Fastest downloading smartphones revealed: Did yours make the list?

Fastest downloading smartphones revealed: Did yours make the list?

Summary: Researchers from Finland's Aalto University have produced a list of top download speeds for 150 devices that consumers can reference to see if its the network - or their device - that's causing slow speeds.

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The LG G2: The fastest downloading smartphone. Image: LG

If you're blaming your mobile carrier for slow download speeds on your smartphone, it may be time to ease up — it could be the device that's giving you problems.

Given that smartphones today are mostly devices for accessing online services, mobile broadband speeds are more important than ever. But while most users know — or at least have some idea — what the maximum upload and download speeds available on their network are, is anyone really aware how good a device's LTE radios are when they buy it?

A new study by networking researchers from Finland's Aalto University has attempted to provide the answers through data on top download speeds collected from its Netradar app installed on devices across Android, iOS, and of course, given its location, Nokia handsets using MeeGo, Symbian and Windows Phone.

According to its study of top speeds seen on 150 devices, the fastest was LG's G2 (D802, the UK model), which went on sale last September and was seen downloading at a top speed of 103Mbps.

Others that were clocking up download speeds above 90Mbps included Samsung's Galaxy S4 4G+, the Galaxy Note 3, Nokia's Lumia 920, Galaxy S3, Sony's Xperia Tablet Z, the iPhone 5S and Nokia's Lumia 925 — all of which are of course LTE devices.

The next batch of devices with speeds below 90Mbps but above 80 Mbps included the LG's Google powered Nexus 5, the Lumia 820, Sony's Xperia V, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. Behind them in the 60-80Mbps category were the iPad Air, Lumia 625, HTC One, the iPhone 5, and iPad 4.

The top speed by the phone from Finnish smartphone startup Jolla in the study was 55Mbps, which is a pretty good result given the company is still a young startup.

The list provides an interesting counterpoint to other studies, such as that from OpenSignal, the UK firm which produces stats on average download speeds on different mobile networks across the globe and is a good reference to compare speed claims made by mobile carriers. 

However, what's missing is that the device itself can be responsible for a huge variance in download speeds, according to Jukka Manner, a PhD and professor of networking technology at Aalto University and one of the authors of the study. 

"What I wanted with this report was to show that also the device matters," Manner told ZDNet. "Others talk about signal and network quality, but I wanted to highlight that if you have an issue, it might as well be the device that is the problem. Also, operators often sell certain devices, but do they really know which of them are good and which have real performance limitations?"

"When we look at the top speeds, we can see what is the potential maximum performance of difference devices. If your own speed is below that, then you can start asking questions about whether the network or your data plan is the problem."

To this end, Netregard offers several different views of devices in the list, including the fastest view, by most popular device and by vendor.

While the study's results give some idea about the top speeds possible on different devices, such metrics are a bit of a moveable feast. Manner said the new top speed in its records is now over 122Mbps. 

Also, the readings need to be taken with caution. As Netradar points out, the accuracy of performance data is highly dependent on location (signal strength and type of network), network congestion and the person's data plan, which might limit the device's bit rate on the network. Also, the device could be broken in some way.

Still, the comparisons were done using devices on a commercial mobile network, with the exception in Finland of Nokia's own internal mobile network, which, according to Netregard's data is delivering speeds of 120Mbps to its users.

"Nokia has its own internal mobile, not public, network and they have used our app a lot," explained Manner.

Netregard has 78,000 downloads so far and while it started with a purely Finnish user-base, according to Manner, Finns only represent 70 percent and are shrinking. Indeed, Netradar's maps indicate it has users across Europe and even a few as far as Iran, for example.

Read more on this story

Topics: Smartphones, 4G, Windows, EU, Samsung, Nokia, Mobility, iPhone, iOS, Apple, Android, Windows Phone

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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Talkback

28 comments
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  • Results depend on....

    From the report:
    • the user might be inside a building with a very bad signal,
    • the mobile operator’s network might be congested,
    • the current location might only support very low bit rate GPRS or 3G without
    HSPA upgrade,
    • the subscription might have a bit rate limitation that does not allow top speeds,
    • the device has a performance bottleneck, or
    • the device could actually be broken.

    That's a lot of proviso's
    The report could well be summed up by...
    'Despite the best efforts by manufacturers, users and network providers, elements outside our control have more bearing on real world results.'
    frogspaw
    • and all of these situations are same for all phones

      and all of these situations are same for all phones, If you say for example phone is not available on your network. you are missing speediest downloading phone.
      Mac_Win
    • they did 1000 of measurements. Not just one SO you are wrong.

      they did 1000 of measurements. Not just one SO you are wrong.
      Mac_Win
  • Something isnt right here

    LG's G2 top speed of 103Mbps. Nokia's delivering speeds of 120Mbps.

    Are you saying the phone or network is the determining factor? Also - not all phones connect with same frequencies, and the network may be optimized for certain phones. If you are just pushing the limits, No-holds-barred, then Nokia wins.
    Sean Foley
    • Mindless, knee-jerk, brown-nosing sycophancy is not data.

      .DeusExMachina.
  • You have to read it to believe it

    According to the report quated above, Nokia 920 is the second most popular phone, while iPhone 5 is 18th, right after Soni Xperia.

    No opinions here, just an observation.
    ForeverSPb
    • The report says nothing of the kind, opinion or otherwise.

      .DeusExMachina.
  • Not dead yet...

    They ignored BlackBerry completely.
    BuckedUp
    • Blackberry Z30

      Completely left off the list. How good is this study...
      Clawdawg
  • They Didn't Test the Fastest Mobile Browser - BlackBerry 10

    BlackBerry 10 browser could load a page in an average of 1.55 seconds, which puts it in the first place among mobile browsers, way ahead of the second position, Opera Mini 4.2, which could load a page in an average 4.78 seconds. The third position went to the Mobile Safari on Apple’s iPad with 4.91 seconds.

    BlackBerry 10 has the faster web browser, by far, according to analysis by Relic dotcom.
    BlackBerry 10.2 also scored the highest of any mobile browser at HTML5Test dotcom (491 compared to 488 by the second fastest, Chrome 33).

    Believe it or not, the BlackBerry 5 remains the fastest mobile browser based on the latest study released by software analytics firm Relic.com using its real user monitoring (RUM) tool and measuring the average browser speeds experienced by end users in 3 million application instances.

    Relic.com’s Asami Novak wrote, “According to the raw data reported to our database from devices, our report showed BlackBerry 5.0 as the fastest mobile browser speed with an average page load time of 1.55 seconds. Note, our data sets report the versioning number (which is the number of the browser), not OS, directly from the phone. For an iPhone comparison, even though the phone is running iOS 7, the browser version would be independent of OS.”
    bb_apptix
  • Popular?

    I don't see how popularity could be determined by a chart based on download speed. I love my Windows Phone but I don't see many out in the world compared to the likes of iPhone 5 or Samsung. Now that there is an app that measures speed of a handset the results may influence popularity but it hasn't happened yet. As for the 120Mbps reported on Nokia's network the article clearly stated that it was a private, not public, network used internally and therefore almost certainly performance optimized and used to test their devices internally. There doesn't appear to be any way to tell if Nokia has put other brands on their internal network for testing and if they did what would be the likelihood of them ever saying "We tested our phones and company 'x's phones and company 'x's beat us by 8%? Your right, not going to happen. Do other manufacturers have private LTE networks to test on? Certainly and they aren't using this app to test because it sends data to an independent operation that may release the results to the public.
    The Heretic
    • reading the source does help

      According to the article, they developed an app that anyone can download and stream measurment data to their lab.

      So it is not that they tested all those devices on their local network, rather they gave out the app and collected whatever data was coming to them.

      Popularity is measured by how many of each types of devices stream the data - or have the apps installed and actived.

      Naturally, being "developed and run by Aalto University in Finland", the app is more popular in Finland, thus Nokia comes on top in popularity.

      The Blackberry is missing probably because business-oriented owners do not bother downloading toy apps.

      The whole concept runs afoul of the basic priciple of statistics that requires that the data points should be statistically independant.
      ForeverSPb
      • Agreed

        I had read the article and you reinforced my point. The distribution system makes stats about popularity insignificant. I tried to find the app here in the States and apparently it is not being distributed or if so is not permitted on my phone.
        The Heretic
  • cannot access study with links

    Liam,

    You post two links at "new study" and " top speeds seen on 150 devices" in your report above, but the links lead nowhere and I can't get access to the actual pdf of this study. Has the paper been released to the public, and if so why can't I access it?
    bart001fr
  • humphf....

    I see no Blackberry devices were listed... to bad, they are very fast.
    wtsend
  • What About OS?

    Given that Android comes in all sorts of flavors and is heavily customized by various manufacturers, how about comparing the speed of devices all running the same version of Cyanogen or some other AOSP build?

    If you think OS doesn't matter, try switching an older desktop running Win7 to a light weight Linux distro and see what I mean. :)
    revspaminator
  • i cant see BlackBerry Z30?

    Why didn't you include the fastest device on the planet? were you afraid that the BlackBerry Z30 will put all those android and iphones to shame? This is a biased review. This is like you are trying to find out the fastest car in the world without including the Bugati Veyron!
    jevinzac
  • Assume BlackBerry faired well, but not on list

    I don't see BlackBerry on the list, but find it downloads much faster than the Nokia "smart" phone I upgraded from. I also believe still more BlackBerry users than Lumia users world wide.
    HenselM
  • LG G2 made the top spot but the measurements for this phone are less

    LG G2 made the top spot but the measurements for this phone are less , Per their survey measurement count is low in LG G2.
    Mac_Win
  • And of course carriers charge by the size of the data

    not the speed it's downloaded, so fast or slow, we still pay the same amount...
    William.Farrel