The iPhone 7 version with Intel modem gets whacked by the Qualcomm model in weak signal areas


Intel scored big by wiggling its nascent LTE modem design inside Apple's iPhone 7 and Plus, at least for the version that doesn't require getting up on CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) and TD-SCDMA (China, Japan) networks - those come with Qualcomm cellular modems. This has undoubtedly saved Apple a few bucks, as Qualcomm's modems are the expensive gold standard of cellular connectivity, fitting a record number of LTE bands, filters and all, closely together without interference.

The Intel XMM7360 modem has been developed in close cooperation with Apple, and it's said that at one time last fall, Intel had a team of a thousand engineers creating the cell radio to fit within Apple's parameters. The ultimate goal might be for the next-gen 7460 modem to be a complete SoC solution, combining the processor, graphics and all wireless connectivity options in one small chip.

For now, however, Qualcomm still has the upper hand when it comes to cellular modem design, as it covers a wider range of LTE bands, and more wireless connectivity standards in a single chip, taking better advantage of carrier aggregation. This has recently been empirically proven with elaborate LTE connection testing equipment. 

It turns out that in ideal conditions, both modems perform admirably, maintaining strong signal, and able to take advantage of similar maximum download speeds. When coverage gets weak or spotty, however, Qualcomm managed to pull ahead with about a 30% better performance on average, compared to the Intel version of the iPhone 7 Plus. Oh well, that's not going to affect your real world usage too much, but it shows that Intel still has some catching up to do with Qualcomm's cellular modem designs. Another interesting fact is that it was actually the Galaxy S7 edge, of all the phones tested, that pulled way ahead of all designs, and this one has Samsung's in-house Shannon LTE modem chip.

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