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article imageApple accused of intentionally slowing down Verizon's iPhone 7

By James Walker     Nov 22, 2016 in Technology
Apple is deliberately throttling the iPhone 7's performance on Verizon's network so it matches the AT&T version, according to recent reports. The two versions of the handset have different modems inside, one of which is dramatically faster than the other.
Apple's iPhone is famous for being universal – aside from colour and storage, every device is effectively identical. With the iPhone 7, Apple dual-sourced a critical component though. Some handsets have a wireless modem from Qualcomm while others come with one from Intel.
The difference here is more important than in other dual-sourced components. The Qualcomm chip outperforms its Intel rival considerably, offering 600Mbps download speeds. In contrast, Intel's offering provides 450Mbps. Both theoretical transfer rates are very high but Qualcomm's X12 has a clear edge overall.
Apple supplied the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 to Verizon while the Intel ones are being sold to AT&T. According to the spec sheet, handsets bought from Verizon should offer noticeably faster transfers under test conditions. In practice, this isn't happening, according to reports from Bloomberg and Recode on Friday. Apple appears to have deliberately limited the faster Qualcomm chip's top speed so it matches the performance of its lesser Intel rival.
Testing of the two models by Twin Prime revealed the Qualcomm modem is being throttled significantly. It still outperforms the Intel version but is being limited from reaching its full potential. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7, powered by the same modem, it's clear that Apple has tweaked Verizon's iPhone 7 to reduce the performance discrepancies with the AT&T model. Additional testing by Cellular Insights presented the same results.
iPhone 7 modem performance - Qualcomm vs Intel vs Qualcomm Samsung Galaxy S7 [Image via Bloomberg / ...
iPhone 7 modem performance - Qualcomm vs Intel vs Qualcomm Samsung Galaxy S7 [Image via Bloomberg / Twin Prime]
Twin Prime / Bloomberg
"The data indicates that the iPhone 7 is not taking advantage of all of Verizon's network capabilities," said Gabriel Tavridis, head of product at Twin Prime to Bloomberg. "I doubt that Apple is throttling each bit on the Verizon iPhone, but it could have chosen to not enable certain features of the network chip."
In reality, no mobile network user is ever going to see speeds anywhere near 450Mbps, even with optimum wireless conditions. The throttling won't be noticed by customers during regular handset use. Its presence suggests Apple still needs every iPhone to operate identically, even with different, superior hardware, on the U.S. networks.
"It would be difficult, for example, to explain to AT&T, which remains the U.S. carrier with the most iPhone subscribers, why Verizon is offering a superior product," Insinet analyst Jeff Kvaal commented to Bloomberg.
Apple has aimed to regulate performance to maintain consumers' perception of each phone being the same. It doesn't want customers to give different models individual reputations as this could lead to it losing its image of providing consistent, reliable performance. However, the move has already been criticised by some owners who believe they've bought devices which don't fulfil their potential.
"Every iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple’s wireless performance standards, quality metrics, and reliability testing," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said to Bloomberg. "In all of our rigorous lab tests based on wireless industry standards, in thousands of hours of real-world field testing, and in extensive carrier partner testing, the data shows there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models."
More about Apple, iPhone, iphone 7, Verizon, At&t
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