If a new analysis of over one million Ookla Speedtest results is accurate, Android smartphones using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset are dramatically outperforming devices with Intel modems — read: iPhones — in real-world cellular tests. Without specifically naming Apple’s devices, the Speedtest data summarized today by Qualcomm illuminates speed differences that could win over some iPhone owners to Android in the waning days of the 4G/LTE era.
Ookla’s tests were conducted on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks, respectively including over 570,000 and 480,000 results. On AT&T’s network, Snapdragon 845 phones delivered 40 percent faster typical download speeds, 20 percent faster typical upload speeds, and 20 percent lower typical latency than phones using Intel’s XMM 7480, which is inside 2017-vintage iPhones. The Qualcomm download and upload performance gaps were around 20 percent higher when compared with XMM 7360 modems, found inside 2016 iPhones that Apple is still selling.
On T-Mobile’s network, Snapdragon 845 delivered 53 percent faster downloads and 32 percent lower latency than XMM 7480 devices, again widening the gap with double-digit gains when compared with the XMM 7360. Each network also saw hugely better “worst-case” upload speeds in devices with the Qualcomm processor — 97 percent or higher on T-Mobile, 135 percent or more on AT&T.
Qualcomm is in an unusual position here. It quietly supplied Apple with iPhone modems for years until Apple disputed Qualcomm’s licensing fees, instigating international legal actions. Though Qualcomm continues to supply Apple, today’s iPhones alternate between Qualcomm modems and slower Intel versions; Apple limits the performance of Qualcomm’s parts to whatever Intel’s modems can achieve.
So while Qualcomm avoids mentioning Apple by name, its spotlighting of the Ookla results makes a clear point: If you’re using a device with Intel’s chips, your cellular speeds may be suffering as a result. “In every evaluated metric,” Qualcomm says, “the cellular performance of Android smartphones based on the Snapdragon 845 outpaced Intel-based non-Android smartphones.”
Today’s Speedtest results come shortly after Samsung launched an ad campaign focusing on the cellular speed differences between its Galaxy S9 models and iPhones. Both Samsung and Qualcomm are indirectly spotlighting a cellular performance gap that has opened up in the waning days of 4G/LTE phones, as “4.8G” and “4.9G” modems are promising cellular speeds closer to 5G’s minimum. Unlike Samsung and Qualcomm, which have revealed concrete plans to debut 5G devices early in 2019, Apple has made no public statements on the upcoming standard, leaving open the possibility that iPhones will miss the dawn of the 5G era entirely.