Appledystopia: Independent Technology News

How to Use Your iPhone’s Microphone

How to Use Your iPhone's Microphone - Featured Image

published by Chad Evans
November 23, 2022 at 5:37 p.m.
  • Your iPhone possesses tiny, omnidirectional condenser microphones capable of picking up sound with extraordinary quality.
  • Located at the bottom, top, and back of your iPhone, you can use these powerful microphones for calls, recording audio, and even making music.
  • For various reasons, your iPhone’s microphones might not work correctly.
  • Sometimes an iPhone’s microphone fails due to dirt or debris covering the opening, but it’s usually a software configuration issue.

About Your iPhone’s Amazing Microphones

You’ve probably noticed that calls on your iPhone sound much better than any phone conversation you’ve experienced, especially if the person on the other end is using one of Apple’s smartphones. That’s because Apple uses high-quality microphones in its products.

Your iPhone’s mic uses a technology known as microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS). A regular condenser mic uses two charged metal plates — one is a vibrating diaphragm, and the other is a backplate. When sound vibrates the diaphragm, it creates a weak electrical signal that’s converted into digital data that your iPhone can interpret as sound.

With a MEMS design, manufacturers essentially create a microphone on a chip. Deposited silicon layers are etched away to form a miniature diaphragm and backplate. The entire chip contains electronics to amplify and transform sound into digital output that your iPhone can use.

Cross-section of a MEMS microphone assembly.
image credit: EDN; Cross-section view of MEMS microphone assembly.

How Many Microphones Does a Modern iPhone Have?

For some time, Apple equipped the iPhone with two microphones. Today, a modern iPhone has four microphones — two at the bottom, one at the top, and one on the back. The four microphones provide omnidirectional coverage for the phone. Apple has used this design since the iPhone X; however, the quality of microphones has improved in later models, such as the iPhone 14 Pro series.

Where Are an iPhone’s Microphones Located?

Regardless of which iPhone model you own, the primary microphone(s) are located at the bottom of the phone. Newer iPhone models with the notch have four microphones — two at the bottom, one at the top, and one in the back. Before this design, Apple used two microphones, one at the bottom and one at the top. Specifically, Apple placed the bottom microphones on a modern iPhone (iPhone X through iPhone 14 Pro Max) behind the speaker holes. 

iPhone 14 Pro Max Bottom Mics
The iPhone 14 Pro Max features two microphones on the bottom. These are the iPhone’s primary microphones. Every model since the iPhone X has mics located as shown.
iPhone 14 Pro Max Back Microphone
The iPhone 14 Pro Max has a small microphone in the back. Similar Pro models place the mic in the same location. The back microphone improves coverage but can also serve as input for noise cancellation.
iPhone 14 Plus Back Microphone
The iPhone 14 Plus and all similar base models from past years feature a microphone on the bottom left corner of the camera assembly.

If you’re wondering which end of your iPhone to speak in, the bottom has either a Home button or no notch or oval. For those who experience problems recording audio, making phone calls, or FaceTime chats, we’ll troubleshoot mic problems later in this article.

How Can I Tell if The Microphone is On?

Newer iPhones with a notch indicate a hot mic with an orange dot in the top right corner of the screen. The orange dot appears in the oval cutout if you have a new iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max.

iPhone 14 Pro Max shows an orange dot when the mic is active.
iPhone 14 Pro Max shows an orange dot when the mic is active.
iPhone 14 Pro Max - Voice Memos App with Dynamic Island
If you swipe out of the Voice Memos app, the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s Dynamic Island displays recording time and a real-time waveform. The orange dot appears in the top-right corner, indicating that the microphone is in use.

Both iPhones will show a green dot if the camera is on, with or without the microphone. If you see a green dot, it isn’t possible to verify if the mic is picking up sound from the indicator alone. You’ll have to confirm that the app you use picks up sound from the microphones.

Why Doesn’t My iPhone’s Microphone Work?

Whenever you install a new app that needs to use your microphone, iOS forces the app to confirm. Many times people reflexively reject microphone activation out of privacy concerns. Most apps will ask each time, but some may resume operation with a muted microphone. It’s easy to forget that you shut off access to the mic, but it’s easy to restore.

Privacy settings and muting are the most common reasons your iPhone’s microphone isn’t working. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. Simply tap on Settings > Privacy > Microphone to activate your mic for a specific app.

Another common issue is muting the mics within an app. Many apps have mute buttons for microphones to enhance group communications. For example, if you’re phoning into a corporate meeting with several participants, you typically want to mute your mic when it’s not in use.

It’s easy to mute the microphone in a chat or telephony app, forgetting it’s still on. Remember to check the mute switch in any apps you use if you’re not getting audio from the mic.

It’s also possible for dirt or debris to block the microphone, resulting in poor sound quality. If this is the case, you can see it. The holes in the bottom of your iPhone may be full of dirt or lint.

If the holes at the bottom of your iPhone are clogged, it will affect microphone performance, especially since those are the primary mics. A mini vacuum is the best tool to remove dirt from the bottom holes of your iPhone. I don’t recommend compressed air, as it could drive in dirt further. I wouldn’t try using a paperclip or toothpick to dislodge dirt because it could damage your iPhone’s speakers and microphones.

If all else fails, it’s possible that your microphones are damaged or something severed the connection to the logic board, such as a shock, drop, or manufacturing defect. If this is the case, your best course of action is to take it into the Apple Store.

If repairs are too expensive, you can live a normal life with a broken iPhone microphone. Just use some earphones or headphones with a mic. AirPods or any similar wireless earbuds will restore your ability to make phone calls and record audio on your iPhone.

Other articles instruct iPhone owners to employ toothpicks, toothbrushes, paintbrushes, compressed air, and other tools to clean dirt from microphone holes. We don’t recommend this at all. You’re likely to damage your iPhone permanently, and if Apple discovers this damage, it may void your warranty. If it’s not a software issue and the mini vacuum doesn’t work, take it in to an Apple Store or a certified repair shop for service.

How to Fix iPhone Microphone for Speakerphone Conversations

Your iPhone uses a different microphone for speakerphone calls. Since the sound emits from the bottom of your iPhone, iOS uses the top mic for speaker calls.

Your iPhone also uses the top microphone when you record a video. You can test your top microphone by recording a video and listening to the audio. Ensure you haven’t accidentally muted the mic if there’s no sound. If you experience poor sound quality, dirt or debris may block the speaker port. Use a mini vac to remove any junk that’s blocking the mic. If that doesn’t work, your top mic may be broken.

It’s extremely rare for an iPhone’s microphone to break. Redundancy ensures that if one breaks, you can still function. In all my time using an iPhone, I have yet to meet one person who experienced a broken microphone. I only see these problems when I research them.

How Does the iPhone’s Recording Quality Compare to Other Smartphones?

Many iPhone users assume that Apple provides the best audio possible and that every Android phone is inferior. Some people evaluate smartphone audio quality — both the speakers and the microphones. While Apple is near the top, Asus provides the best sound and recording quality. The company even beat the newest iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models.

This fact surprised me because, while researching this article, I read many negative posts about Android audio quality. An Android phone has the best audio quality, and most flagships provide sound and recording capabilities on par with Apple.

DXOMARK is one of the leaders in evaluating sound quality. The company tests just about every smartphone, camera, and smart speaker on the planet, ranking them according to quality. The newest iPhone 14 Pro Max ranks 4th place globally, which is very impressive. But most would assume that Apple provides the best audio quality. They don’t. Three Asus phones beat Apple when it comes to sound quality.

There are other factors beyond sound quality. Apple’s focus on multimedia and zero-latency audio made it a leader early on. Its musician-friendly brand history encouraged the development of numerous audio apps. Although a few Asus smartphones may have slightly better audio quality, iPhones offer superior software options for recording and making music. Even something free like GarageBand is remarkably advanced compared to Android audio tools.

It’s getting better, and Android offers better audio apps every day. But since so many musicians prefer Apple, the company will likely continue to be the choice of audio/visual professionals.

Who Manufactures iPhone Microphones for Apple?

As with many large corporations, Apple sources components from other vendors. For the iPhone, Apple gets its microphones from AAC Technologies, Goertek, and Knowles. These microphones vary and serve different purposes, however, they’re all MEMS microphones.

It’s unclear if Apple will remain with these suppliers, make their own mics, or look for newer, cheaper and better supplies. We’ve followed Apple for over a decade, and the company constantly swaps out parts, usually for the better.

The best scenario would be if Apple designed and manufactured its own microphones. This would ensure quality and reduce costs for Apple and consumers. It would also alleviate any supply chain kinks.

Recent

How to Find the Best Apple Music Plan
Best Apple Arcade Games
How to Sign In to Apple Music
Dynamic Island Sucks
Deleting Apps on Your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV

Trending

How to Calibrate Your iPhone's Battery
iPhone Tips for Cold Weather
Best Prices on Apple Products at Amazon
Apple TV Channels
How to Use Your iPhone’s Microphone