Apple limiting Qualcomm iPhone 7 modem performance to match Intel levels

After some intensive reception analysis, we learned about another discrepancy in components that should meet parity across all iPhone 7 models. No, it did not come in the applications processor, as with the iPhone 6s, but in the wireless connections modem.

In the US, Apple distributed two versions of the iPhone with major CDMA (Sprint, Verizon) carriers getting one equipped with the Qualcomm X12 LTE modem while the GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) carriers got one with an Intel XMM 3360. Testing by Cellular Insights has determined that the Qualcomm modem outperformed the Intel one.

Well, this week, we’re learning that Cellular Insights and research firm Twin Prime have done further testing to realize that Apple has actually dampened the performance of Qualcomm’s modem to levels comparable to Intel’s modem, likely because it is not taking advantage of advanced features of the chip like extra data streams.

Performance was compared in data from 100,000 phones between the two variants of iPhone 7 and a Samsung Galaxy S7 with a Qualcomm X12 LTE modem in it. The test found that the latter phone outperformed both iPhones by at least 150 percent, with the Intel iPhone 7 performing slower than the Qualcomm iPhone 7 by 20 percent

In a statement, Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller said:

Every iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple’s wireless performance standards, quality metrics, and reliability testing. In all of our rigorous lab tests based on wireless industry standards, in thousands of hours of real-world field testing, and in extensive carrier partner testing, the data shows there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models.

In the case of “Chipgate,” where Apple A9 processors made by TSMC and Samsung performed differently by a maximum of 3 percent, there was a backlash towards Apple in the tech cognoscenti for allowing such an inconsistency to hate people. Apple may be taking the risk of keeping all iPhones on equal level in order to keep consumers from complaining about the other getting better or worse performance.

Qualcomm as well some analysts believe that Apple has made a bad move in philosophy — though the company’s CEO Steven Mollenkopf did not mention any particular manufacturer. Cellular Insights analyst Milan Milanovic predicts that if customers notice and do complain, they will probably do so not to Apple, Qualcomm or Intel, but to their carriers.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.