A GLOBAL LOOK AT MOBILE MODEM MARKET SHARE AND DEVICE PERFORMANCE
Analysts discuss the latest devices all the time, but rarely is enough attention paid to the phone’s real powerhouse — the modem. We were interested to see how market share for modem manufacturers divides up on a global level, so we investigated device data from Speedtest IntelligenceTM during Q3 2019. We also looked at how popular phones performed in different markets, including a look at 5G phones in 5G countries.
Global modem market share
Speedtest data showed Qualcomm was the most common modem manufacturer in 133 countries during Q3 2019 — the highest market share was in Hong Kong with 73.6% of the devices analyzed showing Qualcomm modems. Qualcomm’s slimmest majority was in Botswana with 25.6% of devices analyzed showing Qualcomm modems.
This is not surprising as Qualcomm chipsets power many flagship devices sold around the world. In the U.S., virtually all Android OEMs use Qualcomm-powered chipsets. The latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ mobile platform with Snapdragon X24 integrated LTE modem (up to 2Gbps) powers popular devices from Samsung, LG and OnePlus. It’s worth noting that Qualcomm has multi-year licensing deals with multiple OEMs based in China, namely Vivo, OPPO, Lenovo, Xiaomi and OnePlus, providing their complete modem-to-antenna solutions for optimal RF performance. This includes valuable RF Front End (RFFE) components such as power amplifiers, envelope trackers, RF switches, filters and antenna tuners.
These OEMs also have access to Qualcomm’s first and second generation 5G modems. As of right now, Qualcomm is also the only chipset manufacturer providing modem-to-antenna solutions for 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) deployments, providing all-in-one mmWave antenna modules that contain radio transceiver, RFFE and phased array antenna.
Intel was the most common modem manufacturer in 32 counties during Q3 2019. The highest percentage of devices with Intel modems was seen in Greenland at 55.6%. Intel’s slimmest majority was in South Africa with 28.6% of devices analyzed showing Intel modems. Intel’s main customer in the smartphone space is Apple. Starting in 2016, Apple began powering some iPhone devices with Intel’s flagship LTE chipsets, and since 2018, all iPhones have Intel’s cellular chipsets.
Samsung was the most common modem manufacturer in 16 countries during Q3 2019. South Korea had the highest percentage of devices with Samsung modems at 53.8%. Samsung’s slimmest majority was in Mozambique with 29.1% of devices analyzed powered by Samsung modems. Samsung’s Exynos LTE modem is seen in variants of Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note devices. Except in the Americas and China, most of Samsung’s flagship S10 and Note 10 devices around the world are powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 982x SoC (system on a chip), with an integrated LTE Category 20 modem capable of download speeds of up to 2 Gbps.
Speedtest data showed HiSilicon as the most common modem manufacturer in two countries during Q3 2019. In Costa Rica, 32.4% of devices analyzed showed HiSilicon modems, and in Namibia that number was 27.6%. HiSilicon is a semiconductor company based in Shenzhen and fully owned by Huawei. Huawei integrates its own flagship modem into its flagship P and Mate series devices. These devices have a large user base in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Device performance is affected by market factors
A phone’s performance is always going to depend on the conditions within its specific market. Factors affecting network performance can include: geography, cell site and population density, the amount of wireless spectrum deployed and the overall capabilities of user equipment seeded to market. Multiple factors can impact the performance of a device, including: varying degrees of RF transparency in the materials used for device chassis, variations in RF front-end and antenna design complexity and whether the baseband processor is more or less capable of handling network tasks. We used Speedtest data to analyze how three popular phones — the Apple iPhone Xs, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S10 — performed in specific markets around the world during Q3 2019. We excluded data from devices with fewer than 100 samples in a market during the period.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 was the fastest of these three devices in all but five markets during Q3 2019. However, the mean download speed on the Galaxy S10 varied between 18.06 Mbps in India and 95.91 Mbps in Canada. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro showed the fastest mean download speed of these three devices in France and the U.K. during Q3 2019 and often placed second in the remaining markets on the list. Mean download speed on the Mate 20 Pro during Q3 2019 ranged from 14.57 Mbps in India to 93.66 Mbps in Canada.
Apple’s iPhone Xs was at a slight disadvantage in this comparison, as it came out in 2018 where the other devices debuted in 2019. Because the iPhone 11 was not fully seeded to markets in Q3 2019, we considered its predecessor, the iPhone Xs, in this analysis. The iPhone Xs showed the fastest mean download speed in Germany, Japan and Nigeria during Q3 2019. Mean download speeds on the iPhone Xs varied from 15.92 Mbps in India to 71.72 Mbps in Canada.
Device performance in 5G markets
5G currently offers the pinnacle of mobile performance. We looked at 5G-capable devices in markets where 5G exists to see how download speeds compare. These results include Speedtest results on all technologies, not just 5G, which means averages also reflect consumers using 5G phones with a 4G connection.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G showed mean download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps in some markets during Q3 2019. However, there’s clearly some difference in which devices are supported by which operators, as not all operators in 5G markets are offering 5G equally (if at all). Related, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G models sold in the U.S. and China are powered by Qualcomm’s first-generation Snapdragon X50 5G modem, while other 5G markets receive the variant powered by Samsung’s in-house Exynos 5100 5G modem.
Mobile operators continue to incentivize consumers to upgrade to newer and more capable devices to ensure a more efficient use of spectrum assets for network operators. This leads to an improved utilization of shared resources, faster overall speeds and better quality of experience.
We’re looking forward to updating these analyses as more markets adopt 5G and as newer and even faster phones are released. For more information about how our device data can help you, contact us.