You don’t have to put up with bad smartphone calls. Audio hitches, fuzzy speech, hollow sound—they may still be a problem even in 2022, but you can circumvent them.
The solution lies in your video calling apps, like Discord, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime. Making an audio-only call through those services will sound much crisper and clearer.
The reason? When you place a call through your Phone app, the way it transmits your voice compresses the data more heavily. The quality has improved since the move to VoLTE, or voice over LTE, but still falls short of voice calling apps. Estimates peg traditional calls at a bitrate of 16kbps; in contrast, Discord defaults to 64kbps. You can definitely hear the difference.
Of course, the catch is that you’ll burn data instead of cellphone minutes. And if you’re on a phone plan with limited or expensive data, expending even 28MB on an hour-long Discord call could be too much.
However, for most people, that won’t be the main issue. The majority of smartphone users are on unlimited plans or constantly near Wi-Fi. (Incidentally, if you ever hop on public Wi-Fi, you should use a VPN to stay secure.)
No, the sticky point is convincing your friends and family to switch to a different app for calls. Getting loved ones to install and adapt to yet another a new communications app can be hard. Fortunately, a lot of folks already have WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, which makes the transition easier.
A secondary problem—and I use this term loosely—is getting some friends and family to understand you’re aiming for audio-only calls. They’ll be used to making video calls through these services, and you may have to figure out how to tactfully explain to your aunt that sometimes, you’re just not wearing enough clothes, and audio-only is for her sake (and yours).
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.