Apple is sort of keeping an interesting detail about the iPhone X from you. Maybe they’re not keeping it from you, but they’re certainly keeping it quiet. There are two different versions of the phone. Apple sourced baseband modems – the parts that deal with cellular connections – from both Intel and Qualcomm. Depending on where you bought your phone and what network you’re on, your iPhone could have either a Qualcomm or an Intel modem. Which to the untrained eye might be ok, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
SpeedSmart did some testing and they were able to demonstrate small, but real differences between the Qualcomm and Intel modems. SpeedSmart is a company that crowdsources speed tests from individual users through an app. What’s funny about these tests is that Intel’s modem turns out to be faster, but has been regarded to be not as good as Qualcomm. This is weird, right? Both because Apple used different modems and because the one that you thought was slow, is actually faster.
Before diving into the results, it’s worth keeping two important things in mind:
- These results aren’t conclusive. The data only measures speed and doesn’t include other variables – like location, cell signal or LTE bands. The sample size is still small as the phone has only been available for a couple of weeks. The author of the study admits that there haven’t been that many speed tests were actually taken. So you can’t necessarily jump to any major conclusions just yet.
- The second thing to take into consideration is that Apple has artificially limited Qualcomm’s modem to reduce any performance differences between the Intel and Qualcomm phones. While details aren’t necessarily available about this, it appears that Apple disabled certain LTE-Advanced technologies that Qualcomm’s modem supports, but Intel does not.
So is that why the Intel modem was technically faster? Here are the actual specs of the tests:
Qualcomm Modem (Network, Download Mbps, Upload Mbps, Ping ms)
- AT&T — 27.46 Mbps — 9.32 Mbps — 38.50 ms
- T-Mobile — 26.54 Mbps — 8.01 Mbps — 50.05 ms
- Sprint — 20.28 Mbps — 4.06 Mbps — 57.76 ms
- Verizon — 35.18 Mbps — 11.01 Mbps — 53.66 ms
Intel Modem (Network, Download Mbps, Upload Mbps, Ping ms)
- AT&T — 30.13 Mbps — 9.64 Mbps — 41.84 ms
- T-Mobile — 33.34 Mbps — 11.73 Mbps — 54.23 ms
Based on this information, which one is faster? According to the tests, when it comes to just speed – neither model is really faster than the other. Which is a good thing. Apple doesn’t want different speeds as that would cause problems. While the Qualcomm modem for the iPhone X on Verizon has the highest average download speed of all the networks, the Intel modem on the T-Mobile network is not far behind but has a higher average upload speed.
The more interesting point is that the Intel modem for both AT&T and T-Mobile performs significantly better. Granted there is a 5:1 test gap between the Intel and Qualcomm but a greater than 10% performance gap between for AT&T and 15% for T-Mobile. The tests indicate that when it comes to just speed, there is no reason if you are on AT&T or T-Mobile to try and get a Qualcomm modem version of the iPhone X. If anything the Intel modem version might be better for both of those networks.