Comparison of modems from Intel and Qualcomm, used in iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, in band 7

The controversy continues: iPhones X with Qualcomm modem are still faster than models with Intel chips

The controversy started with the launch of iPhone 7, just over a year ago, and now it’s back.

In 2016, Apple managed, for the first time, to use two suppliers for a very important component of the device: the modem. For those who do not know, this part is responsible for the cellular connectivity of the smartphone and, until then, it was always provided only by Qualcomm (segment leader). Last year, however, Intel stepped in, supplying chips for the T-Mobile / AT & T model – Verizon / Sprint, for also using CDMA technology with GSM, continued to be supplied by Qualcomm.

In fact, the arrival of Intel motivated Apple to fight Qualcomm – as you may have read here on MacMagazine, the two companies are in a huge legal dispute (the Apple alleging monopoly, undue collection of royalties and patent infringements; Qualcomm is already aiming more at patent infringements) – after all, it is no longer alone and depending exclusively on Qualcomm technology to be able to manufacture its devices.

The fact that Apple has two suppliers of the same component is great, as it ends the exclusive dependency; on the other hand, it opens a gap precisely for problems like the one we are seeing. In a nutshell, Qualcomm’s chips are better than Intel’s. That simple.

On the iPhone 7, tests have shown that, although both modems reach the same maximum speed, Qualcomm’s component is able to maintain a higher speed as the signal from the LTE antenna gets weaker. Below, an example of the test carried out by Cellular Insights, with professional measuring equipment (four Vivaldi antennas), simulating the performance of LTE at different distances from a cell tower.

Comparison of modems from Intel and Qualcomm, used in iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, in band 7Comparison of Intel and Qualcomm modems, used in iPhones 7 and 7 Plus, in band 7

Now, with the launch of iPhones 8 and X, Cellular Insights has repeated the test on flagship Apple and… although this distance has been shortened, Qualcomm’s modem continues to perform better than Intel’s, as reported by PCMag.

Comparison of Intel and Qualcomm modems, used on iPhone X, in band 4Comparison of Intel and Qualcomm modems, used on iPhone X, in band 4

Both modems started with transfers from 195Mbps to -85dBm. But it was enough to reduce the signal a little to start seeing the Qualcomm modem making the difference, with the Intel modem dropping to 169Mbps at -87dBm. To reach the same 169Mbps, Qualcomm’s modem had to lose even more signal, at -93dBm.

And the worse the signal, the bigger the difference: in such a bad scenario (-120dBm onwards), Cellular Insights tests indicated that, on average, Qualcomm’s modem is 67% faster than Intel’s. It is important to note that both have lost their relatively close connection power (that of Intel, at -129dBm; that of Qualcomm, at -130dBm).

THE PCMag it also raised the hypothesis that Apple was purposefully interfering with Qualcomm’s modem capability, so that it performs similarly to Intel’s. The Snapdragon X16 (from Qualcomm) is a gigabit class modem, which supports 4 × 4 MIMO (but the functionality is disabled on iPhone X). Thus, the two modems have a maximum theoretical download speed of 600Mbps in many countries.

That is, if you want to get the most out of your iPhone X, it would be recommended to purchase the Verizon / Sprint model of the iPhones 8, 8 Plus and X – they can now be purchased through the Apple online store without any problem. As we know, even though these are not the homologated models here in Brazil, all are covered by the Apple warranty – however, if your device is one of these, it breaks and needs to be replaced with a new one, Apple will give you, here in Brazil , the T-Mobile / AT & T model, which is approved and marketed in our country.

For those interested, all the details of the tests – including the technicians – can be found in the post of the PCMag.

via MacRumors: 1, 2