Is Apple throttling data speeds on iPhones and iPads for carriers?

By , Jun 5, 2013

iPhone 4S Verizon LTE

Joseph Brown, the guy behind the recent string of hacked carrier updates, has posted a rather interesting report this morning on why he thinks the hacks have been so successful. And the reason may just surprise you.

As it turns out, Brown has discovered that Apple is working with wireless carriers to implement coding in iOS to purposely slow down or limit the data speeds a device can achieve. And yes, he has the proof to back it up…

From Brown’s report on iTweakiOS:

“Apple and the carriers have implented coding to purposely slow down or limit the data speeds the device can achieve. “But, why would they do this?” you may ask. Well, every single reason as to why is simply something we can’t answer. However, from previous statements released by AT&T and many tech orginizations, iPhones are very complex devices with a very complex OS. The OS eats much more data, even when in idle mode, than most phones on the market. So by carrier request, Apple limits devices to “even out” the network, even if it means Galaxy users out perform Apple devices by such large scales.”

He then goes on to post a series of screenshots of code he pulled from the various carrier settings files inside iOS. He has one for each major US carrier, although he says that T-Mobile is actually not guilty of the data throttling.

For example, here’s his analysis of AT&T:

AT&T 3G Throttle

“Here in this snapshot of AT&T’s network settings, you can see they have limited the iPhone 5 to Category 10 (14.4Mbps) HSDPA, even though their network is actually capable of up to Category 14 (21.1Mbps) HSDPA+ and the iPhone 5 “officially” supports up to category 24 (42.2Mbps) DC-HSDPA+. For those of you wondering, HSDPA is the downlink channel or “download side” of the 3G/4G HSPA(+) network.”

AT&T LTE Throttling

“Here we can see what is quite obvious to, really, anyone at this point from being jerked around so much by carriers. Yes folks, this is throttling coding. When we made the AT&T Hacked Carrier Update, this was the first line of coding to be scrapped when the project started. Immediately, through my testing on an AT&T iPhone 5 and iPad 4th generation, there were significant and noticeable results.”

Unfortunately, most of this stuff goes over my head. But if legitimate, this could upset a lot of iPhone and iPad users that not only pay extra for top-notch hardware, but also high speed wireless service from their carrier.

To learn more, you can read Brown’s full report here. And you can find more details on the aforementioned carrier hacks for Sprint here, Verizon here, and AT&T here.

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  • http://tewha.net/ Steven Fisher

    Seriously? Of course iOS has the option in there. If your carrier sets it too low, complain or move.

    I mean, it’s worth knowing about, but don’t be shocked. Networks are fiendishly complex. The ability to limit bandwidth if necessary is just common sense. And for every network that’s listed as not having limits, you have no idea if it’s actually faster or not.

    • Mohammed Sahib

      Wow. People can justify anything. IMO it is shameful what apple and the carriers did (if true).

      • http://tewha.net/ Steven Fisher

        If you downclock a CPU with an external timer, how is it the CPU maker’s fault?

        Blame the carriers. Blaming Apple for allowing additional configuration to the carriers is absurd. After all, any carrier could do this on an Android phone as well. Would you blame the phone maker or Google for the carrier’s configuration? I doubt it. In fact, I keep reading otherwise.

        Android’s open means open to carriers. Don’t be surprised when they demand major concessions like this of other phones; they have the leverage now.

      • Mohammed Sahib

        Remember how apple keeps tight control over iOS platform? Your point is not valid.

    • seyss

      easy to say huh. if that’s so easy as “complain or move”, YOU should do all the work involved for people to just “move” from one carrier to another. wake up to the real world amigo.

    • chris125

      Except it’s only apple that sets it that low. Android/wp/bb isn’t doing this…

      • Rickm_jr

        Well it is entirely possible that during the field testing of the OS, when discussing with Apple the performance and results of testing they realized iOS would take up more bandwidth than Android and requested that Apple implement the code to balance the network.

      • http://tewha.net/ Steven Fisher

        Except Apple doesn’t provide those configuration files. Whining about it would be like whining about Microsoft Windows allowing a third party driver.

      • chris125

        Then who is? Because these aren’t on any other OS/phones on the carriers, so it is apple providing the files in their devices.

    • genXhippie

      You must be a “yes” man, a suit from comments. :(

  • Victor Rosales

    Damn you carriers

  • Bill Slenter

    No one wants to be throttled, but the only thing worse than being throttled is finding your local tower is overwhelmed and can’t give you data service at all. We’ve gotten used to metering lights on our freeways, so what’s so much worse about this?

    • Gorgonphone

      Happens to the best of us at times

  • Maxim∑

    there might be another reason that we arent aware of

  • Linton Findlay

    Any way to do these hacks yourself, wouldnt mind checking my UK carrier

  • Ahmadjoon

    iPhone 4s with LTE!
    Someone tell me it is one of those hacks!!!!

    • pegger1

      iPhone 4S doesn’t do LTE

      • chris125

        Look at the image, the 4s shows it has lte which isn’t the case…

  • Omar-PR-

    Download ONAVO.app

    You see all Problems Resolve !!

  • Mark Thmas

    Is this a picture of the iPhone 4 or 4S WITH LTE???

    • Omar-PR-

      IPHONE 5 is in LTE !!!

      • Billy Jones

        But in the picture it portrays an iPhone 4 or 4S. You can see by the location of the camera and proximity sensor. In reply to mark, the iPhone 4 and 4S does not have LTE support.

  • DarekSlaby

    I’ve been saying this for months! I switch my phone to an android and I was getting much faster speeds. I then went back to my iPhone and the speeds continued but for some reason AT&T has an exclusive data plan that enables FaceTime and visual voicemail on the iPhone. As soon as I called AT&T to switch me back to my iPhone plan my data speeds dropped.

    • Gorgonphone

      Lol carriers also want you to buy their crappy androis stick that stirs on shelves while iphones move like hot cakes

  • Cris Franco

    Fine, it’s throttled. Now where’s the Cydia tweak to unthrottle it?

    • Omar-PR-

      Download ONAVO.app

      • genXhippie

        I can’t find ONAVO,which repo?

      • Omar-PR-

        is in AppStore :)

  • Chris Longden

    Just checked on my iPhone, EE in the UK (LTE) not throttled. :)

    • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

      Where are the files stored?

      • Chris Longden

        /system/library/carrier bundles/iPhone/orange_uk.bundle/overrides_n41_n42.pri is the file I was looking at.

    • Gorgonphone

      Mine is fine on at&t also lol fast fast as hell on lte

  • Mkondrak

    Is there a hacked carrier update for iPhone 4S/4?

  • WaterOz

    The carrier hack works great… fyi… at least it has on my iPhone 5 on AT&T. I saw speeds more than double on LTE (and I’m pretty sure my voice side is working better as well – I don’t seem to be dropping calls where I used to). It’s great!

    • Albert

      my download speed stayed the same but my upload speed tripled… useless to me lol.

  • steve00000

    No throttle on 3 (Three) uk :D

    • YzMENTALzY

      Yeah man three is truly unlimited i love my iphone 5 on three get speeds of 29mbps on 3G (DC-HSPA) imagine when they bring out 4G later this year

      • steve00000

        29mbps? Wow I only get 5-6 at most :/

      • YzMENTALzY

        Depends on area tbh check it late night ul see difference and on peak time i get 7-8meg

      • Klikkit

        truly unlimited? what has unlimited got to do with throttling?

        Also, once the 4G is released (they are using EE’s spectrum), the speeds will remain at about 30mbps because of everyone saturating it. atm I get around 50-60mbps on my iPhone 5, though I never use 4G because of the battery drain

      • YzMENTALzY

        Well if you throttle speeds its making you use up less data and charge you more thats why unlimited data has got alot to do with it. Its called packet data for a reason it gives you data in packets which is distributed fairly to users. For example if you have unlimited data the chances are you will have less chances of being throttled hence why speeds are so slow as i said it also depends on area.

        Yes i agree they will be using some of EE’s 800MHz spectrum but also bought a chunk of their own 1800MHz and 800MHz is unreliable and reasonable at best because it messes with the freeview spectrum. EE is also charging too much for 4G whereas Three will not charge the extra for unlimited as there isnt enough money in 4G plus EE’s coverage is crap so many people got put off EE’s prices and moved my friends being the few in a majority and the friends that still have it are having trouble with the coverage and the speeds. You are the lucky ones to get 4G as for your battery issues try bringing your brightness down a tad bit it helps.

      • Klikkit

        1: Unlimited plans are MORE likely to be throttled than someone on a limited plan, networks don’t want people torrenting/downloading/replacing their home broadband/using all the bandwidth with their unlimited data plans

        2: EE use the 1800Mhz spectrum

        3: EE’s coverage is fine, I’m yet to go somewhere that doesn’t provide my phone with the LTE symbol and a speed of at least 37Mbps (my slowest recorded LTE Download speed since November out of over 210 tests) So it’s not a case of being lucky to get it, it’s a case of being extremely unlucky to not get it

        4: I have brightivator on my phone

      • YzMENTALzY

        Im not too sure about that one then but im not getting throttled so maybe im one of the lucky ones

      • http://klikkit.co.uk/ Jake – Klikkit

        you don’t know if you’re getting throttled, you could just be taking what you get for granted, when in fact you have the capability to receive 2x what you get.

        None of us know for sure regardless of what’s said

      • YzMENTALzY

        Yes but im on dc hspa not on 4G so i know that would be my maximum

  • Daniel Hernández

    I wonder how legal this practice is?

    • genXhippie

      Yes, tell me about.

  • Adrian12369

    I noticed after the carrier update for tMobile iPhones(the one that changed the 3G icon to 4g on the 4s)the speed definitely slowed down.

  • Joe Benning

    Hell, AT&T throttles me at 3GB on “unlimited” data plan! Wow, ATT/Apple! Way to keep screwing everyone!

  • Gorgonphone

    This is true on ios 5 there was a tweak called tcpip expander or something that removed apples crapy limits

  • Kevin Paterson

    Virgin Australia and Optus Australia are NOT throttled :D

  • Bing Beta

    get that fake lte logo out of there

  • Evad3_Me

    It may take a while, but hopefully google will come to the carrier market too and dominate just like they’re beginning to do with google fiber.

    • razor11

      Google has already come to the carrier remember the galaxy nexus it was on verizon and sprint

      • Rickm_jr

        No as in an actual carrier

      • Klikkit

        you’re confusing phone manufacturer with a mobile network

  • jose carlos

    I always knew that this was possible. This is why I hate apple cellphone companies I love when they get a taste of their iwn medicine.I NEVER sign contact for cell phones and it looks like they’ll be fading away too.A punch of LEGAL GANGSTERS!

  • programguy

    Ouch.

  • JoshuaHulgan

    This article should be updated to reflect the Anandtech article’s findings.

    • genXhippie

      Well,something is definitely going on behind the scenes, if the hack(s) actually work. If not, how else would the working hack(s) be explained?

      • JoshuaHulgan

        This may or may not work. Need more than anecdotal evidence. I applied the hack and thought it worked but after looking at my results it’s apparent it’s all over the place for who knows what reasons. Even in the comment forums of iTweakiOS it’s all over the place with people’s results.
        I think if he believed in his ‘findings’ he would’ve stood by his work.
        Maybe we’ll hear more about it soon.

      • Guest

        This may or may not work. Need more than anecdotal evidence. I applied the hack and thought it worked but after looking at my results it’s apparent it’s all over the place for who knows what reasons. Even in the comment forums of iTweakiOS it’s all over the place with people’s results.
        I think if he believed in his ‘findings’ he would’ve stood by his work.
        Maybe we’ll hear more about it soon.