Over the past couple of days, multiple reports of the iPhone 7 making “hissing” noises have cropped up. Gizmodo has a nice roundup here, but the gist is that 512 Pixels’ Stephen Hackett noticed it and several others have followed up to say they’re hearing the same thing. It’s one of those issues that could rise to the level of a [insert word here]-gate. It also could not be a big deal at all, which is iMore’s analysis. But in a quiet room, with the phone under heavy load, this is what Hackett recorded, and it doesn’t sound normal at all.
What’s going on here? Potentially nothing major, and Apple declined to comment on this story. So we can’t say for sure what the cause is yet, nor how widespread it is — though to the latter point, it doesn’t seem to be affecting a large number of users.
The consensus around the web right now is that this is some form of “coil noise” or “coil whine” — the sort of sound a high-powered processor or virtually any electronic part can make, especially when it’s not properly dampened. It can crop up when the chip is under heavy load, and you might be able to hear it on any recent phone if you put it under load and listen very closely. I can, for example, hear some high-pitched noises on my Galaxy S7 Edge if I hold it up to my ear in a quiet room.
Until recently, it was the sort of problem that was limited to computers. If the noise is worse on some iPhone 7s than on previous phones, it might just be because the A10 processor is itself more powerful.
We haven’t heard the noises on our own devices, and both iMore and Engadget tested their own iPhones under heavy load and couldn’t reproduce noises that gave them any worry. So we’re left to guess that the people hearing the hissing noises are just unlucky and drew the short straw in the lottery of tiny, inevitable manufacturing variances.
As Lifehacker points out, there’s really no fix for most of these noises when they happen on computers. On the sealed iPhone 7, there’s absolutely no fix beyond replacing it. If you hear it, it might not even be worth fixing in the first place: it may just happen on your first use as the iPhone 7 restores, or it could come back the next time you’re pegging the processor.
Until we know if this is more widespread, we’ll just have to keep an ear out for more reports. But if you hear it on your phone, it sounds like Apple may replace it for you. Hackett got AppleCare to offer a replacement for his device. Though if you are experiencing the same thing and want a new phone you will probably have to wait awhile, because supplies are very limited right now.