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Apple confirmed limiting iPhone 7 Qualcomm modem to keep performance on par with Intel chip

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A follow-up report regarding iPhone 7 download speeds confirms Apple is indeed limiting the performance of Verizon/Sprint units with Qualcomm modems to keep parity with AT&T/T-Mobile versions running Intel's new communication package.

Earlier on Friday, Bloomberg sparked a small controversy when it said Apple is intentionally throttling Qualcomm LTE chips to match the performance of slower Intel modems sourced for use on AT&T and T-Mobile wireless networks.

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed Apple's strategy to Re/code, saying the decision to limit Qualcomm modems likely stems from a need for uniformity across the iPhone 7 lineup.

Smartphone manufacturers often source components from different suppliers in a bid to maintain market leverage and keep part prices stable, the report notes. While Apple often orders iPhone components built to its own internal standards and designs, other complex items — like the LTE modem — are purchased from industry suppliers.

As a result, a pair of components that serve the same purpose might have different performance metrics. Such is the case with LTE chips made by Qualcomm and Intel. The Qualcomm X12 modem used in Verizon/Sprint iPhone 7 models is capable of speeds up to 600 megabits per second, while the Intel XMM 3360 found in AT&T/T-Mobile variants max out at 450 megabits per second.

Tests from Twin Prime seemingly bear out the on-paper statistics; the firm found the Qualcomm iPhone 7 to be slightly faster than the Intel version. However, Twin Prime noted the same Qualcomm X12 chip is used in the Samsung Galaxy S7, which was found to be twice as fast as the Verizon/Sprint iPhone 7.

As noted by Re/code, Apple's decision to limit Qualcomm's chip is likely a function of supply chain management. Additionally, marketing the same phone with different performance capabilities on competing networks would be a detriment to iPhone's user experience.

"Apple chose to use different modems for leverage and redundancy, and carriers had no real say in that," said Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research. "So it would be a little unfair if Apple allowed, say, Verizon and Sprint to say that their iPhone performs better than AT&T and T-Mobile's."

While unconfirmed, Apple might be taking power consumption concerns into consideration in throttling down Qualcomm's chip.