For those who are looking for the best cellular data connection rates with a new iPhone, it’s best to buy either the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. That’s the conclusion from testing performed by Cellular Insights and Rohde & Schwarz for PCMag, in which the phones were tested in varying conditions that included strong and weak signal conditions on both advanced and traditional networks.
The difference appears to be in how the antennas are designed for the XS and XS Max compared to the XR. Both of the phones use the Intel XMM7560 cellular modem, but the XR only has half of the antenna branches that are built into the XS and XS Max. As a result, the XR is only a 2X2 MIMO phone as opposed to the XS/XS Max 4X4 MIMO design (MIMO stands for multiple input, multiple output).
The testing was done using LTE Band 4, a very common LTE frequency band used in the US, and checked to see what the phones could do with a 20MHz carrier of Band 4 spectrum. As noted in PCMag’s article, a 2X2 MIMO phone can turn that into two data streams of 100Mbps for a theoretical 200Mbps data rate. A 4X4 MIMO phone doubles the number of data streams for a maximum of 400Mbps. Those theoretical numbers are reflected in the real-world testing, visible in the chart seen above from PCMag.
Even when looking at extremely weak signal conditions or the operation of the iPhone XS and XS Max on networks that can’t handle 4X4 MIMO, the XS models still demonstrated notably faster performance.
The bottom line? If you want the fastest possible download speeds under a variety of conditions, the iPhone XS and XS Max are going to be the best choices for you.
Be sure to check out the PCMag article for detailed charts showing performance in weak signal conditions and on 2X2 MIMO networks.