As countries around the world begin to move from 4G to 5G cell technology, Samsung has a definite advantage over the top rivals. Advanced phones often outperform Apple's top iPhones and Huawei flagship phones at download speeds, including in the US. It's the most important find today from a new OpenSignal study covering 73 countries, illustrating a challenge Apple faces as data rates become an increasingly important selling point for premium mobile devices.
OpenSignal segmented their findings into three levels of smartphones – high, middle – and low – and noted that each of the three largest smartphone manufacturers dominated one segment. Samsung won the high level, with Apple putting most of its weight, delivering a global average of 26.6 Megabits per second, compared to 25.1
The report was not bad news for Apple. Although Samsung users saw faster speeds in 35% of countries, Apple users had the edge in 17.5% of countries, with the company's biggest advantages over Samsung in the United Arab Emirates (14.5 Mbps better) and Taiwan ( 8 Mbps). OpenSignal notes that Apple's devices were the fastest in the middle class, devices that didn't include the latest networking technologies, while Huawei had the fastest speeds for low-level users.
Surprisingly, South Korean users saw the best download speeds with high storage phones, averaging 70.4 Mbps, hanging modestly from Canada (67.1 Mbps) and Singapore (65.4 Mbps), with the worst performance in Iraq (6, 6 Mbps) – a 10: 1 difference. High-end phones violated the low levels by as much as 4.3 times in Thailand and were at least twice as fast in 25 of the studied countries.
Raw download speeds are not the only area where high-end phones dominated lower one: Latency, a key factor affecting device and network responsiveness for applications such as VR and games, also favors the higher end. OpenSignal says that high-end phones violated low-end phones by 18% – a meaningful 11.1-millisecond delay with a lag – with a 14% advantage over intermediate telephones, signaling the differences that are likely to be seen more widely across mobile networks in the near future.
It is worth noting that Apple has had a self-imposed disadvantage over Samsung, which develops many of its own mobile modems and other sources from leading mobile chip manufacturer Qualcomm. Because of Qualcomm's troubled relationship, Apple gave most of its modem business to Intel, which struggled to keep up with Qualcomm's annual performance improvements before releasing its smartphone modem. After a settlement, Apple is expected to use Qualcomm 5G modems in 2020, and then transfer to their own modems at some point.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether Apple will be able to erase the download performance gaps between devices and its top rivals. Samsung, Huawei and Qualcomm have all worked together on the next generation of 5G modem technologies that support even higher download speeds, and in some cases they achieve up to 7 Gbps. Apple's most expensive phones this year are expected to stick to the 4G standard, which has marked lower download speeds at the top, but is more commonly available worldwide.