A Short Introduction
Hi MacRumors, you guys are my last hope. I come to you from the official Apple forums (Apple Communities), where a lot of people on iOS 10 on the 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus, and the iPhone 7 are experiencing headphone audio loss, or just random bouts of complete audio loss (no audio anywhere, even during calls).
I'm using an iPhone 6 (model number MG4H2HN/A), 64 GB, on iOS 10.2. Yes, I did leave Apple feedback about my issues using the form on their website. They haven't gotten back to me, and I doubt they ever will. Probably because they deleted a pretty active thread on their forums about this subject.
There was an ongoing thread with 50+ replies titled "iOS 10 no sound from ear speaker or EarPods" that I used to participate in, but it was removed just a week ago. You can still find the thread on Google if you search for that exact title, but the thread itself is inaccessible now. Access to it is now restricted: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7673008?referer=https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7673008
Examples of the "Mutegate" Problem
However, there are still some threads on the issue that haven't been removed yet, thankfully. Here are some examples:
This thread is about alarms not sounding in iOS 10. I have this issue whenever I lose music audio (but not in-call audio). Alarm audio doesn't work. What happens is the alarm goes off, but only vibrates instead of ringing even when the phone isn't on Silent mode (i.e. the switch isn't orange). Fortunately for me, the one time this occurred I was able to recognize my alarm by its vibrations.
This is a symptom of the iOS 10 "mutegate" that I will expand on further below, when I go over my own mutegate issue in more detail. People from the original thread that is now inaccessible dubbed it mutegate, so I will too.
A short, straightforward thread about classic mutegate. As the thread's OP states, in iOS 10 audio stops working after 4 to 5 days. Only a restart fixes the problem. This is also what I experience every few days. It is driving me crazy.
This pretty much describes exactly what I'm experiencing on iOS 10 right now. The Music app simply doesn't output audio, even with the volume all the way up. Audio just doesn't play. Again, only a restart fixes this behaviour.
A post from the original "iOS 10 no sound from ear speaker or EarPods" that Apple mods decided to turn into an independent thread. OP states that the only way to fix their mutegate is to enable the speakerphone on--they lose call audio in addition to losing audio from earphones, and that they never had this issue on iOS 9. Like OP, I too never experienced audio loss in iOS 9. Only started happening to me when I updated to iOS 10.
Again, no audio with headphones/earphones connected, but different people experience different things. Someone with call audio loss may be able to bring audio back by enabling the speakerphone, but this doesn't work for me because I don't experience call audio loss. I only experience music audio loss (my local music library on my phone). The only thing that fixes this issue is... you guessed it, a reboot.
A thread specifically about the iPhone 6s suffering from mutegate on iOS 10. One user in the thread (whom I greatly sympathize with) said they went as far as to obtain a new phone from AppleCare, thinking the issue was due to a hardware defect. After doing so, they tried to set up the phone as new, without restoring their old backup, and the issue returned. This person has suffered from mutegate since iOS 10 came out.
A video playback issue that I experience whenever mutegate starts up on my phone. Apparently this issue plagues other iOS 10 devices, like the newer iPads and the iPhone SE. Basically, when you go to play a video, it doesn't play. It simply freezes on a frame, while still buffering as normal. You can even use the scrubber to go to different parts of the video, but you're stuck on frames. Only a reboot fixes this.
A thread detailing the same video issue as above, but concerning the iPhone 5s. Some users with the iPhone 7 also commented saying that they're affected by the issue on iOS 10.2.
I can try to dig up more threads, but I simply don't have the time right now. Now, onto my explanation of my own mutegate problems, which share some issues that the above threads mention, but also divulge from them somewhat.
My Mutegate IssuesI wrote a series of posts about my iOS 10 audio loss issues in the now-inaccessible thread "iOS 10 no sound from ear speaker or EarPods", but sadly those posts are gone now. So here I'll try to write about the issues I have as clearly as possible.
Let me start by saying that I do not use my iPhone much most days, at least, not for long periods of time. The only time I do use my iPhone a lot is at night, because I always listen to music while browsing the Internet before I go to sleep.
So what I'll often do is grab my earphones (they've got a mic) and plug them into my iPhone before I turn my iPhone on. Then I'll start music playback from Control Center, because it's quicker than opening the Music app. I do this almost every night, and on some nights, I get mutegate after doing so.
What is mutegate? For me, mutegate manifests itself like this:
What's happening here? I open the Music app and try to play a track. But the track doesn't play, it simply starts and immediately stops right afterwards. I can skip to other tracks, but they exhibit the same behaviour. No audio, just starting and stopping. Sometimes the tracks will play in their entirety... without audio. So the Music app is just mute and unusable whenever mutegate starts.
Closing and reopening the app doesn't solve the issue. Neither does clearing all apps from memory and opening the Music app right after. It's not a RAM issue. The only fix for this that I've found is rebooting the phone.
Now, there is another partial fix for this. I can go into another app with audio and try to get the Music app to play via Control Center in that other app. Despite the Music app not functioning correctly, all other non-Apple apps work properly, and I get audio in them. Game apps like Angry Bird and Crossy Road always play their own audio.
I mentioned that non-Apple apps work, whereas Apple apps like the native Music app don't. So another Apple app affected by mutegate is the iTunes Store app. When I go to play a song sample, it simply starts and stops on me whenever I'm experiencing mutegate issues with the Music app.
Strangely, phone call audio still works inside the native Phone app--no issues with call audio here. Only music library playback is affected.
Sometimes mutegate disappears after I play a game (with audio) for a while, maybe 15-20 minutes. Sometimes only one song will play with audio during a mutegate event, but skipping to another song causes mutegate to return (starting and stopping rapidly, no audio).
What else, other than audio, is affected? Video playback. Namely, Youtube video playback in the Safari and the Google app. I get the issue where the video loads, but the video doesn't actually play. I can only skip to different frames in the video. I tried playing video without content blockers when this issue first popped up, but that didn't change playback behaviour.
Solutions I've Tried
Alright, so I know what you're thinking. Why don't you just factory reset your iPhone and set it up without a new phone, without restoring your backup? What if your backup is causing you problems? I've done exactly that three times now. Each time, mutegate came back within a week. I don't use iCloud backups, so it can't be iCloud. I painstakingly set up each and every thing manually--my email accounts, my iPhone settings, my apps (didn't restore my old backups after all), my music, and so on.
So it can't be an issue with my backups. It also can't be an issue with my music library (or an iTunes Sync issue) to my knowledge, since a reboot fixes the issue. An iTunes Sync or music library problem would persist regardless of reboots. I also never use Apple Music, Spotify, or any other music streaming app, so it can't be that. I also don't use any music app apart from the native iOS Music app, and don't have any other music apps installed.
Now, could it be my mic earphones? Smartphones don't like to play with dysfunctional mics. I know because back in early 2015, during the iOS 8.4 days, I used to use a pair of mic earphones with this iPhone that constantly caused Voice Control and Siri to pop up. I eventually discovered that the problem was with the mic (it was broken and didn't work on other smartphones)--it kept creating static and the slightest nudge would cause music to stop (the middle button stops playback). Whenever I twisted the jack, I would hear loud static.
However, my new mic earphones don't create static at all, no matter how much I twist the jack. Nudging them slightly doesn't cause my music to stop. They work great with other smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Moto X Play. They also work great with my iPhone. But only my iPhone suffers from mutegate.
For all I know, it could very well be a problem with the earphones, but I doubt that. I'm gonna try to get my hands on a mic-less set of earphones (standard dumb earphones) to see if mutegate occurs. Mutegate has already occurred for me with Bluetooth v4.1 earphones connected and with Bluetooth playback, so I don't think it has to do with the headphone port or audio hardware at all.
Instead, I think iOS 10 audio loss (and to an extent, video playback issues) is due to a serious software flaw. I think it's because you can "uninstall" core apps now. So maybe core Apple apps don't get to hold onto or monopolize processes as well as they used to? Again, I mentioned that, for me, the only apps affected by audio loss are two Apple apps: the native Music app and the iTunes Store app. Or perhaps it's an issue with how music libraries work in iOS 10. But then how does that explain the iTunes Store issues?
Maybe it's a signal problem. My reception is very bad inside my room, sometimes dropping down to 1-2 dots. Maybe the fight for decent signal is causing apps to malfunction, since more processing power is going towards trying to get a good signal. But take all of this with a grain of salt, since I'm no software engineer and I don't know how iOS works behind the scenes.
ConclusionsPlease feel free to speculate over what might be causing iOS 10 mutegate, and feel free to school me on how iOS 10 works if you see fit. I'm no engineer, I'm just a poor sap stuck with a persistent issue that I want to solve once and for all. This iPhone 6 is my first iPhone and I love it! Everything about it is amazing, except for this stupid problem. An audio problem that I've never experienced on any smartphone other than this iPhone, and I've used some seriously crummy 512MB RAM Android cheapo phones in the past.
I got my phone in August 2015. It's not an initial release (from 2014) iPhone 6, to my knowledge, if anyone is wondering that the problem has to do with older, first-run iPhone models.
I know this post is long; sorry for the essay. But I think the issue deserves a long post because of how active and huge the original iOS 10 thread was, and since it was removed so suddenly and unfairly.