Skip to main content

Apple’s next iPhones won’t have the fastest possible LTE speeds

Apple’s next iPhones won’t have the fastest possible LTE speeds


Because of a multi-country legal battle over smartphone modems

Share this story

James Bareham, The Verge

Apple’s next iPhones, due out some time in the fall, won’t be capable of gigabit cellular connections due to the company’s contentious legal battle with smartphone modem supplier Qualcomm, according to a report today from Bloomberg.

Apple relies on mobile modems from both Qualcomm and Intel, but only Qualcomm’s X16 LTE modem is currently capable of gigabit internet speeds. All four major US carriers are eager to make use of these faster smartphone download speeds as soon as this year in a bid to edge out competitors and gain market share. And hardware makers across the tech industry are releasing new products and offering new components to make this a reality some time in the near future.

Apple uses Qualcomm and Intel modems, but Intel can’t yet handle gigabit speeds

Still, Intel needs more time to develop its modem and won’t be capable of shipping it inside new iPhones in the fall. Under normal circumstances, Apple could simply use only Qualcomm components for the next iPhone release, which is believed to come in the form of both a iPhone 7S / 7S Plus and a premium, bezel-less iPhone 8 to mark the device’s 10th anniversary. Samsung, for instance, does rely only on Qualcomm, making its Galaxy S8 capable of gigabit connections. However, because Apple and Qualcomm are currently suing one another in multiple countries over Qualcomm’s alleged illegal monopoly on smartphone modems, the iPhone maker is hesitant to cut a deal that would make it more reliant on its legal opponent, Bloomberg reports.

The end result is that Apple will ship devices with both Qualcomm and Intel modems, but refuse to enable the faster speeds on the Qualcomm devices. This is because Apple doesn’t want to bifurcate its user base into those with faster speeds and those with standard LTE connections, Bloomberg reports, while it also moves to undermine Qualcomm’s dominance in the mobile market.

This could all be a moot point: there’s no telling when AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint will be able to confidently say they’re providing gigabit speeds to customers. Without the actual network coverage, having a faster smartphone modem won’t mean anything, and customers certainly won’t know the difference. As it stands, all four networks are racing to be the first to blanket the US with faster versions of LTE, yet what that rollout ends up looking like is still unclear. So true gigabit may still be two or three years away, at which point Apple’s modem choice won’t matter because every modem will be capable of supporting those speeds.