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Why do my phone calls sound so bad?

Can you hear me now? No? It’s because you’re still using the same phone technology from 1876 when the telephone was first invented.

Remember your television from 15 or 20 years ago? Having to stand on one foot while adjusting the antenna (and aluminum foil) until the picture stopped scrolling? Now imagine having to do that now with your 96 inch digital OLED HDTV.

That’s essentially what you’re putting up with every day on your smartphone. There’s a hidden feature in your smartphone to enable crystal clear audio for your phone calls. And you probably aren’t using it.

This feature is called HD Voice, Wideband Audio, or more commonly VoLTE (Voice Over LTE). For this guide, we’re going to just call it VoLTE since that is becoming the standard terminology.

What is VoLTE?

VoLTE is simply a way to route your phone’s voice traffic over the new 4G LTE networks that your wireless carrier uses to transmit data. Because it uses the data network for voice calls, they can be delivered at a much higher quality than the old telephone network is capable of.

I’ve been using this hidden feature now for a few years. Trust me, once you get used to it, your phone calls will never be the same. It’s like that scene from the Wizard of Oz where everything shifts from black and white to technicolor.

How do I pronounce it?

Pronunciation varies. I’ve heard it pronounced both “Volt” and “Volty”. We still can’t decide on how to pronounce GIF after 30 years (even though the correct answer is obviously “jif”).

Does it matter? Probably not.

Does my phone support it?

If you have an Apple or Android phone that you’ve bought in the last year or two, it probably supports VoLTE.

Here are some common phones that support VoLTE:

  • iPhone 6, 6s, 7, or newer (including iPhone SE)
  • Galaxy S5, S6, S7 or newer
  • Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, or newer
  • Google Nexus and Pixel

If your phone isn’t listed above, you can check a full list of smartphones with VoLTE support on the following link.

Smartphones with VoLTE (HD Voice) support

Does my wireless carrier support it?

Here are some common US wireless carriers that support VoLTE:

  • AT&T
  • Cricket
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

If your carrier isn’t in the above list, don’t worry. Most wireless carriers support it. You can check the full list of carriers with support on the following link.

Wireless carrier support for VoLTE

I have a brand new smartphone, is VoLTE enabled by default?

Probably not. Wireless carriers love to advertise their support of VoLTE. But turning it on costs them more money in increased bandwidth on their networks. So even though you may have a compatible phone, and it is likely a free feature from your wireless carrier, chances are it isn’t enabled by default.

Does it cost extra?

No. VoLTE calls, even though they use your phone’s data connection, are charged as voice minutes, not data transfer. This is another reason that your carrier doesn’t turn it on by default. VoLTE uses a lot more bandwidth on their network, and they don’t make any extra money from you for using it.

Most carriers provide VoLTE as a feature at no additional cost. Some carriers require you activate VoLTE on your account first.

How to enable VoLTE on Apple iPhone

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Cellular
  3. Go to Cellular Data Options
  4. Go to Enable LTE
  5. Ensure Voice & Data is selected

Enable VoLTE on iPhone

How to enable VoLTE on Android

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap Advanced Calling under Wireless Networks
  3. Tap Advanced Calling again to turn it on or off

Not every Android phone is the same. If your phone supports VoLTE (see above), try using the following guide to enabling HD Voice on your specific handset.

Enabling VoLTE on Android devices

Help! I’m not seeing an option to enable it on my phone!

Not all carriers have enabled VoLTE by default. Verizon in the US requires you to enable HD Voice on your account first before you will see the setting on your phone.

How to enable VoLTE (HD Voice) on Verizon Wireless

  1. Log into your Verizon Wireless account
  2. Open My Plan & Services
  3. Open Manage Products & Apps
  4. Open Get Products, then Free Products
  5. Enable HD Voice
  6. Repeat for each phone line on your account
  7. Wait 5 minutes
  8. Turn your phone completely off, then turn it back on again
  9. Enable VoLTE on your phone via the instructions above

I’ve enabled VoLTE. Why do my phone calls still sound terrible?

There are a few possible reasons for this.

  1. Both you, and the person you are calling must have it enabled. If either one of you doesn’t have it enabled, your phone will default back to regular phone call audio.
  2. The person you are calling is on a carrier that doesn’t support VoLTE connectivity to other carriers. Not all wireless carriers play well with others. Some block VoLTE calls from leaving their network. Boooo!
  3. You are using a wireless headset that doesn’t support HD audio. If your calls sound great on your phone’s built-in speaker, but bad when using your headset, this may be the issue.

Can I still use my smartphone for data while on a VoLTE call?

Yes! Another advantage of enabling VoLTE is that you can now talk and use data simultaneously. You may have been unable to do this previously depending on your carrier.

If you are a Verizon customer, this has been an irritation for years. Enabling VoLTE finally lets you do simultaneous voice and data on Verizon.

Conclusion

Enabling VoLTE on your phone takes all of 30 seconds. There’s no downside. The more of your contacts you can convince to enable it, the better everyone’s calls will be.

Share this guide with everyone you call frequently so they can enable VoLTE as well.