Qualcomm LTE Modem in iPhone 7 is Much Faster than Intel Version

Apple has used LTE modems from two different sources, Qualcomm and Intel, in its latest flagship iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, with A1778 and A1784 iPhone models carrying a GSM-only Intel XMM7360 modem, while the A1660 and 1661 using a GSM/CDMA-compatible Qualcomm MDM9645M LTE modem. However, new tests conducted by Cellular Insights show that the Qualcomm modem outperforms the Intel modem by a significant margin (via MacRumors).

Band4test

The experts created a setup that simulates LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower using two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one with an Intel modem and one with a Qualcomm modem. 

The goal of the test was to measure the highest achievable LTE throughput starting at a Reference Signal Received Quality of -85dBm, and gradually reducing the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower. LTE Band 12, Band 4 (the most common band in North America), and Band 7 were tested.

Both iPhone 7 Plus variants perform similarly in ideal conditions. At -96dBm the Intel variant needed to have Transport Block Size adjusted as BLER well exceeded the 2% threshold. At -105dBm the gap widened to 20%, and at -108dBm to a whopping 75%. As a result of such a huge performance delta between the Intel and Qualcomm powered devices, we purchased another A1784 (AT&T) iPhone 7 Plus, in order to eliminate any possibility of a faulty device. The end result was virtually identical. 

At -121dBm, the Intel variant performed more in line with its Qualcomm counterpart. Overall, the average performance delta between the two is in the 30% range in favor of the Qualcomm.

In all three tests, both the iPhone 7 Plus models offered similar performance in ideal conditions, but as power levels decreased, the Qualcomm modem maintained noticeably higher throughput speeds than the Intel version.

“Technology runs through my veins...” | Follow me: @DrUsmanQ usman@iPhoneinCanada.ca

  • Rory Breaker

    I wonder if this is what has been causing poor signal for me. Got an unlocked A1784 from Apple and signal strength has been definitely sub par compared to all my iphones I’ve had in the past. I’m guessing this isn’t something that can be fixed in software? With Applecare will they replace for a version with a Qualcomm modem?

  • Joe

    How do I know which one I have?

  • Rory Breaker

    Look on the back of your phone and compare to the model #’s above.

  • Mario Gaucher

    The only available models in Canada are those with the intel modem

  • Mike

    Ok, I will buy mine in the USA then. Is there a way to request an iPhone 7+ with the Qualcomm modem?

  • Mario Gaucher

    If you buy it unlocked in the USA, it should come with the Qualcomm modem…

  • karinatwork

    I’m still weirdly happy with the performance of my phone. Probably because it’s so much faster than my old phone, and that’s really the only thing I can compare it to. 🙂

  • Shayne Mott

    Yep, mine has drastically reduced cell service compared to my 5c.

    2-3 bars with 5c at my home, 1 bar with 7
    5 bars with 5c in the city, 3 with 7

    I get numerous “try agains” sending sms per day with 7, have had maybe 10 try agains ever with my 5c in two years.

  • GoRixter

    Even if buying an unlocked phone from Apple store in Canada?

  • Mario Gaucher

    Unlocked or locked are the same in Canada… when buying directly from the Apple Store, all phones are taken from the same stock… there’s absolutely no difference between locked and unlocked. The phone is locked at the time of the purchase.

    In the USA, it’s different… when buying unlocked, you are buying a gsm/cdma combo device so it can work on all providers. Only the Qualcomm modem can work with cdma. There’s no cdma network available to new subscriber anymore in Canada… so Qualcomm modem is not needed.

  • GoRixter

    This site does a good job listing which model is available in which country http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/