I've been looking into this issue for months and ended up discovering that Apple actually simply complies with the European legislation regarding prevention of hearing.
Here the link to this rule applied to all portable music player destined to be sold in the EU: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-09-1364_en.htm
The limitation is software only. Therefore only Apple can change it via a software update (or via jailbreak, where you can modify this software limit).
I honestly think that complaining here won't change a thing and would strongly suggest all of you to give your feedback where it belongs ( http://www.apple.com/feedback/iphone.html ) and ask for an enhancement request.
As an addition to my previous, here's the part where the EU actually leaves options to the manufacturers:
"The safe exposure levels defined above shall be the default settings on products. Higher exposure levels can be permitted, provided that they have been intentionally selected by the user and the product incorporates a reliable means to inform the user of the risks.
- A dequate warnings for consumers on the risks involved, and on ways to avoid them, including the situation when the original set of earphones is replaced with another type and this causes higher unsafe sound levels. The mandate is not prescriptive in terms of how this is done. Industry solutions could include for example – labels or digital information on the screen."
In other words, Apple CAN implement an unlock of the volume limit by warning the user of the risks involved in doing so.
Yes this is frustrating. The problem is real and I contacted Apple about it in January 2013, now it's August . . . stony silence. Apple appears to be burying its head in the sand. I don't think Steve Jobs would have allowed this to go on. I experienced the same issue when upgradng from iPhone 4 to 5. So far I have found out that the sound output card in the 5 is different from the 4/4S to conform with the laws about sound output.
That said, the new output stage looks as if it has been poorly considered as it doesn't take into account the impedance of the headphones being used. Indeed the cheaper your headphones (more efficient) the less you will experience the reduced volume. The low efficiency upmarket headphones are affected much more.
If Apple were smart they would make an iOS headphone section where you enter the make and model of the headphones and it would adjust the output. Unfortunately since they are using a different (and possibly less powerful) output stage, they may have shot themselves in the foot. I suspect that since I have had no answer from Apple that Apple has no answer. Apple hasn't yet realised that this head in the sand attitude is goint to come back and bite them as "uncaring" and reduced street cred.
So, what can I share? That the "Manufactured for Apple" logo has now become meaningless, well yes when referring to headphones and the iphone 5. Do NOT buy headphones without listening to them first!!!!
Ignore all the reviews, most reviewers conspire to be silent on this issue, trust your own ears and warn friends with an iPhone 5 so that they don't spend £150+ only to be disappointed.
Intrigued that you say the volume limitation is software only. Is that referring to the button in iOS Settings> Music> Volume Limit ? If yes, that is not the issue since everyone experiencing the problem has that turned off.
If no, why hasn't Apple done anything about it? I suspect that Apple has used a less powerful (possibly cheaper) output stage . . . more's the pity. Shame on such a brilliant phone.
I agree with you that complaining here doesn't seem to do much but I complained through the feedback link back in January and 7 months later, nada, absolutely nothing, zilch. At least here we can warn each other.
I purely think this is the hardware issue too. I took 4s when it was launched but had to change couple of months before due to its battrey problem, the new phone I got from apple store has the problem of less volume I went back to them they just replaced it and the new phone I got has the same problem. I went ot my freind he brought 4s along with me and he doesnt have this problem at all. I tried comparing my phone to few other freind phone who have brought 4s in the begeninng, who ever has new 4s has this problem but whoever has old 4s there volume is crystal clear.
It is more than just the "volume limit" button in the settings. It is a software limitation (not accessible/changeable by the user as such) taking into account the region where the iPhone was meant to be sold.
For instance an iPhone 5 for switzerland has the part number MD662FD/A. The FD part refers to Austria or Switzerland. An American iPhone would have a part number MD662LL/A, where LL stands for North America.
Long story made short: FD gets EU volume limitation, LL doesn't.
I take as a proof that is possible to overcome such software limit with a jailbroken device where you may manually modify a .plist file containing all the region codes where volume "should" be limited to overly comply with the EU legislation.
I had an iPhone 4S (FD) that I jailbroke and managed to change the appropriate parameters in the regional limit file. After a restart, output volume from the headphone was much higher (equivalent to an iPhone 2G that I bought in the U.S., i.e. without any EU volume limit).
Guys, my suggestion made previously still remains: Send Apple your feedback on product improvement and ask that they implement an unlock of the volume limit by warning the user of the risks involved in doing so.
If you have done so already, do it again and again and again and again... Apple won't be able to remain with closed eyes with so many complaint/improvement requests made through the official channel.
I found the solution!!!!!
Here it is:
Basically you have to go to Settings>General>Restrictions>Enable Restrictions scroll to Volume Limit: check "Allow Changes" go back to Settings>Music>Volume Limit and Check off! Try it!!
due to a problem with my iphone 4, i recently aquired a newish 4S. the headphone volume is very low, much lower than my previous 4.
i now have to have my headphones (various types) at full or nearly full volume. something there was no need for with my old 4.
i also use my phone with a portable speaker. with the 4 it was loud when plugged into the speaker and slightly quieter when using bluetooth. the 4S is loud as before when connected by bluetooth, but virtually useless when wired via the headphone socket.
i was really only going to keep the 4S until the new iphone 5S(?) is released, but it will need to have decent volume, or i will have to look for an alternative make. a pity as all my other kit is apple.
Your post is extremely helpful because I agree that since you have actually gone through the jailbreak process, your info is as close to the truth as we are going to get on here so THANK YOU. I now feel satisfied that the info I had previously obtained is incorrect, that the difference between the European version and the others is in practice, a poorly conceived software adjustment.
It is such a sadness that Apple is refusing to care about the audio experience we are all having with their current flagship phone.
I also take your point that if we are going to get any kind of a result that we are going to have to mobilise every user experiencing the problem to contact Apple directly and then posting on here (as a matter of record) that they have complained/given feedback so that it will be "out there" for all the world (and the media) to see that Apple is being unresponsive on this issue. In the past Apple has been brilliant with regard to its customers, this would be a very bad time for Apple to take their eye off the ball as they risk people who care about their music refusing to buy the iPhone 5S as it will also be an unsatisfactory music player.