It seems the first week with the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max isn’t as sweet as it should be for some. A growing number of users are reporting poor Wi-Fi and LTE performance with both of Apple’s newest flagships.
The problem could be caused by an “antenna issue,” one report claims.
The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max should have better connectivity than any other iPhone. Both handsets feature three new radio technologies: 4×4 MIMO, QAM, and LAA — which should mean faster and more reliable performance on Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
That’s certainly the case for most users, who are enjoying faster download and upload speeds. For some, however, connectivity could be better.
iPhone XS and XS Max connectivity woes
Users are taking to online forums like Reddit and Apple Support Communities to complain about poor Wi-Fi and LTE performance. It seems their new devices have trouble maintaining connectivity — even thought their previous iPhones worked just fine.
“I’m in the same boat, in places where my iPhone 7 Plus and iPad (2017) are able to connect to the 5ghz network just fine, the XS has trouble,” explains one user. “It only shows two bars and doesn’t maintain the connection that well. Really disappointing.”
“Same here on my XS (not Max),” writes another. “My X connected to 5ghz all the time, but even right next to my access point, the phone is kicking over to 2.4ghz. I suspect I’m going to have a tough time when I go to the office tomorrow and we have a 5ghz only network.”
Could this be caused by buggy software or faulty hardware? Andrew Shepherd of the networking blog WiWavelength believes he may know the answer.
‘Antenna issue’ could be to blame
Shepherd has analyzed the radio frequency performance of the iPhone XS and XS Max using the lab test measurements disclosed in their FCC authorization filings. Some of the data raises “potential red flags,” he explains.
“Now, both iPhone XS and XS Max this year incorporate four antennas operational across many but not all bands. That antenna diversity in and of itself is a good thing.
“However, even with the four antennas — and possibly because of the four antennas crammed inside — antenna gain is universally negative. And simultaneous transmission from multiple antennas is not possible due to a ‘break before make’ switching mechanism among the antennas.”
This is particularly concerning for those with weaker cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity.
Apple may be able to fix the problem with software
Shepherd notes that a software update could fix this problem.
“Yes, iOS revisions and/or carrier updates can tweak the way the baseband modem interacts with wireless networks at large. And, from an end user perspective, this can improve (or degrade) perceived performance,” he writes.
“However, what software cannot do is update physical qualities locked in during design and manufacturing.”
If a software update doesn’t work, then, the only real fix for this issue would be a hardware alteration. Apple obviously isn’t going to recall all iPhone XS and XS Max units and make that alteration, so affected users would either have to live with it or downgrade.