New iPhone said lacking tech to match rivals' data speed

The new iPhones due later this year may not be able to take advantage of cellphone network upgrades around the world.
REGIS DUVIGNAU/REUTERS

The new iPhones due later this year may not be able to take advantage of cellphone network upgrades around the world.

Apple's newest iPhones, due to go on sale later this year, may potentially lag behind the data performance of rival smartphones.

It means it wouldn't be able to take advantage of cellphone network upgrades around the world which are now capable of downloading as much as a gigabit of data in a single second - speeds 100 times faster than before.

The reason stems from the delicate and sometimes complicated way Apple manages the supply of the components embedded in its flagship device - in this case, the modems, which handle the connection between a phone and the cellular network.

One of Apple's suppliers, Qualcomm, sells a modem capable of the 1 gigabit download speeds. Another supplier, Intel, is working on a modem with the same capability, but it won't be ready for the iPhone's introduction, according to people familiar with Apple's decision.

READ MORE: Price rise tipped for iPhone 8

Apple could in theory just use Qualcomm's chips, but it has an aversion to being dependent on a single supplier, and its relationship with the company is particularly thorny.

Apple is embroiled in a bitter legal fight with the chipmaker, accusing the supplier of maintaining an illegal monopoly, and it's seeking to loosen Qualcomm's grip on the market for high-end smartphone modems.

That's why Apple will stick with Qualcomm modems for some of its new iPhones while relying on Intel for others.

Until Intel is able to offer its chips with matching features, Apple won't enable some of capabilities of the phones running with Qualcomm modems, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan isn't public. Apple, Qualcomm and Intel declined to comment.

Apple's decision clashes with the marketing plans of a cellular industry desperate to show off faster network speeds to grab market share. 

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The carriers are already in a fierce price battle for subscribers. As the pool of new customers has declined, most of the user gains are coming at the expense of rivals.

The ability to advertise a service that's 100-times faster may help carriers shift consumer focus to network performance and away from cut-throat pricing.

 - Bloomberg

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