When was the last time you left your home without a phone? Don’t worry if you can’t think of the answer – you are most definitely in the majority. In a world where smartphones account for your news, entertainment, and even wallet, it is a given that this trusty device stays by your side no matter what.
But an often-overlooked feature of your phone is the audio recorder. When podcasting out and about, or at home, unforeseen problems inevitably arise; gear breaks, things are forgotten, and often you are left scrabbling to make sure your meetings and interviews for your latest show go ahead. Enter the iPhone.
This device can save your precious recording sessions in a pinch, and a phone might be just the thing you need to ensure your viewers aren’t left waiting weeks for your next release – but what can you get out of your phone? How good is the quality, and more importantly, how long can an iPhone record audio for? Stick around as we break it down.
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Can iPhone record high-quality audio?
When recording with your phone, what sort of audio quality can you expect? iPhones make use of an electret condenser (MEMS microphone), which, as a condenser, requires power to function. This power is taken directly from the phone’s battery.
This extremely small microphone sits at the base of the phone and has a frequency range of 1000Hz – 12000Hz. While not the caliber you’d expect from even baseline dynamic microphones (for example the Shure SM58 captures from 50Hz – 15kHz), this microphone is more than adequate for capturing voice – which is its primary purpose, being made for phone calls.
In terms of internal audio quality, the iPhone microphone records at an 8kHz sample rate, 16-bit. This is all recorded in mono. While other attachments allow for a maximum of 44.1kHz sample rate, any app that boasts a 48kHz, 24-bit recording option is actually artificially upscaling audio, which is functionally useless provided the quality isn’t there to begin with.
Every iPhone comes with Voice Memo pre-installed. This application is Apple’s recording device and offers a simple interface for recording and storing audio, and a player to listen to your files.
By default, this app records with an .M4A format, however, if you are looking to maximize your audio quality, you can change this to Apple’s lossless format, .wav in the settings.
How much space does a 1-hour voice memo take up?
The decision of whether to choose a lossy vs lossless format is one every podcaster must face at one point or another, and this is a decision of quality vs space. 1-hour of .M4A files, vs 1-hour of. Wav files occupy a great difference in terms of space, with the former taking up around about 30MB, and the latter sitting at 500MB.
To put this into perspective, the baseline iPhone storage is 64GB, which can hold around 120 .wav files (with ios and preinstalled apps accounting for 4GB), while at 30MB per file, you can fit a whopping 2,000 hours of audio on your device.
So, what are the advantages of using lossless instead of lossy? Well, as the name suggests, with a lossy format you lose quality. The difference lies in encoding, or how the audio file is written to your phone to listen back to at a later point.
With a lossless format, your audio will remain at its original sample and bit rate. However, a lossy format employs a compressing encoder, which squeezes your audio down to a smaller sample and bit rate as it is being written to your phone. This reduces quality while saving on over 10x the megabytes.
How long can iPhone record audio continuously?
Some situations call for non-stop recording. And in a pinch. the iPhone is a great go-to portable recording solution. But with interviews and conversations spanning multiple hours, how much can you realistically expect out of the phone?
While the official documentation of Apple’s Voice Memo app gives no clues as to maximum duration, and with a heated and ongoing debate on the internet (with sources claiming their recordings cut off after half an hour, and other people boasting recording times in excess of 18 hours) we must look elsewhere to determine recording time.
There are two main factors that will limit your maximum recording time. The first of which is storage. Depending on the app you use, the amount of space taken up will differ. The voice memo app records in a .M4A format by default, but others are limited to .wav.
Another limiting factor in a continuous recording session is battery life. This, of course, will be largely dependent on your iPhone model – as each has a different battery capacity. On top of this, another factor is the battery lifespan, as rechargeable batteries have a limited lifespan which reduces with each charge.
So, there is no easy answer to how long your battery will hold out – and the best way to find out how long your iPhone can record audio continuously is to test recording times for yourself. Set your phone down, hit record, and leave it. Once finished, you should have a solid estimate of the duration you can expect from your device.
How do I record for a long time on my iPhone?
Now you know a bit more about the things that affect the amount of time you can expect to be continuously recording, what can you be doing to extend this duration? Some situations call for large amounts of recording, and the last thing any podcaster wants is to be left in the dust without a way to capture their conversations. So, how do you get the most out of your phone despite its limits?
As previously mentioned, battery life and storage are the two main limiting factors when recording via mobile. However, there are a few tricks you can use to make sure these don’t ruin your sessions down the line.
The first tip is to get the most out of your storage. Of course, the best thing you can do is get a phone with a large storage capacity out of the box, but for those of you with reduced amounts of storage, there are ways you can work around a smaller internal memory.
The first way is to set up an iCloud. Photos, videos, and audio clog a phone up, and with a cloud-based storage system, you can keep your memories and your audio files on a separate storage device, freeing up room to record. By default, each iPhone comes with 5GB iCloud, however, for just $0.99 per month, you can get a massive 50GB of cloud storage to ensure your memories and files aren’t in the way of your show.
To ensure your phone doesn’t die mid-recording, your best bet is to invest in a portable charger. Batteries such as the Anker PowerCore are available on Amazon, and with this charger in tow, you can pump out the equivalent of seven iPhone 8 charges – ensuring your phone stays juiced for as long as required.
As portable recorders go, the iPhone may very well be the most mobile device you can get. While it may not be your go-to for regular recordings, it is a trusty fallback for the direst of situations.
Sometimes quality isn’t everything, and you can capture some real gold with nothing but a charismatic host and a smartphone, but if you are down and need some inspiration on the search to up your hosting game then ‘7 Podcasts with Good Voices for Inspiration’ is sure to get you on the right path.