Are All iPhones Created Equal?

Over the past decade, the Apple iPhone has been synonymous with sleek design, fast speeds, and an almost cult-like following.  When the newest iPhone X was released back in late September 2017, consumers lined up to get their chance at purchasing the latest model. Months later, those same consumers are finding that the carrier they chose to purchase from may influence the speed and functionality of their phone.

According to a new study by Cellular Insights, iPhone X models using hardware produced by Qualcomm provided faster LTE speeds than those using Intel hardware.  The study focused on LTE Band 4, used by most major carriers in the US, and found that when signals were weak, Qualcomm iPhones provided much faster speeds than their Intel siblings.

There are two distinct models of the iPhone X available to US consumers.  The A1865 is powered by Qualcomm modems and is available through Sprint, US Cellular, Verizon, and C Spire.  The alternative A1901 model is powered by the less powerful Intel hardware and is available through AT&T and T-Mobile.  Because of this, AT&T and T-Mobile customers who jumped on the iPhone X may have gotten a slower performing model than those who purchased through the Qualcomm model carriers.

This isn’t the first time Apple has manufactured the same iPhone model using hardware from two different providers with mixed results. iPhone models 6s and older were all consistently manufactured with Qualcomm hardware across the board.  When the iPhone 7 was announced in 2016, Apple made the choice to dual source the modem hardware they use for LTE data from both Qualcomm and Intel.  This decision came mainly from Apple’s desire to negotiate prices with their suppliers. While the decision to source parts from both providers gave Apple the negotiating power were looking for, it created a pattern of trouble for consumers.

While the difference between the two iPhones isn’t really felt unless you’re in very weak signal conditions, the performance issues are noticeable and overall inconvenient for consumers, especially those who may have little to no choice of cellular carrier due to location.

This goes to show that it’s sometimes better to wait until products are reviewed and tested by consumers and advocacy groups before jumping on the latest phone model.  There’s certainly a huge social appeal of being the first to own the newest iPhone, but the presales deals and time spent waiting in line may not be worth it in the end.


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