Apple changed things up last year with the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, opting to use a Qualcomm-branded LTE modem in some phones, and an Intel-branded LTE modem in other models.
So, unsurprisingly, tests had to be performed to see what differences, if any, were present between the two models. The results showed that the Qualcomm LTE modems that were installed in some models routinely outperformed the Intel counterparts in the other iPhone 7 models. As a result of those tests, and the fact that Apple is still differentiating some iPhone models based on installed LTE modems, Cellular Insights ran some new tests with the iPhone X this year.
Those results were shared with PC Magazine, and they indicate that while Intel’s LTE modems are starting to catch up, the Qualcomm variant is still outperforming in terms of LTE speeds. The Qualcomm modem being used in the iPhone X is the Snapdragon X16, while the Intel modem is the XMM7480.
The testing procedure included a variety of different hardware, all of it professional-grade. It included four Vivaldi antennas, which would help Cellular Insights simulate LTE performance at varying degrees of distance from cellular towers.
“Cellular Insights attenuated an LTE signal from a strong -85dBm until the modems showed no performance. While both modems started out with 195Mbps of download throughput on a 20MHz carrier, the Qualcomm difference appeared quickly, as the Intel modem dropped to 169Mbps at -87dBm. The Qualcomm modem took an additional -6dBm of attenuation to get to that speed.
Most consumers will feel the difference in very weak signal conditions, where every dBm of signal matters, so we zoomed in on that in the chart below. At very weak signal strength, below -120dBm, the Qualcomm modem got speeds on average 67 percent faster than the Intel modem. The Intel modem finally died at -129dBm and the Qualcomm modem died at -130dBm, so we didn’t find a lot of difference in when the modems finally gave out.”
As noted above, the difference will truly be felt for customers when in areas with a weak overall cellular signal. The iPhone X that is installed with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 modem will have overall better quality LTE speeds, sometimes up to 67 percent faster LTE downloads in those situations.
As it stands right now, the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone X is available from Verizon Wireless and Sprint, while the Intel-based iPhone X is available from AT&T and T-Mobile (the biggest GSM carriers) in the United States. Apple sells two variants of the iPhone X in every region except in Japan.