Samsung smartphone users experienced faster download speeds in the U.S. than those with Apple iPhones, despite the latter only offering premium-priced devices, according to new data from Opensignal.
In its latest Smartphone Speed report, Opensignal analyzed data among the three largest smartphone-makers – Samsung, Apple, and Huawei – across 40 countries. Opensignal collected data from more than 23.3 million devices (including 18,000 unique smartphone models), with more than 117 billion measurements collected between April and June 30, 2019, but the analysis focuses on the top three global smartphone-makers.
According to Opensignal, Samsung devices produced faster download speeds than Apple and Huawei in 35% of the 40 countries analyzed. Globally, high-tier (the category is based on network capabilities and for this report means those with support for LTE Category 16 and above) Samsung users experienced average download speeds of 26.6 Mbps, compared to 25.1 Mbps for Apple iPhone users and 24.4 Mbps for those with Huawei handsets.
Apple devices delivered faster speeds than its two competitors in 17.5% of the 40 countries and there was no clear winner in the remaining 48%.
In the U.S. the advantage in download speeds for high-tier Samsung device users was even more pronounced compared to Apple, with Samsung devices clocking speeds 8.2 Mbps faster than high-tier iPhones.
“Given that Samsung makes a wide range of models from cheap to premium, while Apple only offers premium-priced models, this is an even more impressive result,” wrote study author Ian Fogg, VP of analysis at Opensignal.
Part of Apple’s problem, according to Opensignal, is that the iPhone-maker has prioritized capabilities like facial recognition, battery life, and fast application processors and graphics over wireless network experience capabilities.
Apple has yet to introduce a 5G smartphone, but earlier this year the company settled a long-running legal dispute with chipset-maker Qualcomm.
Qualcomm chipsets are powering all of the first 5G smartphones announced in the U.S., including the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the LG ThinQ 5G.
Apple had planned to use Intel for 5G modems as its legal battles against Qualcomm waged on, but once the companies called a cease-fire Intel said it would exit the 5G modem market.
Apple recently announced plans to purchase Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion.
Opensignal’s high-tier classification is based on network experience capabilities. So users with those devices can tap more network features and technology improvements, like the ability to connect to more than one frequency band at once (carrier aggregation), 256QAM, 4x4 MIMO. Devices designated as high-tier also have gigabit-capable modem designs, with only two Apple device models – the iPhone XS and XS Max – boasting this capability.
The iPhone XR has a less-capable LTE Category 12 modem, so Opensignal classifies it as a mid-tier smartphone when it comes to mobile network experience.
Major carriers in the U.S. have been bolstering their 4G networks with upgrades that include LTE-Advanced technologies, and high-tier smartphones are more sensitive to these network improvements, resulting in faster user experiences.
Faster download speed isn’t the only impact for high-tier smartphone users. Opensignal found high-tier users experienced significantly improved latency, with latencies reduced by 11.1 ms for high-tier users compared to low-tier smartphones, and 14% faster than mid-tier users.
In Opensignal’s report, just 14% of Apple users were high-tier. The mid-tier accounted for the lion’s share of Apple users, including iPhone models from ranging from the 6s through XR. In the mid-tier category, download speeds were significantly lower than high-tier devices, but Apple came out ahead with a slight edge over Huawei users. Globally, mid-tier iPhone users experienced 16.5 Mbps download speeds, versus 16.3 Mbps for Huawei and 14.4 Mbps for Samsung.