Have you ever heard the phrase “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”, or something of that nature? Well, for a lot of things, it’s true. In this case, it’s true for a certain smartphone feature that I discovered last year for the first time and totally fell in love with: the HTC One M7’s dual front-facing speakers.
I had never really considered how important good sound was before that point when it came to smartphones. I always chalked up the quiet or muffled sound quality to the fact that I was trying to listen from, well, a phone. Admittedly, anything that was coming from the speaker of a smartphone was better than anything any flip phone or messaging phone of mine could have done. Growing up, I was happy just to be able to use Real Tones instead of midi files, even if it did sound like a cat dying due to terrible sound quality. If you listened really hard, you could make out a couple of lyrics to that System of a Down song. Super cool.
But this is years in the future, and although sound quality had improved greatly in smartphones things still weren’t great. With most smartphone speakers appearing on the back of the phone, sound would often be quiet or muffled because the sound was facing away from me or was set against a table. Not exactly the most ideal location for producing great sound.
Now, a lot of smartphones go for putting the speaker on the bottom of the phone - and that’s alright. At least now I can set my phone on a table and it won’t be muffled, and will even be facing towards me if I’m just listening to music. Still, having a speaker on the underside of a phone produced sound only to one side of my head when watching videos, which is something that I do quite often. Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube are kind of staples of my smartphone experience right now, and that experience had never been more pleasing to my ears than when I used the HTC One M7 (or the M8, for that matter).
I know that HTC put a lot of effort into their front-facing speakers with the One line, given that not only are there two of them but they also feature BoomSound technology. Really, though, I think the main thing with the front-facing speakers is that the location just made the most sense. Even without BoomSound, users would (most of the time) get the best benefit out of the speakers facing the front, because that's where their face is. When you think about it, it’s not very often that people will set their phone face down. They’ll leave their phone sitting face up so they can easily see notifications. When watching a video, they’re holding their phone with the screen towards their face. With a speaker on each end of the front of the phone, you have sound directed at each side of your head. The sound is loud and directed at the user - not toward anybody standing in front of or beside them.
I am surprised that more manufacturers haven’t taken this route yet when it comes to their phone’s speakers. Motorola incorporated dual front-facing speakers in both this year’s Moto G and their new Nexus 6 device, but aside from that not many are hopping on board with the concept. It’s a shame, because it’s probably a feature that I miss the most almost any time I’m watching something on my phone. A rear-facing speaker or a single speaker on the bottom of the device just isn’t as clear or as loud as a front-facing speaker is.