Apple began to use Intel modems with the premiere of the iPhone 7. It was not a successful debut. The Intel modem performed worse (i.e. achieved slower data download speeds) than its counterpart from Qualcomm. However, Intel drew conclusions and solved most of the problems. Now, Apple only uses “blue” modems, and the iPhone XS debuted with the new 1 Gbps LTE modem. Below you can see how the new Intel modem works compared to Qualcomm chips.
At the beginning it is worth recalling that some new iPhones users complain about too slow LTE Internet and bad Wi-Fi reception (5 GHz band). Many people wonder why wireless connectivity in the iPhone XS/XS Max is slower than in iPhone 8 and iPhone X. It turns out that the problem is most likely not the software, and it is of a hardware nature. The measurements made by the FCC certifying organization suggest what the problem is. The new antennas used in the iPhone Xs/Xs Max have a lower gain than the antennas used in older Apple smartphones. This, in turn, translates into the reception of a weaker signal. As a result, users are watching slower data transfers. However, when the received signal is strong (i.e. we are close to the base station), the LTE in the iPhone XS works very fast. This is shown by the test results carried out by the PCMag magazine.
The new Intel modem is good, but Qualcomm works better
Before we proceed to the interpretation of the results, it is worth mentioning how the PCMag editorial office carries out its tests. Measurements are made using the Rohde&Schwarz base station emulator, the shielding box and the 4×4 MIMO broadband antenna. In this way, it is possible to isolate the tested smartphone from any unwanted radio signals. Tests are performed as a function of the power measured by the tested device (in this case it is an iPhone XS). Unfortunately, this approach does not allow to determine the impact of the parameters of smartphones’ antennas on the results obtained.
The graph above shows that the maximum download speed offered by the iPhone XS is twice as large as the capabilities of the iPhone X. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Google Pixel 2 provide the same speed. This means that the 4×4 MIMO mode works. However, the new Intel modem quite quickly switches to slower modulation (speed drops to 340 Mbps), while Qualcomm modems continue to download data at 390 Mbps. The central part of the graph shows that the Intel system performs almost as well as the Snapdragon X16 and X20 modems. Another difference is seen at the very end of the chart, which compares the behavior of modems when receiving a very weak signal. The conclusion from this is one. Qualcomm’s modems have better sensitivity.