One of the underappreciated facts of 4G is that the E in “4G LTE” stands for Evolution. Not all 4G devices are the same, though comparing differences between 4G capable smartphones is more complex than reading product labels—performance depends heavily on the capabilities and prioritization of the network, though older smartphones and budget-oriented models are less likely to feature Cat16, or gigabit-class, LTE.
OnePlus phones enjoy the fastest LTE speeds on US mobile networks among gigabit-class smartphones, according to Opensignal’s Mobile Network Experience report, published Monday. The average speed of OnePlus phones was 35.7 Mbps, while Samsung placed second at 33.9 Mbps, followed by LG in third, at 33.1 Mbps. Razer, Sony, and Google phones averaged around 31 Mbps, while Apple was in seventh at 25.4 Mbps, among models capable of LTE Cat16. Huawei was last, in eleventh, at 22.4 Mbps.
SEE: 5G mobile networks: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
For mid-range phones—defined by Opensignal as LTE Cat5 (300 Mbps) to LTE Cat15 (750 Mbps)—the winner was HTC at 31.8 Mbps, with Google in second at 29.1 Mbps, and Samsung in third at 27.5 Mbps. Apple ranked twelfth, at 19.5 Mbps. Huawei followed at 18.5 Mbps. For low-tier smartphones—LTE Cat4 (150 Mbps) or lower—Apple was dead last in 15th, at 12.0 Mbps.
Apple’s long-lived support for iPhone models is likely working against them in these statistics, as 2013’s iPhone 5S—still supported in iOS 12—enables users to hold on to their phones for far longer than is practicable with Android. Using an iPhone 5S in 2019 is not likely to be the most pleasant experience, granted, though it should still be head and shoulders above using any of the Android phones on ZDNet’s Top 10 smartphones of 2013.
Likewise, Huawei’s underperformance is not necessarily indicative of their equipment. “Huawei users experienced the slowest speeds in this tier,” the report states, “most likely because Huawei smartphone models are not sold by any major US carrier so there is less incentive for vendors and US carriers to optimize their network technology to best support Huawei smartphone models.” Oddly, despite Huawei’s underperformance in download speeds, they ranked first for upload speeds, with an average of 10.8 Mbps.
It’s all about the chipset
Comparisons on a brand level can only surface so much—the components used in Android phones stateside are practically all the same, due to Qualcomm’s stranglehold on the US smartphone market. “In fact, almost all US smartphone models use Qualcomm chipsets, but Opensignal still sees users with Samsung, Apple, MediaTek, and even Huawei-owned HiSilicon chipsets in use in the US,” the report states.
Among gigabit-class smartphones in the US, Qualcomm-powered smartphones outpace the competition, with download speeds at 33.7 Mbps. Samsung smartphones using their internally-developed Exynos chipset—which are rare stateside, most Samsung models sold in the US use Qualcomm parts—are second, at 28.7 Mbps. iPhones, using either Intel or Qualcomm modems, are third at 25.4 Mbps.
For more, check out “What business users need from the iPhone 11” and “AT&T fastest mobile network in the US, but US only ranks 38th worldwide” on TechRepublic.