Mobile download speeds as much about manufacturer as network

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The real-world speeds experienced by mobile users depends not just on which mobile network they are using, but also the type of device, new research has found.

A report from Opensignal looked at speeds from devices from the world's three largest smartphone manufacturers, and found significant differences between them in multiple countries..

Samsung had faster speeds than Apple in 35 per cent of countries while Apple was superior in 17.5  per cent. In the remaining 47.5 per cent of countries, none of the three manufacturers were fastest, although Huawei was joint-fastest in seven.

Smartphone speeds

Often the degree to which experience is affected by the manufacturer and quality of a smartphone has been difficult to quantify.

But Opensignal, which records ‘real life’ readings from user smartphones, tested the speeds recorded by handsets from Samsung, Huawei and Apple across73 different countries.  

It also took into account the price of the device (high-end, mid-range, and low-end).

Although Opensignal has analysed readings from nearly 18,000 devices, using samples from the three largest manufacturers gave it a large enough dataset for comparisons in each country.

Meanwhile, the cost of the device has a direct correlation to experience because more expensive or more recent devices tend to have more advanced components and support new networking technologies such as carrier aggregation.

This disparity is set to grow even greater until lower-end handsets are able to access 5G networks.

When results were broken down into price range, Apple was the best in the mid-tier and Huawei was fastest in the low end. In 25 countries, high-end smartphones were at least two times faster than low-end. Unsurprisingly, high-end smartphones also outperformed the competition when it came to latency.

In the UK, Huawei and Samsung both recorded an average of 25Mbps, with Apple trailling with 20Mbps, while high end smartphones managed 30.7Mbps, mid-range 23.7Mbps and low-end 16.8Mbps.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.