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Developer says Apple artificially limiting iPhone, iPad speeds

updated 04:38 pm EDT, Wed June 5, 2013

Company looking to keep speeds relatively even between carriers?

Apple and the iPhone's major US carriers are imposing artificial caps on the cellular speeds of the iPhone and iPad, claims Joseph Brown, a developer of hacked carrier updates. Brown notes that by scrapping a line of Apple code in his AT&T update, iPhone 5 and fourth-generation iPad speeds saw "significant and noticeable results." AT&T iPhones are reportedly limited to 14.4Mbps HSDPA, despite the iPhone 5 being capable of 42.2Mbps DC-HSDPA+, and AT&T's 3G network supporting speeds up to 21.1Mbps. The carrier also reportedly limits LTE.

Throttling is said to be taking place on Verizon and Sprint as well, but not T-Mobile; Sprint's throttling happens only with 3G. Brown adds however that Apple has set band preferences for AT&T and T-Mobile that are causing signal issues, yet could easily be solved. The issues are allegedly being investigated by the companies, which could mean that they'll be fixed in a future iOS update.

It's speculated that Apple is restricting bandwidth in order to help carriers cope with the large amounts of data iOS users consume, without the carriers having to improve their infrastructure. Following the launch of the iPhone 3G, many people reported severe congestion on AT&T's network. The carrier has since resolved most serious complaints, but can still find itself overburdened whenever a city hosts a major event, such as SXSW in Austin.

by MacNN Staff



  1. jdonahoe

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 07-05-06

    I don't think I've ever gotten speeds that even came close to the throttled speed on my iphone, at least on 3G. I would be happy to get even the throttled speed.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    This is likely to be an attempt to provide for reasonable bandwidth for all users while reducing the overhead on the network to manage parsing bandwidth for 10s of thousands of users per second. Data hogs will no doubt be bummed they cannot access a cajillion terabytes of data in a millisecond, but the rest of the user base will like that they aren't held hostage by the data hogs.
    The implication is that there are limits imposed, and the reality is that it's true. Get over it.

    On the other hand, if you aren't EVER getting anywhere near the advertised transfer speeds, then it might be worth your time to get the attention of the various support departments to verify where the bottleneck is, and if available, take advantage of any authorized solutions, or transfer your account to a different service/product.

  1. mr100percent

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 12-06-99

    From what I read, the "throttling" is the phone picking the strongest signal instead of the fastest signal. If you apply the hack to pick the fastest, it might speed up your connection, but you're more likely to experience dropped calls & data connections.
    It just goes in line with Apple's entire design philosophy: quality over quantity (in this case, quality of connection over quantity of bandwidth).

    Considering my iPhone 5 did 50Mbps when LTE was turned on my county, I don't really think they're throttling or I don't care.

  1. gskibum3

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-25-06

    I'm sure glad the iPhone and iPad speeds aren't getting "naturally limited"!

    Really - what is "artificially limited" supposed to mean? In my world it would mean putting the kabash on jokers that think bandwidth and air are the same thing.

    I agree with Flying Meat. I'm on AT&T and the occasion that I do something bandwidth intensive while on the cellular network it works just fine. Unless I'm at a more rural location that is saturated with smartphones and the network is strained. I just wait until I'm on wi-fi to do most of my bandwidth intensive network access.

    I'm an IT pro and on my networks I throttle down bandwidth hogs with firewall rules all the time. One selfish-clueless user can make life miserable for the rest of the users.

  1. drbenru

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 01-20-07

    @gskibum3 But this is not about selectively throttling bandwidth hogs.

    Same location my iPhone 5 tops out at 15Mbps and my friend next to me on the same site tops out at 22Mbps on his Samsung SIII. This is about bandwidth throttling in the US only by AT&T and only to iPhone Users. They keep claiming that Android is the number one smartphone being used, then throttle them first if it is about bandwidth management.

    My iPhone 5 is factory unlocked and was rocking 26Mbps when I visited my father in law in the Czech Republic and they did not have LTE available on any carrier yet.

  1. ruel24

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-17-09

    Some of you Apple devotees will make excuses for Apple, no matter what they do. I'm an Apple fan, but I'm not happy about this at all. Verizon began charging more for plans, recently. I had unlimited, but the need to put my step-son on my account, I had to go with a limited account that is, now, more expensive than it previously was. So, for that I get a throttled 4G? I'm not happy! They sell you on having the fastest speeds out there. They sell you on all the things that you can do on these phones. Then, they artificially limit them so that you don't actually get what you were expecting? This is a crime, if you ask me.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    I don't know if you can hold Samsung up as a model of playing fair, but that information is useful when communicating with Apple, and your carrier. Truly, the prospect that iPhone users will leave in droves for Samsung devices, based on their transfer speed would be something Apple cares about. Likewise carriers.

    It may, or may not be, time to address a disparity of that magnitude, but I doubt the throttling is a shining example of Apple and the carriers just being mean. There is likely a reason. It may be outdated at this point, but I can only guess.

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