The history of the iPhone has always been closely linked to Apple’s relationships with carriers. What started off (in the US, at least) as an AT&T exclusive has since seen deals struck with more and more carriers until finally this year, the iPhone has a home with all the big guys. Clearly, Apple has a comfortable working relationship with all these companies. But is it maybe just a little too chummy, and could be favoring the carriers at the expense of Apple’s own customers? That’s the accusation we’re looking at today, with claims that Apple is going above and beyond to help carriers throttle iOS data on their networks.
These allegations come from the iTweakiOS team, which has been releasing updates designed to increase data speeds with various iOS devices. That work has led to digging through a lot of iOS settings, and quite a few of them seem to point to a throttle system put in place and maintained by Apple.
For instance, on AT&T HSPA+, the iPhone 5 is only configured for 14.4Mbps downloads, when the phone’s hardware supports up to 42.2Mbps and AT&T’s network supports 21.1Mbps. On Verizon and Sprint, there’s a “data throttle enabled” flag set for 3G operations, and for Verizon LTE there’s a separate set of throttling parameters.
Typically, we think of throttling as happening on the carrier side – that our phones endeavor to hit data speeds as high as possible, and the limiting factor is always the network we’re trying to connect to. We imagine that Apple’s heart might have been in the right place here – that it didn’t want its devices responsible for crippling any networks (more than they already do) with excess data usage, so it wanted to take some of the weight off carriers’ backs. We’re just not sure Apple’s users will see it as the same, kind gesture.