“no audio” issues, incoming calls and VoIP vs Firewalls
December 10, 2010 46 Comments
We are receiving excessive amount of support requests and decided to collect most common questions and answers in this post. Please do comment on this post if you have another questions or need clarification.
Does Talkatone use “minutes”?
Talkatone may use one of 2:
- Local WiFi connection, if available
- 3G data connection (which is separate allotment from “minutes”)
Does it mean you got free, unlimited calls to United State and Canada? Yes, as long as you call from WiFi or still have unlimited 3G data plan.
I cannot login
Please note that Talkatone sends your username and password directly to Google to validate. To protect your privacy we have no records of your passwords and what was the reason Google rejected your credentials. However the following are very common scenarios:
- Make sure you type full GMail (or Google Apps) email address as username including @gmail.com portion at the end. Also please check that there is no whitespaces. Yes, to use Talkatone you have to have GMail address, if you do not have one – you can register it free and easy.
- Make sure you typed the password correctly. Yes, it may get tough to enter password at 6am in the morning or at 2am in the night, especially on having that passwords are case-sensitive and iPhone keyboard is kinda small.
I have Google Voice account registered on non-GMail address
At the moment we do not support logins with non-GMail addresses (yes, you can login with corporate Google Apps address). If you want to use Talkatone there are few options:
- Register new Google Voice account using GMail address. If you want your friends to still reach you at the old Google Voice number you can set up call forwarding from old Google Voice number to new one. Outbound caller id will indicate new Google Voice number.
- During our digging through Google Voice “help” and “documentation” we had discovered that you may be able to port your Google Voice number from one email to another. This process may have limited availability and may take upto couple of weeks. We had not tried it ourselves.
How do I sign out?
To sign out or log out from Google Talk server please go to “Settings” and change your status to Offline. This will disconnect you from Google servers and you will stop receiving incoming calls and IMs.
Please note that while you are offline you cannot make calls or send IMs either.
When I make outbound call I hear “fast ringing” or “cannot complete call at this time”
1. Please make sure you had made at least one outbound call from your GMail as was outlined on this page you had acknowledged before getting to dialpad. The fact that you already had been using Google Voice (Grandcentral) before does not remove from this requirement. You DO need to setup Google Voice Google Talk integration properly.
2. If you have noticed we prepopulated +1 on the Google Voice dialpad for your convenience. It is country code for United States and Canada. Please do not erase it unless you want to make international call. Especially please do not try to dial numbers like +6(502)530-000 – this is not a valid phone number and would point to somewhere in Malaysia instead of San Francisco Bay Area where you would want it to go: you will get fast ringing or “number is not valid” message.
iPod Touch and iPad do not support “handsfree” blue tooth profile. This means you can listen music on bluetooth headset but simultaneous playback and microphone access is not supported by hardware.
Setting up incoming calls
1. Please follow instructions outlined in this blog post
2. Please note the following causes most of the troubles:
- Please sign out of GMail web chat after you done using it. Otherwise if you just close the browser or navigate away from the page it may receive incoming call instead of Talkatone for up to 30 minutes. This is due to the fact that Google Talk does not support “call forking”, e.g. rings only one chat client at the time.
- Tap “1″ on keypad to accept call or “2″ to send to voicemail after you accepted call. This is ListenIn feature which is separate from Call Screening and cannot be disabled at this time.
- Please do not double “Accept” the call. We understand UI is not very intuitive and promise you to fix it later. At this point sliding slider on lock screen does the same action as tapping “Accept” (green button on call screen). Please do not do this twice. If you slided slider – just wait for a second and green “Accept” will disappear on it’s own and keypad will show up to tap “1″ or “2″.
I do not hear anything during the call (especially on iPod Touches)
1. If you use iPod Touch 2nd or 3rd generation please make sure you have microphone. If you don’t have microphone the iPod Touch will not even play the audio while on the call. This is behavior of “PlayAndRecord” audio mode required for the call. Note that all other supported devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch 4th generation) have built-in microphones and this does not apply to them.
2. Vast majority of audio issues are caused by… sound volume on your iDevice and especially the fact that, for example iPhone can output audio to multiple places:
- Receiver (e.g. phone receiver) – not available on iPod Touch or iPad
- Built-in Speaker (“speakerphone”)
- Headset (aka “earbuds”)
- BlueTooth headset paired with the device
Please make sure that your expectations on where you want to hear the sound coming from are in-sync with your iDevice settings. If you don’t hear anything while being on the call for longer than couple seconds please try to adjust audio volume on your iDevice and note where it is being adjusted:
On the screenshot above you can notice that iPhone is trying to output sound to “Headphones” (e.g. these white earbuds which come with iPhone). If you don’t have headphones plugged in now – you will hear no sound.
Please note that when iDevice thinks that headphones are plugged in it’s impossible to override this from an app. The little glitch can be fixed by plugging/unplugging headphones few times until your iDevice would realize that there is no headphones connected anymore. This problem is pretty common for iPod Touch users.
And obviously you’ll hear no sound when your volume is at zero. Almost everyone including ourselves felt into this trap at least once.
3. Sometimes the issue may be more serious – Talkatone could be unable to tunnel audio through your firewall (router). Currently we can tunnel through most of them. But in some environments which specifically block VoIP network traffic we cannot do much at this point.
After you had tried adjusting the volume and everything appears to be right, but there is still no audio please capture the screenshot of call screen (when the problem present) and email it to us at support-at-talkatone-dot-com
To capture screenshot please press “Home” button (the only one hardware button on front of your iDevice) and “Screen Lock” (button on top side) at the same time – it will save screenshot in your photo library.
iPhone and iPad 3G users have an advantage to tell if the issue is with blocked VoIP on WiFi network: please disable WiFi on your iDevice and try to make a call over 3G. If it works over 3G (more or less) then the issues is WiFi VoIP blocking. iPod Touch owners may try to make a call from a different network (ex. from home network) to see if the no-audio issue persist.
More technically advanced users can try to troubleshoot issue themselves:
Please note 2-3 words in the top-left corner after “Network” label. If at least one of these words is none, it means that Talkatone was unable to traverse your firewall for this call so it is unable to either receive or send audio (depending where the word none appeared).
Why does this issue happen? Well, those who want to protect their data in home environments believe that they should block as much network traffic as possible and open only a handful of network services on their firewalls. Unfortunately almost every computer virus or malware is written to send your stolen data over HTTP or HTTPS which are almost always allowed (otherwise you would be unable to read even this page)! Thus, in our opinion, relying on blocking all outbound connections except HTTP does not protect user much.
Situation could be a bit different in organizations and schools.IT departments in many companies, colleges, universities or school districts have different motivation: often they don’t want to allow their employees to use corporate equipment for non-work related purposes. And in most cases they might be right. If you are planning to use Talkatone, especially with corporate Google Apps accounts(!) for work related purposes in protected environment please ask your IT department to contact us and we will work with them on opening proper ports. We’ll send all information needed to them and answer all questions.
What if you are trying to set up home router yourself? Well, to make things simple, do not block (e.g. allow) outbound UDP traffic (all). Yes, it is possible to allow only specific ports. If you know what you do and have reasons to open only certain ports (see above) please contact us, we’ll provide all necessary information.
4. Why do some other services (namely GMail built-in web chat) work on your network, but Talkatone doesn’t? Well, Google engineers had spend significant amount of time to make sure that GMail audio can tunnel through some firewalls which specifically block VoIP. In some situations GMail can tunnel audio over HTTPS.
Did they win the battle of VoIP vs Firewalls? We don’t think so. It is still possible for handy IT person to block even this tunnel.
We have no plans to join this battle. If IT department had a reason to block the VoIP they will find out that somebody is still using VoIP tunneling on their network (there are nice, but pricey tools for this available) and will block it. And on top of blocking just voice they can block even IM portion of Google Talk! So if the person who configured your firewall said “No, I am NOT going to allow VoIP” Talkatone will not work.
I hear “choppy” audio during Google Voice call over 3G
First of all here is what we say in our app description:
✆ We do not recommend placing/receiving Google Voice VoIP calls over cellular (3G) networks, please use WiFi if possible.
Yes, we do NOT recommend Google Voice calling over 3G. We read reviews saying that it works for some users and works well. But there are also users who don’t have good enough 3G connection to send uncompressed audio (only one codec allowed by Google Voice). Please read more technical details here. The following artifacts may indicate that your 3G connection cannot sustain Google Voice requirements:
- “Statis noise”
- Cut offs (especially the other person will start noticing them first, as upstream bandwidth is more limited).
- random “clicks”
As some reviews pointed we do output call quality statistic on call screen – please see 3 numbers after “loss%:” (current, median and average packet loss respectively for down-stream channel – e.g. audio you hear). If current packet loss goes above 1-2% for Google Voice call you will start experiencing artifacts, if packet loss jumps above 5% the conversation will become just series of cut offs. Ex. we do experience packet loss as high as 35-40% on AT&T network in San Francisco Bay Area (outside of usual “dead zones”).
At the same time we would like to mention that Google Talk based calls (especially Talkatone-to-Talkatone) can tolerate 3G network way better due to lesser bandwidth requirements and better tolerance to packet loss (yes, GTalk Talkatone-to-Talkatone calls with redundancy are audible even on 30% packet loss).
Backgrounding and notifications
Talkatone relies on iOS4 VoIP backgrounding and in order to receive messages and calls while Talkatone runs in background you need to have multitasking-capable device. At this moment the following devices support multitasking:
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4
- iPod Touch 3rd generation
- iPod Touch 4th generation
Note: We noticed that jailbreak may interfere with multi-tasking. We suspect that some jailbroken devices may disable WiFi/3G access if you send Talkatone to background.
Why don’t we use Push notifications? As we explained previously we agree with Apple and believe that Push notifications aren’t good enough for real-time Voice call notifications, so at present there are no plans to support them.
And yes, on above-mentioned devices Talkatone runs in background as long as you want (not just 10 minutes as others who claim “full multitasking support”).