Change Speaker to Automatic as explained in the article

What Would Make an iPhone Answer on Speaker?

A couple of years ago, Steve started having a problem with his iPhone while connected via Bluetooth to his Tesla Model Y’s entertainment system. If while actively playing a podcast, he received a phone call, the iPhone would disconnect from Bluetooth, stopping the podcast, and answer on the phone’s speaker. As annoying as that was, when he hung up the phone, the phone did not reconnect to Bluetooth and instead would play his podcast out of the speakerphone.

He took his car into Tesla service for some other small ailment and while he was there he asked them to check it out to see if they could figure out why the Tesla system was acting this way. They were unable to find the root cause or even reproduce the problem.

Over the last few years, I’ve got to have a really good reason to call Steve while he’s driving because I know that until he stops the car, he won’t be able to get his podcast playing properly again until he ends his drive. Not everyone else is as courteous as me, so he was often in this annoying situation. To be fair, we don’t get all that many phone calls these days but it sure did bother him when it happened.

We did a lot of experiments with my phone in his car and his phone in my car (both Teslas), and there seemed to be something wrong with his phone rather than his car. For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out what was causing it though.

In the time he’s been suffering this issue, he’s upgraded his phone twice and the problem trotted along following him but we couldn’t think of any more experiments to run to narrow down what was causing this frustrating behavior.

This week we were on a plane and had just landed in Los Angeles. Steve received a phone call, and to the annoyance of everyone around him, when he answered it, it was on speaker.

When he got off the call, I asked him how that happened, and he said, “My phone always answers on speaker. It’s really annoying.”

Even though we hadn’t talked about the problem in his car for many months, I suddenly wondered whether the two things could be connected. Rather than searching the Internet for “iPhone Tesla Bluetooth disconnect”, as we had been, I searched for “Stop iPhone from answering on speaker”.

I was rewarded with the opposite answer, how to enable speaker on answer, but I’m clever enough to read instructions backward.

It turns out there’s a setting that controls this behavior, and you’d simply never find it on your own. If you have the use of your hands, you’d naturally look into the iPhone settings. But this feature isn’t for people without mobility challenges. Imagine you’re a quadriplegic and can’t answer the phone by touching a button. Wouldn’t it be swell if it answered on speakerphone automatically? That word “touch” is your clue for where to look.

The setting to control this function is in Settings > Accessibility and then go into Touch. Within that section look for Call Audio Routing. When we looked at Steve’s phone, it was set to Speaker. The other two options are Bluetooth Headset and Automatic. When we looked at my phone, it was set to Automatic. We changed Steve’s to Automatic and were quite anxious to get home and find out whether we’d finally solved his problem.

Settings > Accessibility
Open Settings and go to Accessibility
Accessibility > Touch
In Accessibility open Touch
Touch > Call Audio Routing
Inside Touch, Select Call Audio Routing
Change Speaker to Automatic
Change from Speaker to Automatic

When we got home from our trip, our new iPhones 15 were waiting for us, thanks to our dear friend Pat Dengler who picked them up and delivered them to us while we were gone. We spent our first evening home setting up the new phones with delight.

The next morning, Steve went out for a drive and asked me to call him while he was listening to a podcast. The Tesla app lets me see his car, see exactly where it is, and even see whether he’s listening to audio. Not only that, I can actually see what he’s playing AND mess with it! To date, I haven’t taken the opportunity to just keep hitting rewind remotely to see if I can get him to lose his mind, but I could. One reason I don’t is that I’ve given him access to my car in his Tesla app.

I digress. When I called him on the phone, he was positively giddy that the phone answered on the car’s speaker over Bluetooth, and even better when I hung up, the car’s audio system resumed playing his podcast.

But then I realized something. He had a brand new phone. We hadn’t definitively done a properly controlled test.

Rather than move his eSIM back to his iPhone 14 to run the test, he suggested he just toggle the Touch setting in Accessibility back to Speaker to see if it went back to the old behavior. Sure enough, that setting caused his phone to answer over the iPhone’s speaker, just like it says on the tin. He put it back to Automatic and Bluetooth was again happily working.

This is one of those obscure tips that may help just one person someday if they come across this article, but it made Steve so happy we wanted to share.

2 thoughts on “What Would Make an iPhone Answer on Speaker?

  1. Dan W. - September 26, 2023

    Awesome find! Now a question is how did that get turned on in the first place?

  2. Steve Sheridan - September 28, 2023

    Great question, Dan! I’ve been wondering the same thing. I don’t recall making that change or even going into the Accessibility > Touch setting. It was frustrating since the problematic setting followed me through a couple of iPhones and iOS upgrades since I always transferred data from my old phones. So glad Allison found the solution.

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