Friday, March 20, 2015

Can you hear a pin drop?

I love the mobility of mobile phones. They go everywhere, and they’re smarter than ever.  I can get email, surf the Web, make transactions, and conduct business from anywhere.

The one thing I can’t do – or rarely do – is hear calls clearly.  I guess I’m showing my age by wanting call quality so good I could actually hear a pin drop.

Sprint boasted about pin-drop quality in its late '80s TV commercials. Closer to reality were the Verizon Wireless “Can you hear me now?” campaign, where Test Man drove me crazy with repetition. It was particularly annoying because I had to ask that same question almost every time I called someone. With unreliable cell phone service and poor sound quality, I often couldn’t hear the other person. At least I had an easy out if the conversation entered awkward territory: What? What did you say? You're breaking up.

I spend a lot of my working hours interviewing people for articles, and the conversations take place wherever the client happens to be. I’ve conducted interviews with people in airports, in a cab in Sweden, on Amtrak high-speed trains, and at the hospital. For my part, I got caught short and ended up on client call while walking my dog in nearby farm fields.

For all these conversations, at least one party was on a mobile phone, and none had pin-drop quality. Mobile access is awesome; the call clarity abysmal. Don’t even get me started on speakerphones.

I have gotten used to stopping conversations when something doesn’t sound quite right. Otherwise I get results like misheard song lyrics. No, Jimi Hendrix did not sing “Excuse me while I kiss this guy,” in Purple Haze. And the executive did not just say “That’s a lot of poo”; it was “That’s a lot to do.”

There was a time when I could ask for a callback using a landline. Now landlines are the exception; mobile phones are the rule.

Even my mother has a mobile phone. She uses it to call my mobile. Then we both have trouble understanding the conversation.

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