When it comes to smartphones, there are so many key areas that are important to users. Design, software, apps, battery life, price, and performance are all key factors, as is speed. And when it comes to speed, Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the two fastest Android phones that have been released to date. They utilize new 10nm octa-core processors, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 in the US and Samsung’s Exynos 8895 elsewhere. They also sport the most optimized version yet of the Samsung Experience, formerly known as TouchWiz.
But there’s another factor that contributes to smartphone speed, and a new report suggests Samsung’s just-released Galaxy S8 will smoke the iPhone 8 when it’s released later this year.
There’s plenty we think we know about Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8, which is expected to be announced this September alongside new iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone’s release, Apple will reportedly give the iPhone a complete design overhaul. The home button will be removed from the phone’s face, and the screen-to-body ratio is expected to be even more impressive than the 83% achieved by Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+. We can also likely look forward to a new Touch ID scanner embedded in the display, new cameras on the front and back, nifty new augmented reality features, 3D scanning features, and a lightning-fast A11 processor.
But where speed is concerned, it appears as though there’s one thing we shouldn’t expect: Gigabit LTE.
In a speculative piece published this week, CNET noted that Apple’s upcoming new iPhones may not support the new faster wireless standard carriers are currently working to roll out. Dubbed “Gigabit LTE” because of its theoretical 1Gbps top data transfer speed, the new standard is already being tested by wireless carriers in the United States.
Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ include support for the new faster wireless standard, and several other Android phones that launch in 2017 will also be compatible with Gigabit LTE. Apple’s iPhone 8, however, may not support the faster download and upload speeds offered by Gigabit LTE.
As CNET pointed out, Apple uses modems built by both Qualcomm and Intel in its current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. Should Apple continue to utilize both suppliers, only one of the iPhone 8’s modems — the Qualcomm model — will support Gigabit LTE. As a result, Apple may intentionally slow the Qualcomm model to match the performance of the Intel model, as it has allegedly done with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
“This is not an area where Apple should want to cede competitive ground to Google and Samsung,” GlobalData analyst Avi Greengart told CNET.
Operating on the assumption that this speculation turns out to be accurate, does it really matter? Does it matter if Apple decides to “cede competitive ground” to it Android rivals in 2017? Probably not
Smartphone data connections aren’t like home internet connections, where capacity is important because multiple devices are utilizing available bandwidth. If you run a speed test on your smartphone right now, you might see speeds of 30Mbps, 40Mbps or even more. Those are blazing-fast speeds, but it’s only important to a degree.
First, there aren’t very many mobile services that are even capable of using speeds that fast — just like how large file downloads on your home computer might only hit 5Mbps even though you have a 100Mbps connection. Beyond that, any service that actually does utilize faster Gigabit LTE speeds would devour data caps in no time. What about unlimited plans? Sorry, but they’re all capped as well. The amount of full-speed data varies from one carrier to the next, but all unlimited plans include soft-caps of less than 30GB per billing period. After that, data speeds are likely to be throttled.
Down the road, next-gen technologies like Gigabit LTE and 5G will be crucial because more data-hungry services like live-streamed VR will roll out, and soft caps on “unlimited” data plans will be adjusted to accommodate them. But we’re not there yet, and we won’t get there anytime this year. Keep that in mind when Apple unveils the iPhone 8 (or iPhone Edition, or iPhone Pro, or whatever Apple decides to call it) this coming September.