By Lindsay Newell, VP, Marketing Networks Group, Alcatel-Lucent
We have patiently waited for the number of iPhone 5 and older iPhones running iOS 6 to reach critical mass in different geographies and networks before drawing conclusion about the performance of Apple’s new hardware and firmware. As always we were surprised by some of our findings.
The iPhone 5 introduced a number of features that could have an impact on the performance perceived by the user: LTE support; UMTS and CDMA radio enhancements; a new chipset that increased processing power on the phone itself and the new iOS 6 firmware. We analyzed how iPhone 4/4S/5 and iOS 4/5/6 performed on 2G/3G/4G networks with GPRS, UMTS, EV-DO and LTE technologies.
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iPhone 5’s performance
First what we expected: we knew the iPhone 5 would excel in LTE networks. This prediction did not disappoint – it clocked 10 times the speed of the next best iPhone/iOS version combination on a 3G network (that’s a 900% improvement).
Given the iPhone 5’s enhanced UMTS radio features and new chipset, we were not entirely surprised either about the improvement on 3G UMTS (see technical break down in charts), where users enjoyed a 27-58% increase in speed and 11-35% decrease in response time over previous iPhone versions. Even an iPhone 5 connected to a 2G network posted a reasonable 14% gain in speed and a 27% response time advantage.
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But how much performance enhancement can be attributed to the firmware upgrade from iOS 5 to iOS 6 alone? Millions of users already have iPhones 4 and 4S where the chipset and radio features remain the same. Can an upgrade to iOS 6 improve their lot?
The answer splits along technology lines. For users on EV-DO networks the throughput and response time remained the same. However, on UMTS networks any iPhone upgraded to iOS 6 outperformed iPhone 4 and 4S running earlier iOS versions by as much as 24% and 33% in speed.
Good news for iPhone 4/4S users then, who can expect better performance on most 3G networks by simply upgrading their iOS to version 6.
These results highlight that while mobile operators and device vendors both improve their respective products it is ultimately the interactions between the two that will make a difference to consumers. However even the triumvirate of a new chip, a new radio and improved operating system features were in the end no match for the massive improvements from LTE. So only an investment in new network technology will deliver the massive performance changes the new generations of mobile users are expecting.