Apple’s modem choices may leave Verizon iPhone users feeling throttled

“It turns out not all iPhone 7 [units] are created equal,” Ian King and Scott Moritz report for Bloomberg. “The latest Apple Inc. smartphones that run on Verizon Communications Inc.’s network are technically capable of downloading data faster than those from AT&T Inc. Yet in testing, the two phones perform about the same, according to researchers at Twin Prime Inc. and Cellular Insights.”

“Neither firm is clear on the reason, but Twin Prime says it may be because Apple isn’t using all the potential of a crucial component in the Verizon version,” King and Moritz report. “‘The data indicates that the iPhone 7 is not taking advantage of all of Verizon’s network capabilities,’ said Gabriel Tavridis, head of product at Twin Prime. ‘I doubt that Apple is throttling each bit on the Verizon iPhone, but it could have chosen to not enable certain features of the network chip.'”

“It would be an unusual step for a major phone company to restrain its devices. Normally, companies battle to make the fastest, most reliable handsets. Apple may be doing this because it wants to ensure a uniform iPhone experience, according to analysts,” King and Moritz report. “‘They don’t want one version to get the reputation that it is better,’ said Jan Dawson, founder of technology advisory firm Jackdaw Research LLC.”

Via Bloomberg
Via Bloomberg

“The component at the root of the performance gap is the modem,” King and Moritz report. “The iPhone 7 is the first Apple phone for several years to have versions with different modems. Verizon users get an iPhone 7 with Qualcomm’s latest X12 modem — capable of downloading data at up to 600 megabits per second. AT&T customers get a handset with an Intel modem that tops out at 450 megabits per second. Apple likely went with multiple suppliers to keep component costs in check.”

“In field tests by Twin Prime, the Verizon version is a little faster than its AT&T stablemate — but not as fast as it could be. The firm proved this by doing the same tests on the Samsung Galaxy S7, which also runs on Verizon’s network and uses the Qualcomm X12,” King and Moritz report. “The S7 was about twice as fast as the iPhone 7 running on the same network with the same modem chip, Twin Prime found. This was based on data from more than 100,000 phones downloading an image in large U.S. cities.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Ugh. If true that the Qualcomm modem has been dumbed down to match Intel’s fledgling shot at an iPhone modem, then this is bad choice by Apple.

In fact, it would make the following statements sound like utter bullshit:

• We’re very simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world’s best products and enriching people’s lives. — Tim Cook

• I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that — it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do. — Tim Cook

It sure looks like Apple has chosen to benefit themselves (getting multiple modem suppliers to drive down cost, even if one is markedly inferior) at the expense of their iPhone customers who, if they all had superior Qualcomm modems inside their iPhones, would be getting nearly twice the Mbps than they are now.

In a nutshell: Apple may have chosen to maximize their potential profits over delighting their customers.

We’re not delighted, Tim.

Tests show iPhone 7 Plus models with Qualcomm modem perform significantly better than those with Intel modem – October 20, 2016
How to find out if your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus has the good TSMC or crappy Samsung chip – October 9, 2015
Apple may have made a huge mistake in having Samsung stamp inferior A9 chips – October 9, 2015
Analyzing Apple’s statement on TSMC- and Samsung-stamped A9 chips – October 9, 2015
Apple claims iPhone 6s/Plus’ A9 battery performance only varies 2-3% between TSMC and Samsung variants in ‘real-world usage’ – October 8, 2015
Chipgate: Did you get the good A9 or the crap A9 in your iPhone 6s/Plus? – October 8, 2015
Samsung stole trade secrets from TSMC to win Apple A9 stamping deal – August 26, 2015
TSMC sues former ex-employee over leaking trade secrets to Samsung – February 9, 2015
TSMC overtakes Samsung in FinFET, confident they will land Apple A9 orders – October 7, 2014


  1. I doubt this will get big enough that Apple feels compelled to respond, but if they do, it’ll likely have a technical reason like battery life or something. Whatever sounds good.

    1. apple has probably been matching modems speed ever since post at&t with multiple carriers, apple really has no choice. as much as I dislike the direction cook, ive et al have taken the company I understand their necessity here.

  2. Recently switched from AT&T on iPhone 6 to Verizon, now on iPhone 7+ and I have to say in the Chicago area it doesn’t feel as fast. Although we got a very good deal from Verizon, we have a little “buyer’s remorse” – missing AT&T speed in Chicago area.

  3. This is old news. Cellular Insights published an article on October 20 discussing the ‘lobotomy’ Apple performed on the QualComm modem. This plus the fact that Intel modems can’t connect to a CDMA carrier was why I returned my 7 Plus. Why spend the same amount for a phone that only works with GSM when, for the same price, you can own the ‘same’ phone that works with all carriers. Go figure…

  4. Gotta love the critics who can do absolutely everything better than Apple. Every time a new iPhone or other product is released, someone finds a reason to attack it.

    By all accounts, the iPhone 7/7+ are fantastic phones. This is just an attempt to divert attention away from the burning Samsung phones.

  5. How can MDN continue to express surprise at the failures of excellence at Cook’s Apple? How many bad decisions resulting in bad products must be made before MDN acknowledges that Apple is no longer its customers’ ally?

    Buy apple to put a thumb in the eye of the others, sure. But not because you think they’re making the best products. That’s obviously becoming less and less true.

  6. So it runs half the speed of the phones that catch fire? Samsung doesn’t know why their phones catch fire. Could this maybe be a reason? Apple putting some throttle on it might be what keeps the iPhone from melting in your hands.

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