Entries tagged as A1530

State of LTE & VoLTE on iPhone 6S+ & older

LTE is the 4th generation (4G) wireless data communication standard that supersedes WCDMA and other 3rd generation (3G) ones. Unfortunately, the far more diverse range of frequencies that the carriers around the world uses for this standard is a big headache, especially for Apple.

This is because a single model of iPhone tries to support as much of the entire world as possible in order to simplify the lineup. iPhone 4S, the last model before LTE support, indeed came in a single model for the entire world. In contrast, iPhone 5 and 5S had to be split up into multiple models that each had differing LTE band support. This was largely because the chipset couldn't support all the needed bands at once.

This meant that an iPhone bought in one country may not support LTE in another country. With iPhone 5, you needed model A1429 (for Sprint and Verizon in US) if you wanted it to use LTE in Korea. A1428 (for AT&T and T-Mobile in US) wouldn't do. That may have been a factor in the Korean carriers not automatically enabling LTE for foreign phones until 2014.

An officially certified SK Telecom store in the neighbourhood

If you wanted to use LTE, you had to take your phone to a carrier branch or a certified store to have the device manually registered as being LTE capable. My AT&T iPhone 5S was put in as an "OMD Apple LTE Handset" on the SK Telecom network. Come 2014, though, this situation was largely resolved. Not only would your iPhone from overseas work with the LTE network, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus had worldwide LTE band support regardless of the specific model.

Situation is similar with iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, which adds a few more obscure or upcoming LTE bands on an already extensive array of support. There are still three specific models for each type, but one is for adding an upcoming AT&T-specific band 30 (A1633, A1634) and the other is for Chinese release (A1700, A1699). They are identical to the general model (A1688, A1687) otherwise.

Network registration changed from "OMD Default Handset" to "OMD Apple VoLTE_6S"

However, not everything is in the clear. VoLTE (LTE-based voice calls) support is still not a universally supported feature among phones and carriers are still enabling this on a manual basis as of this writing. Owners of internationally bought iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus still need a visit to the carrier branch or store.

I had two iPhone 6S Plus that came from overseas - one is a "SIM-Free" version from Japan that you saw in my earlier post and the other is from United States intended for T-Mobile network. Both are model A1687 and the same version expected to be sold in Korea in a few days' time (October 23, 2015). The former was registered at an SK Telecom branch office as "OMD Apple VoLTE", the same title my iPhone 6 Plus received last year. The latter was registered at a local certified SK Telecom store as "OMD Apple VoLTE_6S" as shown here. Only after doing this, and waiting for a while to let the network know of the change, did the VoLTE function start to work.

The interesting (or cumbersome) part of doing the registration at a certified store was that it required me to have a separate, pre-registered device that was not in use to help with the registration. According to the store, once I inserted the SIM card into my iPhone 6S Plus, the network automatically registered it under "OMD Default Handset" because it wasn't recognized. In order to change that, the SIM card had to be put into another device so as to make the 6S Plus not be associated with any SIM card. Only then could the re-registration could proceed. Branch offices didn't have this requirement, so I have to assume that the system provided to the store is limited compared to the branch.
Continue reading "State of LTE & VoLTE on iPhone 6S+ & older"

Summary of iPhone 6 Plus reviews

For nearly a month, I've been using my iPhone 6 Plus every day. As one of the first users of such device in Korea, I decided to take an in-depth look at its improvements and functions whenever I can, to show what the Korean users are going to get soon. Now all the hard work is done, and I present to you the summary of all the reviews I wrote about it.

iPhone 6 series will finally launch in Korea officially on October 31, 2014, according to Apple's official announcement, and carriers are preparing to accept pre-orders about a week before that. I hope these reviews will help you decide if iPhone 6 Plus is right for you.

Preview Summary
0. One of the first iPhone 6 Plus in Korea (2014-09-19)
Wesley gets his iPhone 6 Plus on the first launch day in Japan and brings it to Korea.
1. iPhone 6 Plus - Unboxing & First Look (2014-09-22)
The box containing the iPhone 6 Plus is opened up, and the phone is taken an all-around look. The bump caused by the camera lens is also examined.
2. Protecting my iPhone 6 Plus (2014-09-23)
Front and back side protection films are applied to the iPhone 6 Plus. Then, it is put inside a belt case intended for Galaxy Note series. Apple's own leather case is also tried out.
3. Sizing up the shape & size of iPhone 6 Plus (2014-09-23)
The size, thickness, and shape of the iPhone 6 Plus gets compared to other devices. It is first compared to other iPhones and iPads, then to a comparatively-sized Android smartphone.
4. iPhone 6 Plus - LTE Compatibility & Speed (2014-09-24)
Unlocked iPhone 6 Plus bought overseas is found to have LTE working on Korea's SKT & KT networks automatically. Also, real life LTE speed comparison is made between the 6 Plus and the 5S.
5. iPhone 6 Plus - VoLTE Compatibility (2014-09-25)
Initially, all calls were made in 3G mode despite changing the settings to allow VoLTE. To have the VoLTE actually working, a visit to an SKT branch office and a device registration process was needed.
6. Testing iPhone 6 Plus battery w/o bending (2014-09-29)
Real-life battery discharging and charging tests are performed simultaneously on iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5S to see the difference. Belt cases made sure the phones didn't bend.
7. iPhone 6 Plus - General Performance (2014-10-01)
Performance comparison across multiple apps are made between iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5S. This included 3DMark, Geekbench, and various JavaScript tests.
8. iPhone 6 Plus - Camera's Quality (2014-10-01)
Compared to iPhone 5S, the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus has improved dynamic range and enhanced night time photography performance. Image stabilization works well, too.
9. iPhone 6 Plus - Camera's Speed (2014-10-04)
The focusing performance of the iPhone 6 Plus is noticeably more advanced than iPhone 5S. Burst mode shooting and slow-motion video recording also saw improvements.
10. iPhone 6 Plus - M8 Motion Co-processor (2014-10-08)
The M8 motion co-processor and its new barometer are tested out by walking up the stairs and seeing how many floors are registered. Other uses are also taken a look at.
11. How far does iPhone 6+ & SKT's VoLTE go? (2014-10-13)
How the SK Telecom's network treats the attempts to make a VoLTE call from iPhone 6 Plus varies by how the person at the other end is connecting. All the possibilities are tested.
12. Thoughts on a month of iPhone 6 Plus use (2014-10-14)
Using the iPhone 6 Plus one-handed is not as convenient as Apple would hope. However, the big screen that caused this also offers many benefits that maybe considered as worthy trade-offs.

How far does iPhone 6+ & SKT's VoLTE go?

As I mentioned in the previous VoLTE post, all three major mobile carriers in Korea have been supporting VoLTE for quite some time now. One glaring problem, though, is that cross-carrier VoLTE still hasn't been realized, despite years of negotiations. This seem to have introduced some confusion. The truth is that a device can always request a VoLTE call, but it's up to the network to decide to go with it, and if so, fully or just on the surface.

In the case of LGU+, the carrier's aging "2G" CDMA network had been a weak point, so it worked hard to have everything done on LTE, even voice. That's why it'll accept a phone that can do VoLTE even if it doesn't support the needed CDMA frequency band - namely, the iPhone 6 series. ( One caveat is that they are not accepted for registration on the network yet until official Korean debut. This is largely a decision of policy, not technicality. ) If you have such a phone, all calls will be connected as VoLTE no matter what.

But in case of SK Telecom (SKT) or KT, their "3G" WCDMA networks are still widely used. So they don't have the urge to go fully LTE. A call could still be made on either 3G or LTE, depending on the situation. No handsets on these networks get to make all of its calls on VoLTE.

Since I'm on SKT, I made calls to various phone numbers on my VoLTE phone, iPhone 6 Plus, to see how they end up connecting, and what quality they were.

Case Caller 1 Caller 2 Connect 1 Connect 2 Quality
1 SKT VoLTE SKT VoLTE LTE LTE HD Voice
2 SKT VoLTE SKT 3G (AMR-WB) LTE 3G HD Voice
3 SKT VoLTE SKT 2G/3G LTE 2G/3G Normal
4 SKT VoLTE KT / LGU+ VoLTE LTE LTE Normal
5 SKT VoLTE KT / LGU+ 2G/3G LTE 2G/3G Normal
6 SKT VoLTE Landline (02 ~ 064) LTE Landline Normal
7 SKT VoLTE Toll Free (080) LTE Landline Normal
8 SKT VoLTE Special (15xx, 3-digit) 3G Landline Normal
9 SKT VoLTE VoIP (070) 3G Internet Normal

As of this writing, two types of phones on the SKT network, the VoLTE-enabled phones (case 1) and the AMR-WB supported phones without VoLTE (case 2), can make end-to-end HD Voice-quality calls to and from iPhone 6 Plus. AMR-WB codec is the same codec used by VoLTE, but some phones support this only on 3G at a lower bitrate, e.g. iPhone 5 and Xperia Ray.

As mentioned earlier, cross-carrier VoLTE agreements are not yet in place, so calling VoLTE phones on other networks (case 4) ends up degrading quality. I'm hoping this clears up soon because there's no technical reason to be like this.

Meanwhile, most calls connect via LTE, with the exception of special numbers such as the three-digit numbers (including emergency) and the 15xx, 16xx numbers that companies use (case 8), as well as the VoIP numbers with the 070 area code (case 9). I understand that these numbers don't connect with high-quality codecs so LTE connection isn't necessary, but it doesn't explain why regular landline connections do connect via LTE.

Summary of iPhone 5S reviews

Over the past 30 days of using the iPhone 5S, I've written several reviews of the phone on various aspects, as one of the first person to use it in Korea. I believe all the major points have been covered, and since the phone has been officially released in Korea last Friday, Here's a quick summary and link to each of the aspects that I took a look at.

1. Exterior [Click to Read]
Almost identical to iPhone 5 except the home button, flash, and colour.
The packaging box is smaller due to smaller charger.

2. Network Compatibility [Click to Read]
Unlocked iPhone 5S bought overseas will fully work in Korea, including LTE.

3. "Wideband" LTE Compatibility [Click to Read]
Yes, it's compatible.

4. Camera Speed [Click to Read]
At least twice as fast as iPhone 5. Slo-mo and burst modes work well.

5. Camera Quality [Click to Read]
Smoother photos, improved low light performance, and more natural flash.

6. Biometric Feature [Click to Read]
Convenient, fast, and moderately secure. Works with several body parts.

7. Motion Coprocessor [Click to Read]
Tracks your movement well without battery penalty. Great for fitness apps.

8. Performance Tests [Click to Read]
Twice as fast as iPhone 5 in CPU and GPU tests. LTE speeds remain the same.

9. Sensor Issues [Problems in iOS 7.0.2] [Fixed in iOS 7.0.3]
Accelerometer had calibration problems, but it was fixed in iOS 7.0.3.
Other sensors worked fine within margin of error.

10. Battery Performance [Click to Read]
Lasts slightly longer and charges slightly faster than iPhone 5.
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SKT "wide band" LTE on iPhone 5S

Screen shots of wide band LTE operation and speed on iPhone 5S
Wide band LTE supported, but actual speeds vary

These screenshots tell you about the reality of SKT (Korea's #1 mobile carrier by subscriber count) LTE network working on iPhone 5S.

First of all, the so-called "wide band" LTE does work on it. In the "Serving Cell Info" within Field Test app, "Download Bandwidth" shows 20MHz, which is twice as wide as the regular LTE service. "Freq Band Indicator" says 3, which means it's operating at Band 3 (1800MHz). This is SKT's secondary LTE frequency, as well as where the wide band service is provided.

SKT's cell towers with Band 3 support, let alone being wide band, is currently limited largely to Seoul metropolitan area. In fact, these screenshots were shot at Samseong subway station in Gangnam district (yes, THAT Gangnam), the area which can arguably be called the central business center of Korea.

SKT has just started bringing wide band support to Band 3 towers last month, with 10 districts (out of 25) in Seoul getting the treatment as of today. Nationwide deployment is said to be done by mid-2014. So while SKT is blasting away advertisement about how it has both LTE-A and wide band LTE, the people who can enjoy them is pretty limited, to say the least. KT (#2 carrier) is said to be slightly ahead, as it claims full deployment in all of Seoul at the end of last month.

The screenshot on the right shows the speed measurement, showing 33.1Mbps down and 5.30Mbps up. iPhone 5S can do 100Mbps downstream given the wide band support, but it only gets 1/3 of that. Of course, getting this much speed in the bustling commute of a large business zone is not unimpressive. But unless conditions are perfectly met, you won't see anything like the speeds that the ads are so proud to show you. Of course, you knew that already.

What it also means is that the maximum speeds that wide band LTE can supposedly provide, 150Mbps, isn't really going to be missed by iPhone 5S supporting "only" 100Mbps max. So prepare to enjoy your iPhone 5S - Apple says it'll be coming to Korea on October 25th.
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