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W221 & Audio Moderator
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483 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
This post was written to share my personal experience with call quality issues with an NTG 2.5 COMAND running the most recent firmware release, an Apple iPhone 11 Pro with the most recent iOS release (at the time of this writing was 13.5.5 beta) and the two devices refusing to be on speaking terms (pun intended). The scenario was the same. Initiate or receive a call on the COMAND and have a nice conversation for about 2-3 minutes with the scammer trying to sell an extended warranty on your car and spoofing their Caller ID to be a local number and I then decide to have a little fun with them diverting the coversation to talk about the weather to waste their time as the do ours, or perhaps your spouse or client that needed to speak with you about something important. After about three minutes of the call working as expected you notice the person on the other end becomes quiet. You start to come up with something creative to say to determine the following: Are ignoring you? Did you drive out of range or through a dead-zone in the area that we all become aware of over time? Is there an issue with your Bluetooth telephony system?

You try to say something in attempt to receive a response but without sounding like Lionel Richie saying "Hello? Hello?" or worst of all "Can you hear me now??". Finally you come make a determination that perhaps as Mr. Richie would likely word it - it wasn't you they were looking for, or perhaps they could not hear you now, but they sure could for three minutes just like everyone else seems to talk to while in your car. Your COMAND indicates good reception from the cell tower based on what the phone is reporting to it, and as soon as you disable Bluetooth on your iPhone suddenly the call returns to normal when transferred to the handset or speakerphone. You have changed every Bluetooth setting on the COMAND and the iPhone but nothing works. You look down at your watch in frustration wondering how much time you have wasted trying to get a feature working that should "just work" to "just work" like how your Apple Watch always "just worked" perfectly with your iPhone (assuming you remember to charge it) but one day you decided to sport your Panerai Radiomir instead of your Apple Watch. You just happen to notice that day the COMAND and iPhone were working in harmony, and carried on a conversation for 35 minutes on your way to your destination and there wasn't a single call quality issue. Then you begin to put two and two together - the Apple Watch depends on a Bluetooth connection to you iPhone for near-field communication. Once your iPhone is located on another floor in a building, Apple Watch uses the same WiFi profiles your iPhone has stored in it, and they remain in sync using Keychain to encrypt them. Then, you start wondering if two Bluetooth devices attempting to communicate with your iPhone may be causing some interference as the Apple Watch and iPhone go way back, but the iPhone and the COMAND have not been acquainted very long, so it is just playing favorites and the Fruit Fone and Fruit Watch are just trying to bully the COMAND and ignore him. After all, who wants to get the new COMAND model every year in September? The COMAND just isn't quite as hip as his new friends and doesn't get treated fairly as a result? Nah.

It ends up being somewhat more basic than that, but it can take some time to discover. It is a very common and a rather difficult to diagnose issue described here with a little humor thrown in, but there is indeed a bug in the software in one of the three devices or the Bluetooth stack that causes this very reproducible issue. After only a few minutes into a conversation, one party can no longer hear the other. The common thing in this scenario is there is an Apple Watch linked to the iPhone that is paired with COMAND NTG 2.5. I wanted to post this in the event you may be experiencing this situation, and suspect it may not be isolated to the COMAND NTG 2.5 but it may perhaps apply to other COMAND Bluetooth technologies such as the puck found in the W211 in 2004, or an NTG 3.5 in the W221 2010-2013 or many others. I can't test all of them, but we can collaborate and if you experience an issue very similar to the one I described, please post it here as a reply in this thread for the benefit of others as well as if the solution below remediated the problem. I also think it is plausable it could not only an Apple issue, but could apply to other manufacturers as well, but I have nothing to base that on other than a very similar setup could be made with devices other than Apple devices.

There is a simple solution (albeit should not be necessary) and that is place your Apple Watch in Airplane Mode when in your car. It will catch up syncing data as soon as Airplane Mode is disabled and with have a positive effect on the battery life for the Apple Watch.

Since it has already been determined this specific scenario causes undesired results, it would be useful if you utilize an iPhone and Apple Watch with the NTG 2.5 as there are a few revisions of software on them, or another model of COMAND and have the same issue, and if placing the Watch in Airplane mode resolves it.

In your report, please state:

iPhone model (or other smartphone model that exhibits this behavior)
Apple Watch Series (or other smartwatch that contributes to this behavior)
Mercedes-Benz year and model designation
COMAND version in the vehicle.

If you have the NTG 2.5 COMAND, iPhone and Apple Watch and experience this issue and Airplane Mode on the Watch resolves it, I would love to hear from you too if you wouldn't mind replying and including the same information as above so we can compile some reliable data analysis.

I hope this helps some Mercedes-Benz owners. After I discovered it certainly made driving mine more enjoyable!

Thanks!
 

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iPhone model: 8-Plus
Apple Watch Series: 3
Mercedes-Benz year and model designation: 2012 GL450 (x164)
COMAND version in the vehicle: 4.7 (I think)

We have found that the airplane mode on the watch does work, but it is frustrating to have to do that. I am in process of replacing COMAND with an aftermarket Sony system, but that too is frustrating as the factory Sirius/XM antenna and backup camera do not work with aftermarket head units, or I can't figure out how.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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483 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
iPhone model: 8-Plus
Apple Watch Series: 3
Mercedes-Benz year and model designation: 2012 GL450 (x164)
COMAND version in the vehicle: 4.7 (I think)

We have found that the airplane mode on the watch does work, but it is frustrating to have to do that. I am in process of replacing COMAND with an aftermarket Sony system, but that too is frustrating as the factory Sirius/XM antenna and backup camera do not work with aftermarket head units, or I can't figure out how.
I personally would not consider changing out the head unit as long as that is the only characteristic about it you are unhappy with. Integrating the steering wheel controls, mbrace, and some of the other features is difficult. I generally leave my Apple Watch on Airplane Mode most of the day anyway to enable longer battery life, and enable it at the end if the day to sync to the phone.

The problem for causing the calls to become interrupted after about one minute was like finding a needle in a haystack, but fortunately discovered.
 

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'08 SLK200
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32 Posts
I have an iPhone SE 2020 paired with an Apple Watch. I bought this phone 3 month ago and I remember that it worked fine with my Audio 50 NTG 2.5 . For a month, since I’ve got my Apple Watch, it has been a struggle to understand someone while using my car Bluetooth. I thought something went wrong with the unit or maybe latest iPhone updates made it incompatible. Now I realised the problems appeared the moment I started to use my Apple Watch. Thank you for your suggestion.

Mine’s a little bit tricky. I tried with airplane mode and it worked the first time - everything went back to normal, but this was not the solution because after a few other calls the problem went back even though the watch was on airplane mode. After that I tried switching off the bluetooth manually from the watch menu - it worked again. This îs a better solution because in airplane mode, the watch will not turn off Bluetooth. The problem is that is intermittent, sometimes all the calls are very clear, sometimes not.

It is definitely an iPhone + watch combination problem because I tried with an iPhone 11 without paired watch and the audio quality was perfect.
 

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2004 C240 Wagon
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I have an iPhone SE 2020 paired with an Apple Watch. I bought this phone 3 month ago and I remember that it worked fine with my Audio 50 NTG 2.5 . For a month, since I’ve got my Apple Watch, it has been a struggle to understand someone while using my car Bluetooth. I thought something went wrong with the unit or maybe latest iPhone updates made it incompatible. Now I realised the problems appeared the moment I started to use my Apple Watch. Thank you for your suggestion.

Mine’s a little bit tricky. I tried with airplane mode and it worked the first time - everything went back to normal, but this was not the solution because after a few other calls the problem went back even though the watch was on airplane mode. After that I tried switching off the bluetooth manually from the watch menu - it worked again, but only for a quick drive.
I also read on Apple support forum that a guy made it work by letting the phone wi-fi active all the time (I don’t know why - maybe because in this case the watch uses WiFi to connect to the phone) - also VoLTE should be deactivated - so no calls over cellular data. I tried this and it worked again. I have to give it more trials.

It is definitely an iPhone + watch combination problem because I tried with an iPhone 11 without paired watch and the audio quality was perfect.

The odds are this disruption maybe Contact Tracing updates using new Bluetooth updates (done without approval). And I'm glad you both brought similar scenarios - it's what Apple and Google will say to you we didn't install an App.

So while trying to understand why Bluetooth runs into problems, it occasionally reports an UUID to a demarc server who is close by. But one would have to say were, and how and when. It's stateless or connect at high rate while you are "stateful" on a call - but no-longer.

On the one hand, Ditto situation with Apple and Google products in general regarding, Bluetooth updates at there level not ours. Look back a few months at all the updates to your phone, and something new called Bluetooth PAN area network (not an app but iOS updates and MacOS). Apple will try and reconnect to another Apple device as long as you leave it turned on.

Welcome to not being told you are apart of the world of "contact tracing". With my situation it was my Macbook Pro that kept connecting then disconnecting. Well my Apple laptop isn't supported anymore, so I don't do "updates" as before for a good reason (all did work perfectly with Airdrop, Airplay, and Hotspot). But guess who updated it? Apple. Guess what kept dropping out, mouse, lagging, etc (bluetooth antenna was obsolete).

The neighborhood is now saturated with everything Bluetooth attempting to be tracked and connected to a demarc server in a new network project and protocol called ultra wide bandwidth or Spread Spectrum Bluetooth (BLE ISM utility meters, and others). Apple swore up and down it wasn't an app, and I believe them 100% honest. But when I said it was not an app too that it was the OS drivers and guess what you updated on what you told me wasn't supposed to be updated -- Bluetooth. So I took it to be fixed, and now Airplay, Airdrop, no long work. Hotspot does. It makes you wonder what is being accomplished disrupting everyone's hardware, software, and apps, in the middle of a pandemic.

What concerns me with bluetooth headsets and mics populating the neighborhood with bluetooth signals that weren't there before, and with ultra wide spreadspectrum tracking for metering, contact tracing, the UWS connects then disconnects as it hops through 70 channels to send data back in the "open" spectrum of channels 900 - 920 mhz (FCC world of being on your own to protect).

What if you have a hearing aid that uses bluetooth? A mike? And disconnects, that disrupt your sound with noise? What if you have a wireless mouse, and all disrupts the connection.

And for those kids and people working from home, what if you are kid trying do remote learning on an old laptop and you can't afford $300 Apple Bluetooth Antenna replaced?

I would think what worked perfectly, is what the country hasn't awakened up to yet has stopped working, and that is something that changed when it wasn't mandated by Government to be changed, it was Apple and Google who changed the drivers perhaps with either firmware, or connectivity that now disrupts probably the whole country. I know my iphone can also attempt to update my laptop now and so on, even when I don't want it too.

So if you saw an update back around 07/28/2020 - recently with a long verbose explaination instead of saying "squashing bugs" at Google or Apple (I took this personally), then you know how Bluetooth disrupts the entire spectrum we live, eat, and drink in. Thank you Apple and Google during tanking a work environment with Bluetooth Contact tracing. Especially with Wifi on 2.8 Ghz.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #6
I feel fortunate to have "stumbled" across this bug, or "unwanted side-effect" if you will. I know on many COMAND models, you can disable Bluetooth completely (supposedly) - a setting usually under the System menu--> Bluetooth. I wonder if this is disabled if a conversation can be conducted using the iPhone Connection using the Apple Watch?
 

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'08 SLK200
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The workaround should be from Apple.
For example: I started using the Mercedes Me adapter and it has an option to use this device with Bluetooth hands-free (that means it will not send data to adapter while I’m in a call) - which is something Apple should have done with Apple Watch (if you have another audio device connected) or at least, give you the option to do that.
Problems with these devices (smart watches + another Bluetooth audio) are common even on Android. The moment you receive a call, the quality is very poor if you also have connected a watch. I tried with new SkullCandy headphones and if I have the Apple Watch connected, the audio quality (during calls) is very bad.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #8
Considering we are on revision Bluetooth 5.1, one would think these bugs would be resolved. Perhaps the limited power and bandwidth Bluetooth is limited to is part of the causes, but an Apple Watch should use very minimal bandwidth if not streaming audio/voice from iPhone as it would only occasionally send workout metrics, etc.

If Apple does her this resolved, it sounds like the foundation of the technology, being Bluetooth, still has some standards to be revised if it affects all platforms.

Does anyone know if the MBUX system is affected?
 

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I had the same issue with my X164 2010. My phone is a Galaxy Note 10+ and a Samsung Gear S3. After put the smart watch in airplane mode all the inconsistencies with the Bluetooth in the phone has gone. Thank you for the post.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #10
The workaround should be from Apple.
For example: I started using the Mercedes Me adapter and it has an option to use this device with Bluetooth hands-free (that means it will not send data to adapter while I’m in a call) - which is something Apple should have done with Apple Watch (if you have another audio device connected) or at least, give you the option to do that.
Problems with these devices (smart watches + another Bluetooth audio) are common even on Android. The moment you receive a call, the quality is very poor if you also have connected a watch. I tried with new SkullCandy headphones and if I have the Apple Watch connected, the audio quality (during calls) is very bad.
I think it is a result of hitting the ceiling with the limited bandwidth of Bluetooth (depending on the revision the COMAND is using) as well as nearby devices (including most phones themselves) with WiFi radios on scanning the 2.4Ghz spectrum. In fact, I was on a call using my iPhone and connected my COMAND NTG 2.5, and had a laptop with me and enabled WiFi. As soon as I did, my phone lost the connection to the COMAND immediately. I was able to reconnect with the COMAND with the WiFi enabled on the notebook, but I found it interesting the sudden drop in the connection.

I thought I may have to make sure the laptop connected to the 5Ghz band to avoid to much chatter on the same frequency, but ultimately did not.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
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Discussion Starter #11
Just an update, the issue still exist on iOS 14.2. I don't expect it to be resolved due to the 2.4GHz band the devices operate on.
 

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This post was written to share my personal experience with call quality issues with an NTG 2.5 COMAND running the most recent firmware release, an Apple iPhone 11 Pro with the most recent iOS release (at the time of this writing was 13.5.5 beta) and the two devices refusing to be on speaking terms (pun intended). The scenario was the same. Initiate or receive a call on the COMAND and have a nice conversation for about 2-3 minutes with the scammer trying to sell an extended warranty on your car and spoofing their Caller ID to be a local number and I then decide to have a little fun with them diverting the coversation to talk about the weather to waste their time as the do ours, or perhaps your spouse or client that needed to speak with you about something important. After about three minutes of the call working as expected you notice the person on the other end becomes quiet. You start to come up with something creative to say to determine the following: Are ignoring you? Did you drive out of range or through a dead-zone in the area that we all become aware of over time? Is there an issue with your Bluetooth telephony system?

You try to say something in attempt to receive a response but without sounding like Lionel Richie saying "Hello? Hello?" or worst of all "Can you hear me now??". Finally you come make a determination that perhaps as Mr. Richie would likely word it - it wasn't you they were looking for, or perhaps they could not hear you now, but they sure could for three minutes just like everyone else seems to talk to while in your car. Your COMAND indicates good reception from the cell tower based on what the phone is reporting to it, and as soon as you disable Bluetooth on your iPhone suddenly the call returns to normal when transferred to the handset or speakerphone. You have changed every Bluetooth setting on the COMAND and the iPhone but nothing works. You look down at your watch in frustration wondering how much time you have wasted trying to get a feature working that should "just work" to "just work" like how your Apple Watch always "just worked" perfectly with your iPhone (assuming you remember to charge it) but one day you decided to sport your Panerai Radiomir instead of your Apple Watch. You just happen to notice that day the COMAND and iPhone were working in harmony, and carried on a conversation for 35 minutes on your way to your destination and there wasn't a single call quality issue. Then you begin to put two and two together - the Apple Watch depends on a Bluetooth connection to you iPhone for near-field communication. Once your iPhone is located on another floor in a building, Apple Watch uses the same WiFi profiles your iPhone has stored in it, and they remain in sync using Keychain to encrypt them. Then, you start wondering if two Bluetooth devices attempting to communicate with your iPhone may be causing some interference as the Apple Watch and iPhone go way back, but the iPhone and the COMAND have not been acquainted very long, so it is just playing favorites and the Fruit Fone and Fruit Watch are just trying to bully the COMAND and ignore him. After all, who wants to get the new COMAND model every year in September? The COMAND just isn't quite as hip as his new friends and doesn't get treated fairly as a result? Nah.

It ends up being somewhat more basic than that, but it can take some time to discover. It is a very common and a rather difficult to diagnose issue described here with a little humor thrown in, but there is indeed a bug in the software in one of the three devices or the Bluetooth stack that causes this very reproducible issue. After only a few minutes into a conversation, one party can no longer hear the other. The common thing in this scenario is there is an Apple Watch linked to the iPhone that is paired with COMAND NTG 2.5. I wanted to post this in the event you may be experiencing this situation, and suspect it may not be isolated to the COMAND NTG 2.5 but it may perhaps apply to other COMAND Bluetooth technologies such as the puck found in the W211 in 2004, or an NTG 3.5 in the W221 2010-2013 or many others. I can't test all of them, but we can collaborate and if you experience an issue very similar to the one I described, please post it here as a reply in this thread for the benefit of others as well as if the solution below remediated the problem. I also think it is plausable it could not only an Apple issue, but could apply to other manufacturers as well, but I have nothing to base that on other than a very similar setup could be made with devices other than Apple devices.

There is a simple solution (albeit should not be necessary) and that is place your Apple Watch in Airplane Mode when in your car. It will catch up syncing data as soon as Airplane Mode is disabled and with have a positive effect on the battery life for the Apple Watch.

Since it has already been determined this specific scenario causes undesired results, it would be useful if you utilize an iPhone and Apple Watch with the NTG 2.5 as there are a few revisions of software on them, or another model of COMAND and have the same issue, and if placing the Watch in Airplane mode resolves it.

In your report, please state:

iPhone model (or other smartphone model that exhibits this behavior)
Apple Watch Series (or other smartwatch that contributes to this behavior)
Mercedes-Benz year and model designation
COMAND version in the vehicle.

If you have the NTG 2.5 COMAND, iPhone and Apple Watch and experience this issue and Airplane Mode on the Watch resolves it, I would love to hear from you too if you wouldn't mind replying and including the same information as above so we can compile some reliable data analysis.

I hope this helps some Mercedes-Benz owners. After I discovered it certainly made driving mine more enjoyable!

Thanks!
Great post. Thank you. I had a great laugh with your Lionel Richie reference.

I had the same issue with Samsung S20 FE and Gear S3 watch. Interestingly, same problem with a JVC head unit I installed in my wife's 2004 Lexus. Bluetooth is clearly a very finicky platform.
 
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