Call quality has never been a strong suit of the iPhone. But ever since iPhone 4 came out on Verizon, things have gotten just a smidge better. And the iPhone 4S reaffirms that Apple's improvements have been no fluke.
We compared the iPhone 4S on ATT, Verizon and Sprint to a trio of new Android phones: Motorola Droid Bionic (Verizon), Samsung Galaxy S II (Sprint) and the HTC Amaze (T-Mobile). We placed calls to a landline phone and tested for not just for overall quality, but also the noise canceling capabilities of each phone. So how'd they fare?
When comparing among iPhone 4S models to each other, the CDMA-powered Verizon and Sprint phones sounded better than the AT&T handset on both ends of the line. Yes, the CDMA handsets lacked a certain clarity and sounded a little more hushed, but the voices were full and soft, which made having a conversation easier on the ears. Voice quality on the AT&T iPhone 4S was tinny and shrill and generally less pleasant, even if voices came through bolder.
On the Android side, the Galaxy S II was more or less on par with the AT&T iPhone 4S. Clear and upfront, but again, shrill. The HTC Amaze sounded the worst, sounding tinny and distant and surrounded by ambient noise. The Droid Bionic, on the other hand, sounded great. Striking a balance between clarity and richness of voice, it was the best sounding of all the phones. But it's also running on Verizon's 4G network, so it was somewhat expected.
Winner: Droid Bionic
For the noise cancellation test, I was sitting in an enclosed booth, so I just threw on a song with a lot of abrasive noise and proceeded to talk over it to my co-conspirator on the other line.
All the iPhones eliminated about the same amount of noise, quickly recognizing when I was speaking and dampening the music, making my voice intelligible. When I wasn't speaking, the mic would hone back in on the background noise. The AT&T's noise cancellation was more noticeable, since the audio quality is brighter.
Of the Android phones, the Galaxy S II and the Droid Bionic performed about the same, cutting out most of the unwanted sound and leaving my own voice intact. It took longer than the iPhones for each of the Android handsets to detect when I was speaking, but once they caught up, they performed admirably. The HTC Amaze's noise cancellation worked well enough, but it took the longest of any to kick in, and even when it did, it still let some background noise through.
Winner: iPhone 4S
The call quality on all the iPhone 4Ses is the best yet of the lineage. That said, it still quite isn't on the level of the Droid Bionic, even the 4S has some awesome noice cancellation capabilities. And if you're looking for a top-to-bottom comparison, here it is:
1) Motorola Droid Bionic (Verizon)
2) iPhone 4S (Sprint and Verizon—tie)
4) iPhone 4S (AT&T)
5) Samsung Galaxy S II (Sprint)
6) HTC Amaze (T-Mobile)