So why is having a decent speaker important - I hear you ask? After all, HTC have sold tens of millions of Android smartphones with only one acceptable speaker among the whole range. I suspect that people who bought those devices have just had to live with ear piercing tinniness since day one - they really would have been better off with a different manufacturer in this regard!
Here then are the use cases, direct from my own daily experience:
- Listening to podcasts while doing chores around the house - washing up, cooking, and so on, even gardening. All are somewhat tedious and podcasts make the time go much more quickly. Listening on headphones is an option, but then you're locked away from sounds you need to hear in the world around you - doorbells, landline ringing, children calling out, over timers pinging, and so on. I just put my phone down on a safe surface, playing away, and enjoy...
- Listening to internet radio, under similar circumstances. When I've run out of new podcasts to listen to, essentially...!
- Making phone calls in 'speakerphone' mode. I don't make all calls this way, but it's very handy a) because I irradiate my brain a lot less, b) because I can get on with something else while chatting, with both hands free, and c) I'll often have other family members who want to chip in on the call!
- Making video calls, where a really clear speaker is nigh-on essential, if only to avoid distortion effects and leak back into the microphone, confusing the audio for the other party.
- Driving with sat-nav instructions guiding me to a destination. For most cars, especially at speed (e.g. on a motorway), it's very hard to hear audio instructions from most smartphone navigation packages.
- Hearing an incoming/ringing call. I've lost count of the number of calls I've missed because I've not heard the phone ringing because I'm in a busy shop or pub or club.
There are two distinct attributes for a speaker (well, three if you count whether there are one or two speakers!): volume and quality. It's no good having a really great sounding speaker, tonally, if it's so quiet that you can hardly hear it. And it's no good having a really loud speaker if it's so tinny that it hurts the ears.