Update 11/19: Sources tell Recode that Apple purposely limited the LTE capability of the iPhone 7 on Verizon in order to make the handset similar across carriers.
If you're looking for the fastest phone on Verizon, you may want to steer clear of the iPhone 7. According to researchers at Twin Prime Inc and Cellular Insights, Apple may be throttling its flagship phone on that network.
The researchers shared their results with Bloomberg, reporting that the Galaxy S7 was twice as fast as the iPhone 7 on Verizon after collecting data from more than 100,000 phones that downloaded a large image. This huge delta exists despite the fact that the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 use the same advanced Qualcomm X12 modem.
Why would Apple possibly throttle its own phone? Perhaps to make the device's performance more consistent across carriers. The iPhone 7 for AT&T uses a slower Intel LTE modem that's capable of 450 megabits per second speeds, while the X12 modem on the Verizon model has a theoretical max of 600 Mbps.
Apple didn't deny that it might be throttling its own phone, telling Bloomberg only that the "iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple's wireless performance standards." The spokesperson added that "there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models."
That may well be true, but it's important to note that Apple is comparing only iPhones to iPhones across networks and not handsets from other manufacturers.
In a follow-up story, sources told Recode that Apple did in fact throttle the Qualcomm modem on the Verizon iPhone 7 in order keep the different versions of the phone "as similar as possible." Apple has another motive: to realize the cost savings of having two chip suppliers.
Recode went on to say that it would be difficult to know how well the iPhone 7 would perform if the Qualcomm modem was used to its full potential because one doesn't exist. But the Galaxy S7's much better performance on the same network seems like a pretty good clue.
A phone's 4G LTE throughput is only one aspect of a its performance. The overall speed, camera quality and battery life are all important. But consumers should be able to get the most out of Verizon's network, especially given that its plans tend to cost more than that of the competition.