While the battle between iOS and Android rages on — and there are some points you could make for either side — there’s one thing that doesn’t often come up in a debate between the two sides. That’s the speed of a phone’s modem. According to new data from Ookla, the company behind the popular Speedtest.net website, however, perhaps that should change.
Ookla compared the Intel XMM 7480 — which is found in flagship phones like the iPhone X — and the Qualcomm X20, found on the Snapdragon 845, which is in turn featured in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9. The results of that study were pretty interesting — but most notably, Ookla found that Qualcomm outperformed Intel in almost every metric.
For example, on T-Mobile, Ookla found that phones with a Snapdragon 845 typically had 53 percent faster download speeds than phones with Intel XMM 7480 modems. On top of that, Snapdragon 845-equipped phones typically had 32 percent lower latency than the Intel XMM 7480.
On AT&T, results were similar — though not quite the same. Snapdragon 845 phones, for example, typically achieved 40 percent faster typical download speeds, along with 20 percent faster upload speeds. According to Ookla, the “typical” figure refers to the average of the middle 50 percent of observations. In other words, after removing the top 25 percent and bottom 25 percent of observations, the average of the remaining 50 percent is measured — giving what Ookla calls the “typical” amount.
The results have a few implications. While it’s clear that a Snapdragon 845-enabled device is the way to go if you want a phone with a faster internet connection, slower phones affect everyone. Cell towers, after all, only have so much bandwidth, and when slower phones take longer to download files, it means that the faster phones have to wait longer to get access to that full bandwidth. Of course, that’s clearly not an Android-versus-iPhone issue — you should hardly be upset at iPhone users for clogging up a cell tower. The same issues come up with older Android phones, and Intel’s newer modems are still likely faster than some lower-end Snapdragon chips.
Still, the fact remains that Qualcomm’s best mobile modem is clearly faster than Intel’s — meaning a flagship Android phone is likely to download files a whole lot faster than a flagship iPhone. It’s also worth noting the report that Apple is switching away from Intel communications chips — and it will be interesting to see how Apple-built modems compare to Qualcomm’s.