The headline was intriguing. “Who Makes The Fastest Downloading Smartphones In The World? Hint: It’s not Apple.”
Wait! What? How is it possible that the world’s largest maker of premium smartphones doesn’t have the one that downloads the fastest? Because it doesn’t matter how fast the phone can download or upload files. What matters is whether or not your cellphone carrier gives you enough bandwidth, and whether or not the internet itself can match what your smartphone and cellphone carrier provide.
In the NetRadar test cited above the iPhone 6 fared well, just slightly behind the leaders, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, and HTC’s OnePlus One. Various and sundry smartphones, some you’ve never ever heard of, followed in line, some closer than others.
What’s going on? Many of the top smartphones use the same radio chipsets which accounts for the remarkable similarity in the test’s recorded download speeds, but none of that really matters for the average iPhone or any member of the great unwashed masses of smartphone users.
Actual download and upload speeds vary across the world, and there are many components, or variables, in the whole process. It’s been my experience that the public internet in much of the U.S. at least, lumbers along between 8Mbps and 12Mbps, so most bandwidth beyond that is wasted capacity. Besides, cellphone carriers don’t charge us by the amount of bandwidth available. They charge us by what bandwidth we use and how fast doesn’t matter much because the public internet isn’t all that fast anyway.
Have you noticed how some website pages load quickly while others load slowly? Even geography plays a part in how fast pages download or photos upload. So does the number of routers, or hops, between your phone and a remote server, as well as nearby network congestion.
Here’s the bottom line. If your iPhone is a recent model, and you’re running 4G LTE, your phone’s download capability already exceeds the speed of much of the public internet– websites you visit, files you download, movies you watch, and so on. Upload is a bit different, though, as cellphones usually upload at much faster rates than the local cable company’s internet connection or the phone company’s DSL service.
Then, there’s the variable of network congestion– public internet and cellphone carrier. Last week I signed up my new iPad Air 2 to try out T-Mobile’s free internet service. Download speed tests exceeded 40Mbps, the fastest I’ve ever had. I don’t know whether that’s because T-Mobile’s network is so robust or whether T-Mobile just doesn’t have enough customers to cause congestion.
However, basic browsing, uploading, downloading, and everything else seemed about the same speed on my ultra fast iPad Air 2 on T-Mobile’s blisteringly fast connection vs. my iPhone’s pokey old Verizon connection which never ever exceeds 10Mbps where we live.
In the tests cited above, the iPhone 6 is 1.5Mbps slower in downloads than Samsung’s fastest Galaxy. In real world usage, you’ll never know the difference.