Background Noise Reduction for Smartphones

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Public areas such as train stations, airports, clubs, restaurants, and busy roads have one thing in common: they are noisy. It’s a common sight to see people seeking some corner outdoors where they can talk on their phone without being blocked out by surrounding background noise.

Those who own a mid-range or high-end smartphone may have already found relief from such distractions as the technology enabling what is called background noise reduction is gradually finding its way into more high-end mobile phone brands.

In essence, the technology relies on two major components: two or more microphones, and smart microchips with their associated algorithmic software. Both are finding their way into the super-slim smartphones now coming onto the market. The primary microphone is placed so it is near your mouth when speaking; the secondary microphone is placed at the top or back of the phone.

Before the advent of this new technology, a single microphone picked up both your voice and any surrounding background noise. This entire sound pattern was compressed and sent to the receiving end.

With background noise suppression, the sound of your voice hits the primary microphone much louder than the secondary mike mounted at the top or back of your handset. A phone microprocessor analyses the sound coming from each microphone, and determines from which microphone your voice is coming. It counteracts the sound from the secondary microphone. The secondary sound source is reversed and made inaudible, and only the voice sound from the primary microphone is sent to the receiving party. Beyond these basics, different companies are experimenting with more sophisticated techniques and different solutions are already available in the marketplace.

  • Qualcomm, who uses the Snapdragon mobile processors and chipsets, is making progress using their inbuilt Influence technology to improve noise reduction. These processors and microchips are sold to other mobile manufacturers as well, and the technology is available on phone mobiles like the HTC One, LG G2, Galaxy S4 and S5
  • Li Creative Technologies is another tech company working on noise reduction technologies. They have recorded conversations with and without noise suppression, using different phone models and different noise surroundings. The results are published on a webpage titled LcT’sNoise .Reduction Software for Mobile Phones, which you can visit to compare results
  • Sony Xperia smartphone Z2 uses a different technology, originally incorporated on headsets to eliminate disturbing background noise. To enable the background noise reduction feature on this phone, the user needs to wear a set of headphones fitted with a second microphone on each earpiece. The secondary microphone tracks the source of sound coming from “external sources”. These sound waves are analysed by circuitry in the phone, where they are inverted and eliminated. Only the primary sound is delivered to your headset
  • Bluetooth headsets use the same technology which means that users do not need to carry their smartphone close their mouth to converse.

Appleintroduced a feature called Phone Noise Cancellation with the release of its iOS7 operating system. Users, however, report that the feature produces a weird sound when the phone is held close to the ear. Apple has stated that this effect is not noticeable if users make calls using Bluetooth, a headset, speakerphone, or earbuds.

It is no doubt getting more difficult for users to keep track of technological innovations incorporated with new smartphone models. The Samsung Galaxy S5/S6, HTC One M8, LG G3, Sony Xperia Z2/Z3, and Nokia Lumia 930 and their siblings may be the smartphones to watch this coming year.

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