For those who came in late, Apple effectively created two iPhone X’s one with an Intel modem and the other with one from Qualcomm. It did this because, despite Qualcomm having a better spec, Intel was a lot more acquiescent on price. Apple then went on to have a full legal war with Qualcomm over patents.
Using Lab testing from Cellular Insights, PCMag found that the Qualcomm-powered iPhone X has better LTE performance than Intel models.
Cellular Insights tested the Qualcomm-powered A1865, sold by Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular and in Australia, China, and India; and the Intel-powered A1901, sold by most other global carriers including AT&T and T-Mobile.
For this test, Cellular Insights looked at performance on LTE Band 4, which is used by every major US carrier except Sprint, as well as in Canada and parts of Latin America.
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.
This will be noticed in weak signal conditions, where every dBm of signal matters. 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.
Intel's modem hasn't caught up to Qualcomm's, although it did better than last year when the same test was carried out. However, it is possible that Apple is tuning the phones to have similar performance.
While the peak and weak-signal performance of this year's Qualcomm modem were both better than last year's, the speeds Cellular Insights saw on Qualcomm's modem between -97 and -117dBm were lower than last year's, and much closer to those of this year's Intel modem. Apple may be trying to make sure that T-Mobile and AT&T don't become jealous of Sprint and Verizon.
In fact, it looks like Apple has done its best to cripple Qualcomm features so Apple fanboys don’t notice.
The Qualcomm X16 modem in the iPhone X supports 4x4 MIMO antennas, 4-way carrier aggregation, and LAA, all of which can be bundled together in various ways to make "gigabit LTE" networks. All four US carriers currently say they're doing gigabit LTE using 4x4 MIMO and 3-way carrier aggregation.
Those features are disabled in the new iPhones, possibly because the Intel modem doesn't support 4x4 MIMO or LAA.
Word on the street is that Apple will be getting rid of Qualcomm soon when Intel's XMM7560 modem, which is supposedly coming to market next year, will support CDMA.
However Apple may soon be getting rid of Intel. It hired a Qualcomm executive and is rumoured to be working on a project to develop its own modems, which might result in a product in 2019 or 2020.