushed back by over five months.

The AT&T representative proceeded to explain that Apple had informed AT&T that there would be no new hardware for June or July. I was of course skeptical of this particular story as it was an AT&T rep as the source. Considering the number of times a Verizon representative told me the iPhone was coming to Verizon Wireless you can understand why.

Atteligiblty

I decided to look up my account eligibility upgrade via AT&T and something did change. Though my date of upgrade has always been 9-30-11, a new presentation of when I was eligible for upgrade was given. Note that I was given the AT&T upgrade information as well as the iPhone eligibility.

It would seem AT&T went out of their way to let me know I was not eligible for an iPhone upgrade. I am not sure what this all means, but it would appear on the surface AT&T trying to make it clear to its customers when they are or are not eligible for an iPhone update. It also may be yet another signal Apple is pushing back the launch the next iPhone.