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Many iPhone SE Users Experiencing Bluetooth Phone Call Audio Issues [Fixed]

Over the past two weeks, an increasing number of iPhone SE early adopters have reported audio issues with Bluetooth phone calls when the smartphone is paired with a vehicle or wireless headset. The issue extends to GPS voice navigation for some, but streaming music over Bluetooth appears to be unaffected.

Specifically, dozens of users in the Apple Support Communities and MacRumors discussion forums claim to be experiencing distorted, staticky, or inaudible phone calls when using an iPhone SE over Bluetooth. Many of those affected noted that their previous iPhone model had "crystal clear" audio quality.

MacRumors reader HickDead recently posted a forum topic to share his experience:
I actually had to return my SE back to Verizon because my Bluetooth calls reception quality was terrible. Playing music or YouTube videos through the Bluetooth was excellent but when it came to phone calls, the sound was constantly cutting in and out and sounded "scratchy" and distorted.

Never had this issue with my previous 6S or my work-issued Android phone. Tried my SE in a different vehicle and got the same results. I've unpaired and repaired and I even restored my SE and set up up as a new device but nothing has worked.
Based on crowdsourced information, the issue appears to affect all iPhone SE models running iOS 9.3 or 9.3.1, regardless of carrier or model, in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, U.K., and possibly elsewhere. The first iOS 9.3.2 beta does not appear to resolve the problem.

The issue does not appear to be isolated to any particular carmaker, as customers have reported identical issues with vehicles sold by Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and many other makes and models.

It remains unknown if the problem is rooted in software or hardware, but a number of affected customers have attempted basic troubleshooting without success, including restoring the iPhone SE, resetting network settings, un-pairing and re-pairing Bluetooth, toggling cellular data, and changing SIM cards.

Some users that contacted Apple support by phone claim to have been escalated to higher-level iOS advisors that asked for log files. At least a few customers received confirmation that Apple engineers are aware of the Bluetooth issues internally and are working on a fix, but the timeline remains unclear.

Apple Support Communities user Ross_H_D posted this message on April 9:
I have been working with a high level support person who has assured me he is working directly with engineering. Apple has very much become engaged in this issue. They have had me do extensive testing of various conditions in order to document and troubleshoot. Further, there is an internal "Issue" board and tracking system for Apple support and this BT issue is on the top of the list. It was conveyed to me that this has become a very real issue internally and resources are now committed to its resolution.
This type of problem is not unprecedented. In early October 2014, some users experienced trouble pairing their devices to their car audio systems over Bluetooth after upgrading to iOS 8 or purchasing a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The problems appeared to be fixed when Apple released iOS 8.1 later that month.

Update: Apple has released iOS 9.3.2 with a fix for iPhone SE Bluetooth issues.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

45 months ago
They are holding it wrong
Rating: 25 Votes
45 months ago
Ahhh, the future!!! Now get rid of that "antiquated" headphone jack in all devices because we all desperately need "thinner" so badly we'll happily kick out ubiquitous "just works" for proprietary and/or accessory dongles... and then pay more for the latter in both cost and carry. We'll even spin it as better to each other (making up weak rationale and trying to sling it again and again until some believe it to be true), and/or beat down those who question (anything) along these lines.

The FUTURE!!! Bring it on. ;)
Rating: 13 Votes
45 months ago
SE = sucky experience
Rating: 13 Votes
45 months ago

MacRumors reader HickDead ('') recently posted a forum topic ('') to share his experience:

Excellent user name ;)
Rating: 12 Votes
45 months ago
iOS 9.3 is crap. The same for OS X 10.11.4.
Rating: 11 Votes
45 months ago
Rating: 6 Votes
45 months ago
Increasingly lousy BT performance has seemed to become somewhat of an iOS Achilles heel these past few years.

My mother sister and I each have 128 GB iPhone 6 paired with an Apple Watch. In addition, my mom has had a ReSound MFi hearing aid for about 1/2 a year. I have a Logitech H800 BT headset. Sister pairs her iPhone with BT in her new Honda (crap Honda didn't release CarPlay in the 2016 Fit.)

So essentially each of us have iphone6 + Watch + a 3rd party peripheral.

Regarding BT audio performance:
- My headset worked better with my iPhone4s. I have drops and reconnects, distortions, digitized audio and even, since the last iOS update, occasionally audio coming out of my headphones at like 50% speed;
- my mom has had to deactivate her $3200 hearing aid due to drop ins and drop outs, as well as the device refusing to stay disconnected when she switches output from hearing aid to speaker phone (toggling BT is not practical because it isolates her watch);
- my sister (besides being sour about the lack of the indicated CarPlay) seems to have no issues.
- (I also have stupid things happen which are bush league. Like I can start a call with my BT headset paired to my phone, and hear it ringing, but when the recipient answers, the phone switches off BT and I'm briefly interrupted as I have to open a menu to reconnect ((previously I "only" had to click the play button the headset to reconnect)) but why should I suffer this at all, or for the last 2 years???)

I was thing the root cause of our problems might be a slow BT chip, or the 0.5 GB RAM in the iphone6, and was hoping to hear that the 5se with better,faster,more would offer us an alternative to lousy BT performance, but it doesn't sound like it would.

I also thought that perhaps Apple took a board seat on the BT steering committee was an indication that the BT standard has performance limitations, limitations that Apple felt it needed to help correct. I hope this is the case.

Otherwise, all that's left is a problem in the way iOS deals with BT, and given that Apple have had almost 2 years to fix these issues, if they haven't fixed it til now, I wonder if they will ever timely fix it.
Rating: 5 Votes
45 months ago
Not surprised. Bluetooth can be flaky from my experience.
Rating: 5 Votes
45 months ago
Not a bug, a feature. It's designed to sound best in AppleCar. Sound is intentionally degraded for use in other makes. :D

Seriously, not sure how something this important wasn't caught in beta testing. No problems myself w/ iPhone 6 and 9.3 w/ BMW 435i.
Rating: 4 Votes
45 months ago
This cannot be. Gruber does not approve. It just works. Apple is love and perfection. Users are holding their iPhone SE wrong.
Rating: 4 Votes

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