The cheaper iPhone XR is currently Apple's top-selling iPhone, but it seems one area where Apple cut corners is with its modem.
According to research from OpenSignal, the iPhone XR is on average capable of downloading data on US cell networks at 17.6Mbps compared with 20.5Mbps on the iPhone XS and 21.7Mbps on the iPhone XS Max.
The iPhone XR is even slower than the 2017 iPhone X, which has average speeds of 18.5Mbps.
While the iPhone XR is slower than the more expensive models, it is still a lot faster than the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone SE, which all have download speeds of between 10Mbps to 12.8Mbps on 4G mobile networks. For users who do care about mobile speeds on their phones, this issue may be one reason to upgrade.
OpenSignal identifies three main groups of iPhone models by download speeds. The iPhone XS and XS Max are 26 percent faster than the middle group, which includes the iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, and iPhone XR. The top new phones are also a whopping 83 percent faster than the slowest group.
The reason for the speed difference is that older model iPhones include earlier 4G technologies that don't support newer techniques deployed by major carriers Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
SEE: Apple iOS 12: An insider's guide (free PDF
The latest iPhones are fastest because they feature LTE Category 16 modems, while iPhone 6S, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 have between Category 6 and Category 12 modems.
OpenSignal also finds that Plus models don't have better 4G speeds than their smaller counterparts. That's despite larger models appearing to have more room to pack in better antennas.
According to earlier research by OpenSignal, iPhone users in the US experience slower LTE download speeds than Android owners.
Globally, the reverse is true, and iPhone owners saw download speeds of 15.7Mbps on LTE compared with 13.8Mbps on Android devices.
However, when looking only at flagship Android devices – which are more likely to purchased in the US – LTE speeds are just under 25Mbps and well ahead of average iPhone LTE speeds.
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