Several iPhone X Owners Experiencing ‘Crackling’ or ‘Buzzing’ Sounds From Earpiece Speaker

A limited but increasing number of iPhone X owners claim to be experiencing so-called “crackling” or “buzzing” sounds emanating from the device’s front-facing earpiece speaker at high or max volumes.


Over two dozen users have said they are affected in a MacRumors discussion topic about the matter, while similar reports have surfaced on Twitter and Reddit since the iPhone X launched just over a week ago.

On affected devices, the crackling sounds occur with any kind of audio playback, including phone calls, music, videos with sound, alarms, and ringtones. The issue doesn’t appear to be limited to any specific iPhone X configuration or iOS version.

“Love the phone but I was wondering if anyone has had any issues with the speakers slightly sounding a little crackling whenever max volume,” said one MacRumors forum member with the alias ShadowYYZ. “Noticeable on certain songs and even my ring tone which was bought from the iTunes Store.”

For those unaware, the iPhone X’s earpiece doubles as a speaker that combines with the traditional speaker at the bottom of the device to deliver stereo sound. Both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 series also have stereo speakers.

MacRumors hasn’t been able to reproduce the issues described. Apple didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment on the matter.

While the sounds could be the result of distortion, especially since they occur at higher volumes only, several users are convinced that there could be a bigger software or hardware issue affecting the earpiece.

“I listen to a lot of music on the speakers of the iPhone X and I noticed the slight crackle right away,” replied another MacRumors forum member who goes by the username Benz63amg. “Since so many of us seem to experience this crackle then my assumption is that it’s software related rather than hardware.”

A few months ago, several iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus owners experienced a similar “static noise” issue with the earpiece during phone calls. Apple acknowledged the issue and fixed it in iOS 11.0.2.

Since the crackling sounds on iPhone X don’t appear to be limited to phone calls, it’s unclear if the issues are related.

Apple has been replacing affected iPhone X units free of charge, according to customers who contacted the company. Apple also appears to be collecting diagnostic information so that its engineers can investigate the matter, as it routinely does with any potential software or hardware issues.

Like the green lines affecting some iPhone X displays, this is an isolated issue affecting a very low percentage of the millions of devices being manufactured. The majority of iPhone X owners do not appear to be affected.

If you experience this problem, we recommend booking a Genius Bar appointment with the Apple Support app or contacting Apple via phone, email, online chat, or Twitter to have your iPhone X replaced. Apple is known for providing good customer service, and it is often genuinely helpful in these situations.

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Google Home Mini review: cheap smart speaker with clever home hub functions could be a winner

Not content with being dominant online, Google is pushing into your home – with a line of smart devices and speakers that it hopes will grace your shelves and coffee tables very soon.

The company handed out the smallest member of its speaker “home hub” line, the Google Home Mini, to everyone who attended its recent launch event. These are my thoughts after a few days with it.

Design and hardware

First things first: the main selling point for the Google Home Mini is its price. As the speaker itself will tell you – if you ask – it costs just US$49. If you are looking for an easy way into having a smart home, the Google Home Mini is the cheapest way to do that.

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Yet it does not feel cheap. It feels like a total home hub in its own right – though with a few compromises.

In truth, if you have a Google Home, you pretty much know how the Google Home Mini works. If you don’t, it is easy enough to figure out. Once you download the related app onto your phone, it sets itself up and teaches you how to use it to ask for information, set timers and control whatever other smart devices you may have about.

It is simple, and that’s good. It also keeps a low profile; it is much smaller than the Google Home, not even clearing the base of its older sibling. The Mini has just enough switches and indicators to function, and very little else.

Performance

If you are looking to put multiple home hubs in your house – maybe one in the kitchen and one on the nightstand – that is when the Google Home Mini really comes into its own. Like the Echo Dot, the Home Mini is an appealing way to make your smart-home features available in more rooms, particularly at that US$50 price.

For example: I have a Google Home. It sits in my bedroom and has the main function of controlling my bedroom lights and playing podcasts or music to put me to sleep. But placing it at my bedside meant that I had to choose not to put it in my living room, where I wanted to use it to control my Chromecast and television. With the Mini as a sort of satellite hub in the living room, I can now do both.

As a stand-alone speaker, the Google Home Mini is decent – though certainly not something to recommend to an audiophile. It is best for background music while you work or do chores, not for serious music appreciation, such as when you really want to hear the warmth of the clarinets in a piece of classical music. To be honest, the Google Home is not the world’s best speaker either, but the Mini is noticeably less so.

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But the Home Mini can hear your commands, even when its volume is cranked high – making it better than some smart speakers that cannot always hear you over the noise that they are generating.

If you have to adjust the volume by touching the speaker instead of using your voice, you can do so with easy taps on the speaker’s ends.

You can also group the Google Home and Google Home Mini together so that they can, for example, play the same song at the same time. That comes in handy if you are moving from room to room while vacuuming or folding and putting away laundry. You never have to miss a note or word of a podcast, and don’t have to spend a lot on a smart speaker system to get that feature. It is a little creature comfort, but still a nice one.

Of course, adding a Mini – either as a primary or secondary hub – also means allowing Google more access into your home.

Software and features

The Mini, like the Google Home, is always listening for its trigger phrases: “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google.” That, understandably, can be a bit disconcerting, particularly if you are putting these devices in your bedroom or the bathroom. Just as with the Home, however, the Mini has a mute function, which will shut off the microphone. If ever you want to, you can flip that mute switch.

Google Home Mini has all the new features coming to Google Home as well, including the ability to make hands-free calls through the speaker using your smartphone. So, if you are wrist-deep in bread dough and need to call your spouse for some extra ingredients, you can do that, and it can show up as a call from your own number. If you lose your phone, you can also ask Google Home to call it for you. On Android devices, it will even ring if your phone is muted (it cannot override a mute setting on the iPhone).

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You can also use Google’s search engine as a sort of phone directory, to call the “nearest florist” and so on. But I have not found that feature too useful yet, if only because the nearest store is not always the best one. Still, it is a promising feature, and shows off how Google is cleverly developing these devices.

Conclusion

Google knows this is a crowded space and with the Google Home Mini is putting its software smarts front and centre to stand out. So while Amazon may have a wider spread of products and Apple may pursue hardware excellence, Google’s focus is on function. So far, it is working.

Review of the $49 smart home speaker

One year after Google Home’s launch, Google has a smaller version: the Google Home Mini. Priced at $49.99, the smart home gadget is designed to compete directly with the equally-small — and equally-priced — Amazon Echo Dot.

But is the Home Mini equally intelligent, and should you buy one? Let’s find out.

Google Home Mini review: Design and hardware

Shaped like a pebble and about the size of a donut, the Home Mini is covered with the same fabric as the lower half of the full-size Home. Three color options are available — red coral, light gray and dark gray. But unlike the regular Home, these fabric coverings are not interchangeable.

The Home Mini is available in three colorsGoogle

There are no real buttons on the Home Mini. The only physical controls are touch-sensitive volume keys: you tap the right side of the fabric cover to increase the volume and the left to decrease. This changes the volume emitted from the Home Mini itself, not the music it plays through a connected speaker. Volume level is displayed with four lights under the fabric cover.

Google originally intended for a long press of the Mini to act as a touch-to-listen instruction, negating the need to always say ‘Okay, Google’ or ‘hey, Google’ to get its attention. But after an early example was caught accidentally recording almost constantly, this feature was permanently removed via a software update.

There is a physical switch on the back which turn the microphone off, stopping the Home Mini from hearing you. Doing so causes the four volume lights to go red, and Google Assistant to say “The mic’s off”. Switch it again, and she says “The mic is back on,” while the red lights disappear. We found the switch difficult to locate without looking for it — and we often accidentally altered the volume while reaching around to the switch.

In reality you won’t need to switch the mic off very often. Still, it can be advisable to do so when watching a film, just to stop Google Assistant from confusing a character’s voice for your own and trying to act on a command.

Unlike the Amazon Echo Dot, there is no auxiliary port for connecting to other speakers. And you can use Bluetooth with the Mini as a speaker (for your smartphone, for example), it is not possible to Bluetooth the Mini to a larger speaker. Instead, you need to buy a Chromecast dongle to send the Mini’s sound to a better system, or invest in speakers which come with Chromecast support out of the box. More on that later.

The Home Mini is powered via a microUSB port; a cable and wall charger come included in the box.

Microphone mute switch is hidden behind the speakerGearBrain

Google Home Mini review: Sound quality

With a single, 1.57-inch speaker you shouldn’t expect the Home Mini’s sound quality to set your world alight. And indeed it doesn’t. However, the sound is much better than the even smaller Amazon Echo Dot, whose speaker is a measly 0.6-inch in diameter. If you’re going to use Google Assistant mostly for radio, news and spoken word then you’ll be fine. But play music loudly and you’ll be wanting to hook up a better speaker via Chromecast.

Google Home Mini review: Chromecast

There are a number of Chromecast-compatible speakers and AV receivers already sold by Sony, LG, Philips, Bang & Olufsen, Pioneer, Onkyo, JBL and others. These connect wirelessly to the Home Mini, ready for you to play music from Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer and more. But when you do, it’s worth noting that the voice of Google Assistant still comes through the Home Mini itself, not the connected speaker. Music playback is controlled by the Google Home app for iOS and Android, or by voice commands.

Chromecast also works with video, and compatible televisions that are sold by Sharp, Sony, Philips, Toshiba and other manufacturers. This lets you ‘cast’ video from YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more to your TV. Just say to the Home Mini “Hey Google, play the latest episode of Stranger Things on the TV” and the show will begin to play from Netflix (A subscription is required.)

To connect the Home Mini to a device which doesn’t have Chromecast built in, you will need to buy a Chromecast dongle. The standard Chromecast costs $30 and connects to your TVs HDMI port, ready to stream content from Netflix, YouTube and other services. You can use your smartphone as the remote, or speak instructions to the Home Mini.

For streaming music from the Home Mini to a non-Chromecast speaker you will need the $30 Chromecast Audio, which uses a 3.5-mm auxiliary cable. Essentially, this acts as a dongle to give your regular speaker a WI-Fi connection for streaming music from your phone or the Home Mini.

The $69 Chromecast Ultra gives the Mini wireless control of Netflix, Spotify and moreGearBrain

Google Home Mini review: Google Assistant

And so, to the main event. Both the Google Home and Home Mini work with the company’s digital assistant, which is unimaginatively called Google Assistant. Much like Alexa on Amazon Echo devices, Assistant constantly listens out for either ‘Okay Google’ or ‘Hey Google’, and is then ready to answer a question or respond to a spoken command. While ‘Okay Google’ is quite clunky to say out loud, we got used to ‘Hey Google’ after the first day.

We found the Home Mini to be better at listening than the Amazon Echo Dot, and Google Assistant was more likely to understand what we said than Amazon Alexa. In fact, we were often surprised at how well Google understood us, even if we hadn’t spoken clearly.

A key benefit of Assistant over Alexa is how it often understands the context of the conversation. Ask Google Assistant which of your favorite sports teams is playing next, and she will answer. Then ask “Where are they in the league” and she understands that you are still talking about the same team, before telling you their current position. The latter is something Alexa cannot do.

Assistant will also ask you questions and wait for a reply, giving the impression of increased intelligence. We asked her to play music, to which she said okay. But she then asked if we wanted to play that through the Chromecast-enabled TV we were streaming from earlier. Alexa can also ask questions, but in what feels like a far less intelligent way.

For example, we asked Alexa “How much are flights to Geneva?” to which she replied: “Do you want to know the price of flights to Geneva?”. We said yes, but she replied: “Sorry, check price is currently not available.”

The Home Mini is roughly the same size as the Echo DotGearBrain

Google Assistant, however, pleasantly surprised us with her response. We asked the more complicated: “Hey Google, how much are flights to Geneva in May?”. She replied with the price from London, from our current location (a detail Alexa seemingly didn’t pick up on), for early May. She then asked if we’d like her to email us if that price changes. We found this genuinely useful and said, “Yes.”

Alexa’s problem here is her reliance on Skills, which have to be found and installed. Whereas Assistant, thanks to the sheer scale of Google’s search engine, just knows more — and without relying on the services of others (such as Skills) to find the right information.

Also in Assistant’s favor is her more natural-sounding voice. There is more warmth to it and her pronunciation sounds less robotic. It often feels as if Alexa is saying one word at a time, with each word sounding exactly the same on every occasion used. Google Assistant, however, strings words and phrases together into flowing sentences.

Google Home Mini review: Smart home integration

Just like the Amazon Echo range, Google Home and Home Mini can control many smart home gadgets such as Philips Hue lights, TP-Link smart plugs, Nest and Tado thermostats, and much more. Setting up smart home control is done in the Home smartphone app and is a simple process, just as it is with Alexa. The same device can be controlled with Alexa and Google Assistant at the same time — ie, you can turn a smart plug on with Alexa and off with Google, if you so wish.

Google communicates with fewer devices than Alexa — Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners being an omission we noticed in our home — but there are still many to choose from and we expect compatibility to improve over time.

Devices can be organized into rooms — similar to Alexa’s groups — and the voice commands are all as you would expect. Say “Hey Google, switch the kitchen lights on” and she will do just that, providing you have named and grouped everything correctly.

Home Mini is surprisingly loud for such a small speakerGearBrain

Google Home Mini review: Conclusion

For $49.99 the Home Mini represents excellent value for money. It takes everything which made the original Home great and shrinks it down into a donut-sized package with a price low enough to make it an impulse purchase for many. The design is subtle and unobtrusive, just as a virtual butler should be, while the fabric finish is more design-friendly than the shiny plastic of the futuristic-looking Amazon Echo Dot.

The lack of Bluetooth and auxiliary out is a shame for anyone hoping to hook up the Mini to a speaker they already own. But the volume and sound quality is surprisingly good for a device so compact — and $30 for a Chromecast Audio dongle shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for anyone already interested in the Home Mini.

Assistant’s intelligence and natural speech is, in our opinion, an improvement over Alexa and the Echo Dot we have used for the past year. Google just knows more (as perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise) and seems more eloquent. When talking to Assistant we feel more confident that she understand what we are saying compared to Alexa, which can be hit-and-miss.

The great thing is, as AIs like Alexa and Google Assistant get smarter, devices like the Home Mini and Echo Dot will improve and get better with age. With that in mind, it’s time for Alexa to smarten up if she’s to keep pace with Google.

Pros: Compact and attractive design with decent sound quality for the size and excellent Google intelligence

Cons: No Bluetooth or auxiliary for connecting other speakers, mute switch awkward to use

Google Home Mini review: Great voice-assistant, not-so-great speaker

The home smart speaker war is on. Some might say Amazon has already won it, with its Alexa voice-assistant Echo range and third-party support in other respected brand speakers. Amazon has competition though, predominantly from Google.

The original Google Home looked like a big air freshener and, arguably, took a more design-first approach than the original Amazon Echo. With Home’s inoffensive white matte plastic and swappable colour bases, it could fit in among all your home furnishing a lot better.

Now there’s a new, smaller model that takes a similar design approach with all the same features – just with a smaller speaker as a result. How does it stack up?

  • 98mm diameter x 42mm height; 173g weight
  • Chalk, Charcoal and Coral colour options
  • White power cable, irrelevant of colour choice

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Home’s “homely” fabric material covering looks nice. However, fabric does limit where you can put the Home Mini, because it’s not easily cleaned. This likely means you probably won’t want it in a kitchen within reach of dirty hands, or accidental splashes and crumb-drops.

Pocket-lintGoogle Home Mini image 3

Still, Mini is attractive and has a well-considered look and use of materials. Four circular LED lights hide beneath the fabric, which light up when you utter the hot words “Hey Google” or “Ok Google”, letting you know it’s ready to receive your command.

Similarly, they illuminate white when when you touch either side of the top panel to increase/decrease volume. To show you the volume level, the lights decrease in brightness sequentially. The only time you’ll see other colours of light is when the mute switch is on, at which point they turn orange, or when you boot it up and it shows the red, yellow, blue and green Google colours.

As with the larger Google Home, the search giant kept things minimal in regards to ports and buttons. There’s one Micro-USB port on the back, recessed neatly into the plastic casing. Just over an inch to the left of that port is the single switch for disabling voice detection.

Coincidentally, the grey model we have on review was a perfect match for the grey Bose Soundlink Revolve, grey Apple Watch charger and grey fabric-covered lamp on our bedside table.

Pocket-lintGoogle Home Mini image 2

On the design front there’s one thing that irks – the power lead. It’s white. In other words it’s not colour-matched to the grey. Sad times. If you’re placing it on a light surface, this likely won’t upset too much. But if it’s on top of a dark wood or granite surface, it sticks out like a sore thumb and detracts from that friendly non-techy look that the Google Home Mini achieves without the power cable.

  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5GHz) Wi-Fi
  • Chromecast/Chromecast Audio

The initial process of setting up the Google Home Mini is a simple one, which matches the procedure you’d have to follow to get any Home or Chromecast product up and running.

Pocket-lintGoogle Home Mini pictures image 6

Plug it in, make sure you have the Google Home app installed on your iPhone or Android device, then Home Mini should show up automatically within the app, at which point you follow the step-by-step instructions in the mobile software.

In the setup, you tell the Home Mini which home network it should connect to, after which the rest of the process is automated. From here you can change Mini’s name and also note which room it’s in – useful if you have multiple Home devices.

  • 360-degree sound
  • Single 40mm speaker
  • Far-field voice recognition
  • Touch-sensitive volume control

It’s clear from its design and size, that Mini is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo Dot. It is missing a couple of features, however. The first is a manual command button. It’s voice commands or nothing with the Home Mini.

The second absent feature is an audio output – so Mini could be used as something of a Google Home/Chromecast Audio device when connected to a better speaker. It’s clear that Mini isn’t made to be a quality audio product, it’s all about the voice-control part of things.

Pocket-lintGoogle Home Mini image 4

As you’d expect, having that one small speaker for sound means it’s not as loud as the bigger Google Home. It’s also not the best quality sound. It’s quite treble heavy and harsh, with very little bass at all. To the point where it’s not even a good replacement for a small Bluetooth speaker.

Again: the purpose of Home Mini isn’t to be a primary audio device, not for music anyway. It’s a way to get Google Home into more rooms without costing a fortune.

Voice detection performance is generally decent, too. When placed in one of the smaller rooms of the house, Mini seemed to have no trouble detecting the “hey Google” hot word. As with any smart assistant, it wasn’t a 100 per cent success rate, but it understood our commands and responded far more frequently than not. 

Since the original Home launched, the number of supported smarthome products has grown. Most of the bigger smart home products and companies support Google Home now, but the list of partners is still considerably smaller than those offered by the Amazon-branded competition.  

We tested Mini using a TP-Link colour-changing smart bulb and our Tado smart home thermostat, but it also supports the likes of Nest, Wemo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Hive, LifX, Lightwave, WiZ and Netatmo. So you can use it to set your heating at a specific temperature, or switch your lights off, among other functions, all with the power of voice.

1/8Pocket-lint

Of course, you can also use it for various media services too. That means for any Chromecast- or Chromecast Audio-equipped device you can play music or video through Spotify, Google Play, TuneIn, BBC Radio, YouTube and Netflix. It won’t sound great, but you can nonetheless.

Perhaps Google’s greatest strength, however, is in delivering search results in a way that feels more natural and conversational. For most questions you’ll get a direct answer, with mention of the information’s source. If Home Mini doesn’t understand your request or command it’ll tell you – which is something that happens at least once or twice a day. At which point, rephrasing can sometimes yield the result you want. 

Home has got a sense of humour, too, which is always a nice touch – especially if you have kids in the house. Ask it to tell you jokes, use questions with references to popular culture and it’ll generally come up trumps. 

Verdict

There’s nothing especially remarkable about Google Home Mini, except perhaps one thing: it does everything the bigger Home product does, but is much, much smaller.

Home Mini isn’t designed as a speaker for music, though. Sure, it has a speaker, and can connect to music services, but it doesn’t sound that great. But then it’s not supposed to: Mini is all about voice-control and expanding the system around your home. And on that front, it achieves exactly what it sets out to do.

Pocket-lintamazon echo dot review image 1

It may not come with the same search expertise as Google’s Assistant, but the fast rollout of support for third-party smarthome partners means it’s more likely to be of use if you have smart, connected technology from multiple brands in your home. You can also plug it into a bigger speaker, for better audio. 

Read the full article: Amazon Echo Dot review