Entries tagged as A1533

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.

Thoughts on a month of iPhone 6 Plus use

How far my thumbs go - iPhone 6 Plus (left) & iPhone 5S (right)

In my iPhone 6 Plus reviews, I've been focusing on the functions. But before wrapping this series up, I'd like to touch on the usability part. There will be a lot of existing iPhone users who's going to contemplate whether the huge screen is worth the risk. While iPhone 6 feels like a slightly enlarged iPhone 5S, 6 Plus is halfway to an iPad, a device that generally needs two hands to properly use.

Unlike an iPad, you can hold an iPhone 6 Plus with one hand just fine. This is due to its thinness and relative lightness. Using it in that manner is another matter, though. As you can see in the photo, the stretched screen of iPhone 5S (compared to 4S and earlier) already put some strain on the user's thumb when reaching the top corners. With iPhone 6 Plus, the thumb can realistically reach only about half of the screen area.

Using Reachability on iPhone 6 Plus to access top corners

So what did Apple do about it? It added a feature called "Reachability" to iPhone 6 series. When you tap (not click) the home button twice quickly, the whole screen slides down half way for a while. This is supposed to let you be able to touch the unreachable area, enabling you to touch anywhere with one hand.

In practice, though, still doesn't fully solve my problem of reaching the opposite top corner with my thumb, where navigation buttons usually reside. This is because the phone became wider as it has become tall. I could temporarily adjust the grip, but that increases the risk of dropping the phone.

Some apps get around this problem by providing the edge dragging gesture for navigating backward and forward. Thanks to this, Apple's default apps like Safari can be used with one hand more or less okay. But there are still a lot of apps that don't support this. So in essence, the Reachability is more of a temporary fix for when you have no choice but to hold the iPhone 6 Plus with one hand. If you can, don't hesitate to hold the phone with two hands. It's much better that way.
Continue reading "Thoughts on a month of iPhone 6 Plus use"

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.

iPhone 6 Plus - M8 Motion Co-processor

  
iOS 8's Health app shows the stair climbing recorded by iPhone 6 Plus

Last year, iPhone 5S came with a motion co-processor called M7 that can collect various sensor data relating to iPhone's motion. The most notable use for this was recording how many steps a user took while carrying the device. In other words, the device acted as a pedometer. This year, iPhone 6 series has updated the co-processor to M8 and added another sensor - a barometer. The Health app that comes with iOS 8 makes an immediate use of this. It records how many floors the user has climbed, adding another dimension of knowledge to the user's movement.

  
Argus widget on iPhone 5S (left) and iPhone 6 Plus (right)

Apps that are updated to use the Healthkit in iOS 8, such as Argus, can read this stair climbing data. The notification widget from Argus is able to display the number of floors I moved up during the day if I'm using an iPhone 6 Plus. If I'm using an iPhone 5S, there's no such data available, so the widget simply doesn't mention it at all.

While I'm comparing the data from both devices, I should note is that the pedometer function acted very similarly between each other. However, as you can see in the pictures, iPhone 5S consistently recorded a bit more steps than iPhone 6 Plus, for some reason. Perhaps the bigger form factor and weight of the 6 Plus dampened the recorded movement a bit.
Continue reading "iPhone 6 Plus - M8 Motion Co-processor"

Copyright (C) 1996-2016 Wesley Woo-Duk Hwang-Chung. All rights reserved.