iPhone 7 teardown confirms Intel modem in AT&T, T-Mobile models

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2016
A pair of teardowns have confirmed speculation that Apple used multiple vendors for cellular modems in the iPhone 7 family, with an Intel-made wireless modem found in a model for AT&T and T-Mobile.




A blog post heralding the disassembly of the iPhone 7 A1778 model by Chipworks and TechInsights notes that the Intel Baseband Processor PMB9943 was discovered. In a previous teardown by iFixit, Qualcomm's MDM9645M LTE Cat. 12 Modem was identified.

It was earlier speculated that Apple's shift to two different carrier variants of the iPhone 7 was because Intel had entered the supply chain, and its latest mobile modem can't handle the older CDMA networks used by carriers like Sprint.

For customers the modem change isn't positive -- the iPhone 6s has a universal modem, allowing it to be unlocked for any U.S. carrier. Apple, however, gains negotiation and supply chain advantages by having multiple suppliers for a component.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    So, the moral of this story is to buy the Verizon or Sprint version or wait for the carrier-free version (assuming there will be one and that it works on both CDMA and GSM networks like the Verizon and T-Mobile versions with the Qualcomm chip):

    - if you plan to change carriers
    - if resale value is a top priority
    - if tests prove the Qualcomm chip outperforms the Intel chip.
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 2 of 25
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,878member
    Majority of Cell carriers in world are GSM based. With LTE for data and VOLTE for voice, CDMA is becoming lesser important technology. Apple web site lists cell spec for both iphone 7 models(ATT and Verizon) consists of same bands so Intel chip model might also support CDMA discrete chip inside.. Model A1660* Model A1661* FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30) TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41) TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A) CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900, 2100 MHz) UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    edited September 2016 perkedelronn
  • Reply 3 of 25
    roakeroake Posts: 624member
    I purchased the unlocked version of the phone at full price specifically so that I could have both the GSM and CDMA coverage since I routinely travel to other countries that utilize CDMA.  Since I'm with AT&T in the USA, a fear I am receiving that GSM-only version.
  • Reply 4 of 25
    zroger73 said:
    So, the moral of this story is to buy the Verizon or T-Mobile version or wait for the carrier-free version (assuming there will be one and that it works on both CDMA and GSM networks like the Verizon and T-Mobile versions with the Qualcomm chip):

    - if you plan to change carriers
    - if resale value is a top priority
    - if tests prove the Qualcomm chip outperforms the Intel chip.
    Do you mean Sprint rather than T-Mobile?
    redgeminipa
  • Reply 5 of 25
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,399member
    Chip works is reporting 3 audio amps!

    The iPhone 7 still uses the same Apple/Cirrus Logic 338S00105 Audio Codec as in the iPhone 6S, but the Audio Amplifier has changed to the new 338S00220. (previously 338S1285).
    We found not just 2 but 3 Audio Amplifiers - we speculate there is one audio amplifier for for each of the two speakers, and the third amplifier is for the headphone via the Lightning port.
    The third Audio amplifier is situated next to the Applications Processor Module with 3 black blobs on it. It was discovered during de-soldering of the A10 applications processor. When the blob was scraped off, it was an ‘oh wow, there are 3 audio amps!’ kind of discovery. Chipworks has a Basic Functional Analysis Report of the Apple/Cirrus Logic 338S1285.


    perkedel
  • Reply 6 of 25
    kpomkpom Posts: 616member
    roake said:
    I purchased the unlocked version of the phone at full price specifically so that I could have both the GSM and CDMA coverage since I routinely travel to other countries that utilize CDMA.  Since I'm with AT&T in the USA, a fear I am receiving that GSM-only version.
    The AT&T one does not support CDMA this year. Hopefully next year it does. However if you are able to get the Verizon version "device only" it will support AT&T. If you have an in-store reservation I'd ask.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    simply258 said:
    zroger73 said:
    So, the moral of this story is to buy the Verizon or T-Mobile version or wait for the carrier-free version (assuming there will be one and that it works on both CDMA and GSM networks like the Verizon and T-Mobile versions with the Qualcomm chip):

    - if you plan to change carriers
    - if resale value is a top priority
    - if tests prove the Qualcomm chip outperforms the Intel chip.
    Do you mean Sprint rather than T-Mobile?
    I think so ... the Verizon and Sprit phones apparently have the better Qualcomm modem.  And since  Verizon phones are legally required to be sold unlocked, that would be the model to get.  However, it is difficult to get a Verizon phone if you are not currently a Verizon customer.  I have TMobile on my iPhone 6s with no long term contract and am in the Apple upgrade program and thought it would be clever to reserve a *Verizon* iPhone 7+.  Went to my appointment at the Apple Store this morning (South Windsor, CT) and they brought out my new 256GB matte black iPhone 7+.  However they were unable to complete my transaction as the ordering system would not process the order without an active Verizon account.  Very frustrating and disappointing.  Requirement is bogus since I am not getting any discount from the carrier on the price of the phone.  Only option they presented was to sell me the Verizon model outright, which would mean I would still be on the hook for the remaining payments on my existing phone, and I would not be eligible to upgrade to an iPhone 8 next fall.   The Verizon rep at the store also claimed I could not temporarily sign up for Verizon service, if I signed up I with Verizon I would be required to return the phone if I wanted to switch carriers (not sure I entirely believe this, but that's what they said). ☹️️☹️️☹️️
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 8 of 25
    simply258 said:
    zroger73 said:
    So, the moral of this story is to buy the Verizon or T-Mobile version or wait for the carrier-free version (assuming there will be one and that it works on both CDMA and GSM networks like the Verizon and T-Mobile versions with the Qualcomm chip):

    - if you plan to change carriers
    - if resale value is a top priority
    - if tests prove the Qualcomm chip outperforms the Intel chip.
    Do you mean Sprint rather than T-Mobile?
    Yes. Thanks for pointing out that error. I have edited the post.
  • Reply 9 of 25
    misamisa Posts: 827member
    zroger73 said:
    So, the moral of this story is to buy the Verizon or Sprint version or wait for the carrier-free version (assuming there will be one and that it works on both CDMA and GSM networks like the Verizon and T-Mobile versions with the Qualcomm chip):

    - if you plan to change carriers
    - if resale value is a top priority
    - if tests prove the Qualcomm chip outperforms the Intel chip.
    There won't be. The 2G CDMA 1X networks are being shutdown in 2019, and Verizon already has like 90%+ of their customers on the LTE network.
    http://www.verizonwireless.com/support/international-cdma-shutdown-faqs/

    As for Sprint, with no roaming partner on CDMA, it will be forced to do the same or lose half it's coverage.


    edited September 2016 redgeminipa
  • Reply 10 of 25
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,878member
    kpom said:
    roake said:
    I purchased the unlocked version of the phone at full price specifically so that I could have both the GSM and CDMA coverage since I routinely travel to other countries that utilize CDMA.  Since I'm with AT&T in the USA, a fear I am receiving that GSM-only version.
    The AT&T one does not support CDMA this year. Hopefully next year it does. However if you are able to get the Verizon version "device only" it will support AT&T. If you have an in-store reservation I'd ask.
    Do you 100% certainly know or just making educated guess ? Apple web site iPhone 7 tech spec don't differentiate the lack of CDMA in models Model A1660 and Model A1661
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 11 of 25
    So the AT&T/T-Mobile Intel modem goes only 450/100 vs. Qualcomm version at 600/150.  Sucks to get shafted by Apple's foolish decisions if you're on the Intel modem carriers!  I care nothing about CDMA, but the speed of the Q modems are the REAL story here for me, esp. since the other CDMA carriers can convert.

    Will the other models work fine on AT&T/T-Mobile?  
    edited September 2016
  • Reply 12 of 25
    Similar question but from a Canadian perspective. I've preordered my 7 Plus from Apple not tied to any carrier. I travel a fair bit and need the unlocked phone so I can swap SIMs and avoid the insanely high roaming charges from a Canadian carrier. So...anyone know which version I will end up getting? My iPhone 6 (unlocked) has worked flawlessly everywhere I've gone so I'm certainly expecting the same experience...
  • Reply 13 of 25
    So the AT&T/T-Mobile Intel modem goes only 450/100 vs. Qualcomm version at 600/150.  Sucks to get shafted by Apple's foolish decisions if you're on the Intel modem carriers!  I care nothing about CDMA, but the speed of the Q modems are the REAL story here for me, esp. since the other CDMA carriers can convert.

    Will the other models work fin on AT&T/T-Mobile?  
    Hardly seems to matter because you will never encounter either theoretical max in the wild during the life of the phone.
    mike1ronnDeelron
  • Reply 14 of 25

    I've read that:
    •  the Intel modem can run faster than the Qualcom, but it isn't supported by iOS or the carrier, yet.
    •  Apple sent a lot of engineers to work with Intel on their modem.

    Considering the above, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop -- surely, Apple has a compelling reason, other than cost, to bifurcate the modems in iPhones.

    I suspect that, in typical Apple fashion, they will roll out a new capability under controlled conditions...  Currently that means AT&T/US iPhone 7 and 7+.

    It will be interesting to see if Intel modems are included in the next (real soon, now) iPads.  That would be a much smaller control group and would indicate involvement of Apple's IBM and Cisco partners, and would target enterprise use.

    As I understand it, cell coverage in the US is about equal for AT&T and Verizon.  If the new capability is compelling enough, it will justify the new iPhone and iPad hardware as well as a carrier change, if necessary.

    As to the EU who could, potentially, use the Intel modem and compelling new capability -- No soup for you!

    edited September 2016 pscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 25
    AT&T+T-Mobile>>Verizon+Sprint as far as the number of customers are concerned. 

    GSM is the world wide standard anyhow. There are a few countries that use CDMA, but making international calls using Verizon overseas service is quite costly. It would be better to get a prepaid local phone. 

    Unless one desires to switch from AT&T or T-Mobile to Verizon, the whole issue is moot. I really doubt that Intel modem phones are going to sell for much less than QCOM ones in the used market anyhow. I am on AT&T and if I were to switch, it would be to T-Mobile. Verizon's over priced service and Sprint's inferior service wouldn't be considered at all. 

    Eliminating QCOM from the supply chain is a very good move. This is only the first step in the process. With Intel's business will come access to some of their other advanced technology such as 3D Xpoint memory which QCOM could never offer to Apple. Intel's modems are going to soon seriously outperform QCOM offerings anyhow. 

    I've been on an iPhone since the initial release and when Cingular which later became AT&T was the exclusive carrier. Used iPhones have always commanded a premium price no matter the network. 
    pscooter63Deelron
  • Reply 16 of 25
    So the AT&T/T-Mobile Intel modem goes only 450/100 vs. Qualcomm version at 600/150.  Sucks to get shafted by Apple's foolish decisions if you're on the Intel modem carriers!  I care nothing about CDMA, but the speed of the Q modems are the REAL story here for me, esp. since the other CDMA carriers can convert.

    Will the other models work fin on AT&T/T-Mobile?  
    So getting 450Mbps Internet speeds with no wires is now "getting the shaft"? I think someone needs a bit of perspective.

    my question is this... would you even get that level of bandwidth anyway? Network congestion and cell tower technology would need to match that performance.
    mike1ronnDeelronwilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 25
    For the iPhone 7 the "World" phones are models A1660 and A1661, which is also what you will get from Verizon and Sprint. You can pop in a GSM sim from anywhere in the world.

    To work on a CDMA network they must be provisioned by the provider. 
    pscooter63
  • Reply 18 of 25

    Mmm...

    I did some sniffing around and found this:


    AT&T to implement key strategic shifts in 2015 PART 10 OF 11

    AT&T buys $18.2 billion worth of AWS spectrum

    By Ray Sheffer  | Feb 20, 2015 12:51 pm EDT 

    AWS spectrum auction

    In the last part of the series, we learned about some of the probable sources of leverage on AT&T’s (T) balance sheet in 2015. Now we’ll look at another significant expenditure the company will incur this year.

    In the recent auction of high-capacity AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Services) spectrum by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), AT&T bought licenses worth $18.2 billion. The company bought 251 licenses in total. As you can see in the chart below, AT&T was the biggest bidder in this auction. Verizon (VZ) was the second largest bidder among telecoms, purchasing spectrums worth $10.4 billion. T-Mobile (TMUS) bought only $1.8 billion worth of the spectrums. Sprint (S), however, didn’t participate in this auction. The company already had significant holdings in high-capacity spectrums in the US.

    ATampT buys 182 billion worth of AWS spectrum

     
     

    AWS-3 will boost AT&T’s wireless data capacity

    According to AT&T, after including the spectrums from this auction, the company now has 96% coverage of the total population in the AWS-3 bands. The company expects to initiate deployment of these spectrums in 2017-18 to boost its wireless Internet capacity.

    The spectrums included in the AWS-3 band are high capacity. These high-capacity spectrums have particular significance for wireless telecoms, as they cater to the fast-growing Internet and video traffic. According to AT&T, wireless data traffic increased by 100,000% on its network from the beginning of 2007 to the end of 2014. Please read Why spectrum is the lifeblood of a wireless network to learn more.

    You can get diversified exposure to AT&T through the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK). The ETF held ~4.4% in the company at the end of January 2015.


    I'd lay money that the Intel modem will support these new bands -- and the other shoe will drop by early 2017.

    libertyforall
  • Reply 19 of 25
    Looks like intel modems do not support MIMO as well, considering tmobile has started rolling out 4x4 mimo on their network. That is biggest letdown so far if it is true. 
    libertyforall
  • Reply 20 of 25
    I love the Chipworks teardown of the battery:
    The battery is a 1960 mAh, 3.8 V (7.45 Wh) unit, credited with giving another two hours of performance compared with the 6-series - that had a slightly smaller power supply at 1810 mAh, 6.9 Wh. For comparison, the exploding batteries in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 are 15.4 Wh, twice the size.



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