Apple’s iPhone X is one of the most advanced smartphones you can buy, successfully combining an edge-to-edge display, best-in-class cameras, fast performance, and a secure operating system into a stunning glass and metal sandwich.
But for all of the iPhone X’s innovations, 2018’s flagship Android phones have the $1,000+ phone beat in at least one key metric: LTE data speeds.
In a blog post published by Qualcomm, the chipmaker shared data provided by Ookla, an independent company (full disclosure: Mashable parent company Ziff Davis also owns Ookla) that measures the quality of internet connections based on download speed, upload speed, and latency.
Specifically, Ookla’s latest analysis shows Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chip and its embedded X20 LTE cellular modem is significantly superior to Intel’s XMM 7480 and 7360 modem chips, which are used in GSM-based iPhones for AT&T and T-Mobile (see below on how to identify which modem your iPhone has).
In Ookla’s findings, which were based on over a million speed tests initiated by its users, Android phones with Qualcomm’s latest modem saw download speeds up to 64 percent faster, upload speeds up to 41 percent faster, and latency up to 27 percent lower compared to phones with Intel’s modems on AT&T.
The data speeds were faster on T-Mobile as well: Up to 68 percent faster download speeds, up to 23 percent faster upload speeds, and up to 35 percent lower latency.
The whole chart is worth taking a look at because it highlights just how far behind Intel’s cellular modem tech is.
The only thing missing from the Ookla chart is a comparison between Qualcomm’s X20 modem versus its own X16 modem, which is used in CDMA (Verizon and Sprint) and unlocked versions of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X. But seeing as the X16 modem is a generation behind the X20, it’s safe to presume it wouldn’t be as fast.
Ookla never explicitly calls out the iPhone, but based on the modem model numbers, it’s clear Qualcomm’s using the data to throw shade at Apple for using Intel’s modem.
Tech nerds have known for a while that not all iPhones are created equal. A couple of years ago, with help from Cellular Insights, PCMag discovered Apple had started using Qualcomm and Intel modems in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
They found iPhones with Qualcomm cellular modems were technically capable of faster data speeds than ones with Intel modems. However, Apple intentionally slowed iPhones with Qualcomm modems so they’d be no speedier than Intel’s.
In a nutshell: Qualcomm’s cellular modems were faster than Intel’s. No surprise since Qualcomm has been working on cellular modems for a lot longer.
And now, as Ookla’s latest analysis shows, Android phones with the X20 modem smoke those with Intel modems.
Basically, if you want the fastest and most reliable cellular data speeds around, you’re not going to get them from any iPhone. You’ll need to pick up an Android phone with a Snapdragon 845 chip. The Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6, LG G7 ThinQ, and Razer Phone are just a few of the many phones that are powered by the Snapdragon 845.
Ookla’s results didn’t surprise me. In many of my reviews of this year’s Android phones equipped with the 845 chip, I noticed the faster data speeds compared to those on the iPhone X.
In my recent OnePlus 6 review, I wrote:
Also, the gigabit LTE antennas definitely do their job. I had trouble streaming Cobra Kai (it’s sooo good!) from a hospital building’s deadzone on my iPhone X (it kept buffering forever), but had no issues on the OnePlus 6. Both phones had T-Mobile SIM cards and yet the iPhone X struggled. I ended up giving up waiting for my iPhone X and binging half the series in full HD resolution on the OnePlus 6.
Make no mistake, Qualcomm has a clear reason to tout Ookla’s latest report: to put Apple on blast. The chipmaker is currently locked in legal disputes over patent royalties related to its modems. It’s clear Qualcomm wants iPhone users to know that if Apple were to ditch its modems and switch entirely to Intel’s, their internet experience would be significantly worse and would fall far behind Android’s.
It’s not clear what Apple is planning for future iPhones. If it doesn’t work things out with Qualcomm, the company will have no choice but to explore options from other companies. Apple could either use Intel’s slower modems, consider MediaTek’s 5G modems, or as rumored, design its own.
How to find out what modem your iPhone has
There’s a really easy way to find out what modem your iPhone 7 or later has: Find out what carrier it was purchased for use on.
If your iPhone was purchased for use with Verizon or Sprint, it’s a CDMA model and has a Qualcomm modem. If it was bought for use on AT&T or T-Mobile, it’s a GSM phone and has an Intel modem.
If you bought your iPhone unlocked, it works on both CDMA and GSM networks and has a Qualcomm modem.
There’s also another way to check, but it’s based on your iPhone’s model number. Go to Settings > General > About > Legal > Regulatory. Then, check for the following:
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus:
Model A1660 or A1661: Qualcomm
Model A1778 or A1784: Intel
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus:
Model A1863 or A1864: Qualcomm
Model A1905 or A1897: Intel
Model A1865: Qualcomm
Model A1901: Intel