Last year saw Apple use two different modems in its iPhone models, one from Intel and one from Qualcomm, and there was a difference between the modems’ LTE performance. Many were wondering what the modem situation would like with this year’s iPhone hardware, and now it looks like we’ve got our answer.
Cellular Insights compared the LTE performance of two iPhone X models: the A1865 that has a Qualcomm modem and is sold by Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular, and the A1901 model that’s sold by AT&T and T-Mobile. The test was conducted using LTE Band 4.
Looking at the results, the Qualcomm modem appears to perform better than the intel modem, but the difference between the two looks smaller than it was last year. The two modems started out at 195Mbps at a strong -85dBm signal, but the Intel model started to fall off in performance afterward and remained their for most of the test.
PCMag notes that customers are most likely to notice the difference between the two devices in weak signal conditions. With a weak signal of below -120dBm, the Qualcomm modem pulled speeds an average of 67 percent faster than the Intel modem. Also of note is that the Intel modem completely fell flat at -129dBm while the Qualcomm modem lasted until -130dBm.
It’s an interesting report, and you should give the whole thing a look if you’re into things like deep dives on cellular modem performance.
So what does all of this mean for T-Mobile customers? If you’ve got an Intel-powered iPhone and you’ve been fine with the performance so far, then you probably don’t need to worry, especially if you’re outside of your return window for the device. Going through the process of selling your Intel iPhone and then buying a full price Qualcomm one may take more effort than some people really want to put forward.
For people that haven’t already bought a new iPhone and want one with a Qualcomm modem, you’ve got a couple of options. You can try to get your hands on a Sprint or Verizon model, but keep in mind that the Sprint model is sold locked to Sprint while the Verizon model is unlocked.
Another option is to buy an unlocked iPhone directly from Apple. While buying an unlocked iPhone X from Apple isn’t an option right now, the folks on Reddit have found that you can buy an unlocked Verizon iPhone X at full price and then choose “Activate with your Carrier Later” to skip the Verizon activation process. The downside to this is that you’ll need to shell out the full price for your new iPhone at the time of purchase.