iPhone X Models With Qualcomm Modem Still Have Faster LTE Speeds Than Those With Intel Modems

iPhone X models equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 modem get consistently better LTE speeds than versions with Intel's XMM7480 modem, according to wireless signal testing firm Cellular Insights.


For context, Cellular Insights used professional measurement equipment equipped with four Vivaldi antennas to simulate LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower with the Qualcomm and Intel models.

Cellular Insights started with a LTE signal from a strong -85dBm, and gradually reduced the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower where signal is weaker, until the modems lost their cellular connectivity.

The testing, shared with PC Magazine, was based on performance on LTE Band 4, which is used by every major carrier in the United States except Sprint, as well as in Canada and parts of Latin America.

The results reveal that with only limited attenuation, or signal reduction in simple terms, the iPhone X with an Intel modem started to experience lower LTE download speeds than the iPhone X with a Qualcomm modem.

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.

Cellular Insights said the difference is most noticeable in very weak signal conditions, in which the iPhone X with a Qualcomm modem experienced 67 percent faster LTE download speeds on average compared to the Intel model.

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.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models with Qualcomm modems also had faster LTE download speeds than their Intel counterparts last year, but Cellular Insights said the gap was narrower between iPhone X models.

PC Magazine speculated that Apple could be artificially crippling the Qualcomm modem to have similar performance as the Intel modem, given the controversy that arose with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last year.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 is a gigabit-class modem that supports 4x4 MIMO, for example, but the functionality is disabled in the iPhone X. The result is that both the Qualcomm and Intel versions of the iPhone X have a peak theoretical download speed of 600 Mbps in most countries.

All in all, what this all means is that customers who want to ensure they receive the absolute highest LTE speeds in areas with weaker signal reception should put some thought into which iPhone model they purchase.


Apple offers the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus in two models in the United States. The first is the Qualcomm-based model A1865, which works with CDMA networks like Verizon and Sprint in the United States. The second is the Intel-based A1901, which works with GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. In other countries, Apple typically sells just one version of each phone, depending on the technology used by carriers in each country.

If you want the best possible LTE performance, purchasing the A1865 model is the best option. For now, this requires ordering the Verizon model if you want an unlocked device in the United States. In many other countries, and in the U.S. soon enough, Apple sells an unlocked SIM-free A1865 model.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
37 months ago
Qualcomm clearly has better LTE performance. I want the best phone available. That is why I have an iPhone X. I really don't care about Qualcomm's and Apple's dispute. They both overcharge. If Apple decides to use inferior chips then I will consider another phone.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

I would not be surprised if we see a class action suit from this.

omg. GET REAL. :rolleyes:

I think you missed the most important part of the article:

“Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 is a gigabit-class modem that supports 4x4 MIMO, for example, but the functionality is disabled in the iPhone X. The result is that both the Qualcomm and Intel versions of the iPhone X have a peak theoretical download speed of 600 Mbps in most countries.”

This is the inherent problem with articles like this. Everyone’s iPhone X was fine until they read this article and discovered they might have an inferior modem. Suddenly there’s nerd outrage as they feel they’ve been cheated and want a lawsuit. Calm down people.

Then we have the others saying “in your face” because they have the QUALCOMM modem.

Real world testing with my 1901 on FiOS wifi just gave me 380/366 Mbps. And this is the “slow” 1901 intel modem.

http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/2365947377
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago
I’d imagine that most of the time the real world difference is pretty minor, especially when you factor in environmental factors, usage patterns, and other real-world events.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago
If you purchase from Best Buy you’ll get the A1865 model no matter what carrier you use. They stock the most universal model and lock it to to the carrier upon activation. Just FYI. They’ve been doing this since the 6S.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago
wonder if qualcomm paid them.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
37 months ago

wonder if qualcomm paid them.

This. I actually know a cellular radio engineer at Apple. I asked him about these guys way back when they first posted their article comparing the iPhone 7 with Qualcomm
and Intel modems.

In typical Apple fashion he wouldn't tell me anything about what goes on inside Apple (though I always ask him to see if he drops any clues). He did say one thing that stuck out, though. How does an unknown blogger get ahold of half a million dollars in cellular test equipment?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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