Some owners of the latest Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones are posting complaints online about strange “hissing” noises that emanate from their new handsets under high load, which is a concern to the owners of the devices that just went on sale Sept. 16.
The hissing noises are even being given a “Hissgate” tagline by some annoyed owners who feel the devices may have some kind of build problems, according to online posts.
One iPhone 7 Plus owner, Stephen Hackett, posted Sept. 17 on Twitter that his phone “makes terrible noises when under load” as he was restoring the device from the cloud. “After picking the device up from my desk, it was clear the sounds are coming from back of the phone, possibly from the CPU. It seems to get worse if the iPhone is under load, and can be heard while the phone is sitting on a table.”
Hackett, who did not respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK, wrote in a follow-up post that Apple had agreed to replace his handset due to his concerns.
Apple declined to comment to eWEEK about the hissing iPhone reports, but several IT analysts said they have seen some of the worried posts from iPhone 7 owners and don’t necessarily share their concerns.
Jack Narcotta, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK that he has been hearing about the reported hissing noises, including Hackett’s tweet, but feels that the perceived noises are easily explainable. In fact, he said, he can generate similar noises in his personal HTC One M9 smartphone when he is using it for gaming or other processor-intensive operations. “If I hold it up directly up to my ear, I can hear something similar to what appears to be afflicting the iPhone 7,” he said.
“You see this [kind of noise] in electronics,” said Narcotta. “They call it ‘coil whine’ and it’s sort of the nature of the beast,” a phenomenon that produces an audible noise due to the electrical excitement of tiny circuits “that, in general, isn’t very pleasant.”
Such noises are often heard in live music venues when speaker systems aren’t up to snuff and allow the production of annoying and audible electrical hums, said Narcotta, who told eWEEK that he formerly repaired audio equipment in a past job. “One of the electromagnetic coils is being maxed out and pushed to its limits. There’s a shade of subtlety there, but it’s a natural phenomenon.”
Such noises can be reduced through shielding, but Apple may have chosen less shielding for the devices as it continues to pursue its goals of making its handsets thinner and thinner, said Narcotta. “That could have not necessarily escaped Apple during their Q&A testing,” he added, but may have been an acceptable level of noise. “Maybe it didn’t escape Apple, but for these power users who use it hard, it’s maybe more noticeable to them.”
In audio repair work, such noises could be dampened by spreading glue on the circuits to insulate them, he said. “For some iPhone 7 owners, it’s a really annoying feature because they are using this thing to its limit almost as soon as they take it out of their pocket each time.”
‘Hissing’ iPhone 7s Reported, but That May Be a Normal Noise
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, said he sees the hissing iPhone reports as a minor issue, especially compared with Samsung’s recent global Note7 smartphone recall because of battery fire and explosion problems.
“As issues go, this one, particularly when compared to the Samsung train wreck, it is pretty minor,” said Enderle. “Still [when it comes to] premium phone[s], little things like this do detract from the experience, but I doubt the impact will either be material or lasting.”
Tuong H. Nguyen, an analyst with Gartner, agreed, calling it “more of an aesthetic issue,” rather than a technical issue. “That having been said, I noticed that this issue has already been given a [Hissgate] name. Like previous ‘Gates,’ Apple will likely be able to handle this without any issue—especially since, at least for the moment, it seems like a superficial problem.”
Another analyst, Avi Greengart of Current Analysis, said: “Based on what I’m seeing online, this seems like people trying to find something to be concerned about, [and] not a genuine product or safety issue.”
Apple’s new iPhone 7 models have been in such demand during preorders that the company quickly sold out of its initial opening-day supplies of the jet black iPhone 7 and all colors of its larger iPhone 7 Plus handsets.
Apple is still taking orders for the new phones in all colors, but not all models and colors are immediately available in stores.
The latest iPhone 7 models, which start at $649, are splash-, water- and dust-resistant and include new 12-megapixel cameras (dual lens cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus model) and the new A10 Fusion processor. The handsets come in 32GB, 128GB or 256GB versions.
The new iPhones no longer include a headphone jack, however, and come with a set of ear buds that connect to the phones using the existing Lightning port. Apple’s new optional wireless AirPods sell for an additional $159 to allow users to go wireless, though other options also exist.
The iPhone 7 has a 4.7-inch Retina touch-screen display, while the iPhone 7 Plus uses a 5.5-inch Retina touch-screen display. Both handsets offer 4K video recording capabilities as well as autofocus and optical image stabilization features.