Comparing voice quality on the iPhone 4S

Choosing the best carrier for your iPhone 4S depends partly on which network offers the best call quality.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read
Can you hear me now? Josh Miller/CNET

Even fancy smartphones like the iPhone 4S need to have satisfying call quality. A phone can have a hundred other amazing features, but its primary purpose is simple communication.

Yet, call quality depends on more factors than just the device. There's the strength of the carrier's network, your distance from a tower, and how many people are making a call at the same time. So when you throw all those variables together, the same handset on multiple carriers can deliver a different experience.

Below you'll find voice samples from the Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T versions of the iPhone 4S. Like we do with CNET's other cell phone reviews, I used the handsets to leave digital voice mails on a landline phone. I then took the audio from those messages (in MP3 format) and put it in the media players that you see below. I don't have an AT&T 4S yet so I had to enlist CNET's David Carnoy to run the same test from New York. I had to borrow a friend's Verizon 4S to run the test (hence the call from another San Francisco neighborhood) and I've since replaced David Carnoy's original AT&T sample with my own after I got my hands on an AT&T phone.

Listen closely and you'll notice a difference between the three samples.

Sprint iPhone 4S call quality sample Listen now:
Verizon Wireless iPhone 4S call quality sample Listen now:
AT&T iPhone 4S call quality sample Listen now:

Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how much a carrier's network can affect call quality. Just keep in mind that both of these samples are snapshots in time, so your experience may be completely different. For more on the iPhone 4S, check out our full review.

Updated at 5:49 p.m. PT on Sunday, October 16, 2011, to include Verizon Wireless audio sample.

Updated at 3:51 p.m. PT on Monday, October 17, 2011 with new AT&T sample.