Audio improvements in smartphones helps make jammin' slammin'Anna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
Okay, so after thinking about it a bit, perhaps my article today will end up making me sound more like a hypocrite than anything. You might have read my article yesterday where I discussed my thoughts on smartphone displays and their resolutions - for the most part, I think that we’ve reached a point where improving display quality in mobile is pointless. However, when it comes to audio, I think that the improvements being made to the industry are a step in the right direction.
I think I really started caring about audio quality in phones when I got my HTC One last year. Before that, sound was whatever, especially when listening to sound on the external speakers. But when HTC unveiled the One, not only were we pleasantly surprised with two speakers, but also all of the extra goodies that made the listening experience not only loud, but good. This included features like BoomSound and Beats Audio. Beats Audio also carried over to audio listened to through headphones. Admittedly, when I first got the phone I figured Beats was nothing more than a gimmick. Say what you will about Beats, and perhaps it wasn’t the Beats that made me feel this way, but the One did seem to have really good sound quality whether I was listening out loud or with headphones. It was an extremely pleasant experience.
It’s a year later, and the new HTC One M8 has made a few changes. The two BoomSound speakers are still around (thankfully), and even 25% louder than before. Beats Audio is no longer a part of the HTC One experience, but if you’re a Sprint customer you have the ability to purchase the Harman Kardon edition of the M8, which is supposedly supposed to make the listening experience even better than the standard HTC One M8. Why they would only do this with one carrier’s version instead of all four “beats” me (okay, that was bad) but nonetheless the option is there, and in my opinion it does sound pretty darn fantastic.
HTC has been pretty focused for a few years now about the sound quality of their phones, with many of them featuring Beats Audio even before the One. As for everyone else, sound quality wasn’t ever much of a feature to push; I mean, realistically it’s not a “needed” feature either, but as oppose to my stance on displays, I do think audio quality has a chance at actually sounding better. But with HTC being done and over Beats, it would seem that a new contender has decided to take audio a little more seriously, and that’s Apple.
Rumor has it that Apple is now going to partner up with Beats Audio, which is probably a good thing. The iPhone was largely successful due in part to the popularity of Apple’s iPod, a pinnacle in music since the early 2000’s. Many iPhone users now use their iPhone as both a phone and a music player, and improving the sound quality might spark some interest back in the iPhone. Not to say that the sound quality of the iPhone is bad, but it doesn’t really have any special qualities that make it stand out from hundreds of other phones on the market.
Good sound quality is one of those things, at least for me, where you don’t think about it unless you’ve heard the change. Since switching to my Moto X, I can tell you that I much prefer my One to my Moto X when it comes to listening to music or watching Netflix simply because it sounds better. Before I used the One, though, I wouldn’t have known any the wiser. So while it’s not a necessary improvement, it’s one that I feel has room to grow in the industry. It will be interesting to see how Apple fares with Beats, if the rumors turn out to be true.
Readers, how do you feel about audio on your smartphone? Is good, clear audio sound an important feature to you? Share your opinions with us in the comments below!