iPhone 4 skipping audio on AT&T microcell

There have been complaints of the iPhone 4 experiencing audio problems when connected to AT&T's 3G microcell. Specifically, the incoming sound will skip, making it nearly impossible to understand the person you're talking to. There does not appear to be a relation to signal strength and the skipping does not affect outgoing audio. It also only seems to only be a problem with the iPhone 4.

I have owned a microcell for a few weeks now and have experienced this issue on multiple occasions. It has only occurred in one spot of my house - at my desk. Once I move, the call clears up and I can hear everything fine. Not once has this skipping resulted in a dropped call.

What about you? Have you noticed skipping audio when using an iPhone 4 on your AT&T microcell? What about another device?

Video demonstrating the problem after the break!

[AT&T forums - thanks Allen for the tip!]

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Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

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Reader comments

iPhone 4 skipping audio on AT&T microcell


Yes. I have experienced it. It is intermittent, but certainly happens about 25 percent of the time. I have seen some suggest that we should turn of Cellular Data in our phone settings, and an ATT tech said to turn off wifi. I don't know if there is yet a solution, but no Microcell for me means no ATT service at all in my home.

No problems at all on my Microcell in NYC. Calls are fluid. I do however experience dropped calls although the majority of them are to my wife using her 3gs. :)

I ended up giving mine away - problems with dropped calls (phone attempting to switch to main cell site vs. staying connected on the microcell) - and more importantly - incoming calls going straight to voicemail, not ringing the phone. This was happening on all our iPhones (3G, 3GS, and 4) - so it wasn't isolated to a particular version.

Never been 100% happy with mine. With my 3GS it would occasionally sound like the other person was under water for about 20 seconds, then fix itself.
With my iPhone 4 I have similar issues and about 10% dropped call rate.
All of this with apparent 5 bar coverage throughout my house.

I didn't notice that when i ha one( microcell and iphone 4) but i did have microcell to 3g handoff problems when i was on call and left range of the cell call would drop. I actually took mine back and switched to verizon.

Have def experienced this. I honestly just thought it was interference however, my wife has a 3gs that has no problems. Only with my iphone 4. It also didn't start happening until recently-only a 3 weeks or so. It's really starting to become unusable.

Yes I am having the same exact problems with my iPhone 4. I also drop a ton of calls on the microcell or when I begin to make a call it drops. The gargle noice is only on the iPhone 4 for me and AT&T & Apple have no idea whats creating it for me.

Oh man Leanna!! Thank you! I thought I had a bad phone or something. I experience this on about 75% of my calls on the microcell, mostly when the call is longer than 3 minutes. I dont drop calls, I just get that skipping which makes me keep having to get the other person to repeat. Its annoying as hell.

I have one and not only does tue incoming audio skip but so does my outgoing. I have even had the issue of standing right next to the device and dropped a call. I am strong debate of returning the device. It does not help that the AT&T rep told me i could add version and tmobile devices to it, so i can have friends and roommates use the device. :(

I got my MicroCell on Friday, and everything seemed fine. Today however, I was in another room, with my iP4 in my pocket, using a wired headset, and started experience the skipping. Annoying since the tower that serves my area has had issues for the last two weeks, and I have been with out service at home. Thought the MC would help.....

I have this problem on just about every call I receive/make. With two iPhone 4's in the house, this sucks.

I have experienced this issue as well but I have no microcell. It happens when I'm connected to my home network and I'm using the phone for a cell network call.

This has been driving me nuts. It's so horrible that I just have to tell whoever I will ring them back on a voip line. I /did/ notice, however, this weekend a difference.
While I noticed this directly after getting my iphone 4, it seems to have gotten worse lately. I disconnected my mcell this weekend to take back to ATT in hopes of getting another one. The Att store that I went to did not carry them, so I figured I would hit up another store during the week.
When I returned home.. I plugged it back in.. same spot.. etc. etc..
that night I had a call on my iphone and was /actually/ able to hear the person w/o any problems.. shrug I don't know if/how/why unplugging it had anything to do with it, but..
sadly i need the stupid device. like a previous commenter. No mcell = no coverage in my appt. It's an att black hole.
glad to know I am not crazy. (well... regarding this, anyway...)

It happens to me at least 25% of the time. It has resolved at times as I walk around the room but I can't swear that it is cause and effect.

Those of you having this:
Is it location specific? Can you rotate the microcell and reduce it? Some of these devices do not have perfectly omni-directional antennas.
Does rebooting the microcell help?
Are you sitting near your computers that are running wifi? If so are you pulling down a ton of data on your internet connection at the time?

I too have the issues of skipping audio and dropped calls on micro cell. Even with 5 bars on 4.0.1. I called AT&T cust care it took them a week to get back to me. They called my cell while I was home it never rang no missed call just left a voicemail that didn't show up on my phone until the next day when I left the house. But AT&T says there is nothing wrong with the micro cell.

Have had mine for several weeks now with no problems. Very happy with it. Prior to this I had one or no bars in my house. Now have three to five depending upon the room. I'm using a iPhone4 and my wife has a 3GS.

I don't have this particular problem, but I do have two others with the microcell and my iP4:
1) Latency. There seems to be a 2-3 second delay during calls. I know there is always a bit of a delay when using a cell phone, but it is noticeably longer when connected to the microcell.
2) MMS. My picture messages stall right as the progress bar is almost complete. They usually fail at that point, but sometimes they go through. Again, this is only happening when I'm connected to the microcell.

Yup. Switching to Big Red. It will work without a Microcell in my office and house. Sad to leave the iPhone but alas, back to the Berrypatch.

I do a lot of mobile testing for work, and I've had a microcell since they were available. Initially I had it downstream of the router and gave it priority with QOS. Later I moved it to the "priority" config, so it is upstream of the router.
I've had all the mentioned issues (dropped calls, stuttering, call failed) in both configurations but it does seem better in the priority configuration.
I could make the stuttering happen when the microcell was downstream simply by having a few machines on my home network start doing something bandwidth intensive. I would also notice the M-Cell designation could drop off the phone when bandwidth was low.
You are definitely better off having the microcell upstream of the router (priority).
This is not specific to iPhone 4. I have two 4's, two 3GS's and one 3G in the house and they all had it happen
Same story was reported on TUAW yesterday:http://www.tuaw.com/2010/08/08/does-the-iphone-4-hate-the-atandt-microcell/

Yep, I also have the issue. I found that resetting my modem and router helped resolve the issue, if only temporarily.

I started experiencing this issue a few weeks ago. Could it be related to the recent IOS4 update for 3G display?
I also experience trouble sending MMS messages through the microcell - same as what others report. It almost finishes and then fails.
I also experience the reported latency issues with voice calls through the MC. I'm constantly stepping on my clients in conversations - frustrating.

Have a MicroCell with a 3GS and have been experiencing the same problems. The MicroCell itself seems to fluctuate as far as signal output goes, since there are times when I'm 10-15 feet away from it and in the same room, but my iPhone only shows 3 bars. Not happy since it's supposed to cover 5,000 square feet with a decent signal.

Yes, I am experiencing this too. And the MMS problem too! The data upload speed is CRIPPLED TO 56k!! and 90% of my outgoing picture & video messages fail & even fail on retry. It makes this buggy thing next to useless. I mean, come on, you can't send MMS & calls go straight to voicemail & ones that don't are garbled? Unbelievable!!

I almost hate to post anything on this subject for fear of jinxing myself. I currently do not have the problem on my MCell (iphone 4) nor does my wife (iPhone 3Gs). I noticed the problem a few times right after getting the unit set up (~1mo ago), but it mysteriously went away. I know this problem is real as so many people are having it, but as of right now, I'm 100% satisfied with my purchase, which cost me $50 at the local AT&T store. They gave me a $100 in-store discount due to super poor coverage in my house. Also, I'm using the AT&T 6Mbps DSL plan. I only get 650Kbps up on average, so it doesn't take a lot of bandwidth to make it work properly. I really hope Apple/AT&T fixes this soon!

I am experiencing many of the issues other have noted. 2 or so second lag on phone calls makes for awkward conversations. Dropped calls, stuttering, inability to send MMS. I run an office out of my home and this is presenting a lot of problems. I'm calling AT&T today to see if anything can be done. If not, looks like Android OS/Verizon for me.

With an iPhone 4, I had the stuttering audio problem on incoming calls while using the Microcell on a Comcast 16/2 mbit connection. I switched to a 3 megabit Verizon DSL connection that I have as a backup and the problem went away. Now the problem is that if the phone senses a signal from the cell tower it switches to that and won't switch back unless I get close to the Microcell and turn airplane mode on then off. A few hours later, I'll look and the phone has locked on to AT&T again even when I'm in the same room as the Microcell. There seem to be multiple issues ...

Move your Microcell farther away from the WiFi router.
I did this and the problem dissappeared
I moved mine abut 15 feet, big difference

Add me to the list. Got my MicroCell a couple weeks ago and this has been a consistent problem with my iPhone 4. Finally called ATT today and opened a ticket. The CSR I spoke with was not aware of any issues or fixes.
If I'm sitting a few feet from the MC I have no problems but if I move 10-20ft away I get the skipping. So it's either drop 70% of the calls in my house, or not understand what the person calling me is saying. Out and about in Columbus, Ohio, I'm getting 6-10 dropped calls a day. No way I would recommend the iPhone or ATT to anyone at this point.
Just not sure what I'm going to do at this point. Just switched over 5 lines to ATT, 4 of them iPhones. I think they are all going to have to go back.
ATT and Apple have a huge opportunity here to fix these issues, make tons of happy customers and live happily ever after. I hope they look at it that way.

att is such a poor customer service company it is depressing. once ANYONE else has the ability to support the iphone there will be a mass departure from att. my micro tower was not free ant all calls after 3 in the afternoon sound like i am underwater.

I am having the same problems as the original post. Last evening I had a conversation that lasted 30 minutes from my basement (~25 ft from the cell) and it was crystal clear. This afternoon I was repeatedly unable to make a call due to the gargle. Same symptoms also, if I get right next to the cell tower the problem goes away. My wife's 3G Razr has problems with the dropped calls, but she doesn't have the gargle.
So what's up with this? I've read some other posts here and, as much as I know electronics, I don't understand how the proximity to the tower can be effected by the QoS setting on the router or being upstream from it. I also have a VoIP smart phone and get great calls over the same lines.
I'm thinking it must be an RF problem. How many people here who have the problem have wireless routers in their homes? Who has tried to move the wireless router away from the tower?

I have iPhone 4 and ATT Microcell. All of my incoming calls are garbled until I moved within a couple feet of the Microcell. Then I moved the Microcell away from my cable modem/router about 40 feet away using Home Plug. Am still having the garbled incoming calls. Hoping there's a solution somewhere.

I had the 3GS before buying the iphone 4. I bought the Mcell while I was still using the 3GS and it worked fine. I have the same problems reported above with the intermittent drop in incoming sound quality coupled with the occasional MMS message not going through. I've recently developed a new theory. I've noticed that my internet connection slows during the day by testing it with speedtest.net app on iphone and also on the PC. I tend to have more trouble during the day. I live in Louisiana and it gets extremely hot and humid during the day. I called Cox Cable company who I have my cable internet through and they said the heat can cause the internet to slow along with high internet traffic by where I live. They are going to come out and see if they can increase my bandwidth. Hopefully that will resolve my issue. Anyone else have any other solutions for these problems?

I have iPhone 4 and the audio stutters for me as well. Is somebody forwarding these comlaints to Apple?
Apple or AT&T (pretty sure this is an iphone4 problem) PLEASE fix.

I have the exact same issues, filed a ticket with AT&T, waited 2 weeks and they never called back. So I called to check on it and was told the ticket was closed due to me living in an area with "significant interference" and that there was nothing that could be done about it. If I'm the only one with this issue, why is the entire Internet lighting up with it. What BS, opening a ticket every single day until AT&T gets it fixed.

Same. iPhone 4. 3g Microcell. Person on other end says something and all i hear is bubbling talk. WTF??? FIX THIS!

My micro cell actually worsens my phones functions. I live in a rural area and have 1 bar so sometimes I talk sometimes not. Hooked up the cell and wow 5 bars. No one understands a word Im saying. They say it pulses in and out scrambling my voice. also my micro cell does ot stay on always loosing solid bars to a flash from time to time. I have an iphone 4 and shut off the suggested features resulting in a mild improvement. Conversation is still out of the question.

Having the same problem. Called AT&T over the weekend, and their suggested fixes were:

  1. Turning off my iPhone 4 and powering it back on.
  2. Disconnecting power from my cable modem and microcell, then powering both back on.

This, after an hour on the phone with them. Thank God they gave me a rebate on my microcell, because it's a piece.

iPhone 3GS. Same garbled issue in small house maybe 20 feet from Microcell.
Paid $150 to AT&T so that they could use MY internet connection to fix THEIR lack of cell towers.
Garbled calls add insult to injury.
As soon as the contract is up and there's a Verizon iPhone - bye bye AT&T!

Same problem here, upgraded from my 3GS to an iPhone 4. 90% failed call rate. Swapped out SIM card, exchanged my micro cell, swapped iPhone 4 and still get failed calls even in same room as micro cell. Rebooted, reset micro cell and still failed calls. I get much fewer failed calls with micro cell off. Complained many times and almost 1 month credit to my bill, still not worth the frustrations. Took 3 days just to get AT&T to manually remove my old micro cell and the new one to the system, would not work via att.com.

I have mixed feelings with my Micro Cell. I have been using it for about 1 and a half months. It works well and I get 5 bars in my entire house. However, there is a slight problem. It seems that if I am in a call past 20 minutes the call drops suddenly. It has happened to me numerous times. The magic point is between 20-30 minutes then you literally see the signal degrade in seconds then it drops. If you wait a minute or so you then get to speak for another 20-30 minutes. If you hag up and take another call an the first call is less the 20 minutes you could do it all day long without a dropped call. Strange but I am in the same boat as some of you without it I get zero coverage.

My problems are a tad different, and I have a few.

  1. The person on the other end that I'm talking to often can't hear me well (I can hear them perfectly) with full bars on the Microcell network. The problem is I leave messages for work often, and now I don't even know if they are hearing what I'm saying. About 50% of the time I speak with my coworker, he says he can't hear me - it's either jumbled sounding, or just cuts out, sometimes there is a couple of second lag even - meanwhile I can hear him perfectly.
  2. When I drive off, and I'm on a call, the iPhone won't switch to the public AT&T network, then I actually do lose the calls. Consistently.

I called customer service once already, and they supposedly did some magic in the background, and it did alleviate the problem for a couple of days, but bang! the problem has returned. They had promised a follow up call, but no such luck. I am steeling my resolve to call customer service back, so hopefully something will happen tomorrow.

I have a question. I have Microcell and it has helped a lot with my home being all plaster wall " Not Sheetrock"
My question is this, does the Microcell use up my wireless bandwidth. If so how do I measure the use.

I've had similar problems that go away when I turn off wifi on the phone. cellular data is off as well... though not as bad as yours.