Whichever iPhone 7 variant you decide to purchase, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your options are obvious. However, there’s more than storage capacity, camera quality, screen size, and color to take into consideration; there’s also the modem!
A real difference in iPhone 7 and 7 Plus modems
It all depends on the carrier you chose to use for your new handset, and it turns out that different iPhone 7 models running on different networks have different modems. The modems made by Qualcomm and Intel have been designed to do the same job but have been proven to offer slightly different performance.
Put through their paces
In the last five years, Apple has used one modem supplier: Qualcomm. However, with its latest handsets, Apple decided to change things and add Intel. This means that there are now two distinct RF SKUs, with the one powered by Intel limited to GSM/WCDMA/LTE and the Qualcomm modem supporting GSM/CDMA/WCDMA/TD-SCDMA/LTE.
Cellular Insights has put these modems through their paces to try to determine if one stands out above the other. The test was comprised of two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one featuring a modem from each manufacturer, plus an RF-shielded box, two R&S CMW500, one R&S CMWC controller, and four Vivaldi antennas. This was able to create a setup which simulated different LTE performances from a cellular tower.
Which modem is better?
Three tests in all were conducted, with similar performances from the Intel and Qualcomm devices. However, there were unexplainable drops in performance from the Intel modem, which gave the Qualcomm modem a 30% performance lead overall.
Additionally, the Qualcomm modem was able to maintain higher speeds even with decreased signal strength. This alone proves the Qualcomm device is the superior of the two, and consumers should be made aware of this.
How to find out which modem your iPhone 7 has
For a consumer, buying an iPhone 7 with an underperforming modem could be a huge problem. After all, no one wants to spend lots of money on an expensive smartphone, only to have it let you down. Fortunately, there is a way of knowing which modem is in your phone. If you already have an iPhone 7 and want to find out now, go to General–>About–>Legal–>Regulatory. At the top of the screen, you will see a model number.
If the model number is A1778 or A1784, it means your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus is running on AT&T or T-Mobile, and unfortunately for you, it also means you have the Intel modem. Alternatively, if the model numbers are either A1660 or A1661, this means you’re running on Sprint or Verizon and you have the Qualcomm modem with the better performance.
In the real world, will these differences be enough to cause any major concern among iPhone owners? We doubt it will. True, the performance is different between the Intel and Qualcomm modems, but testing does not often reflect what is seen by real users.
So now that you know which carriers come with the better-performing modem, will that affect your buying decision? Additionally, if you already own an iPhone 7 and have an Intel modem, does the LTE performance meet your expectations?