Last month, Apple unveiled the iPhone X with a starting price at a cool $999. Its facial recognition feature grabbed headlines for its impressive application of sensory mapping technologies as well as the screen which covers the whole of the front of the device. At GWS whether it’s a device side change such as an update to the firmware or operating system, or it’s on the network side such as the implementation of new LTE-A features – we conduct acceptance tests to ensure our diagnostic applications are properly measuring a wireless carrier’s performance.
Despite the iPhone being the most popular single handset on the market in the Western world, we are the only company to have integrated it along with Android devices into our benchmark testing. Most testing is performed on an Android device because it’s easier to extract core data. In particular, Apple does not let you root and gain control of the iPhone; they restrict access to the Layer 3 data – network data that lets you look in great depth at voice and data task processes as well as other key results when testing. Google and its associated hardware manufacturers do not restrict access to this data, a case of apples and pears, you might say.
Without the intricate Layer 3 data which details the network and voice performance experienced by the handset while in 3G, LTE or LTE-A mode, operators could find it a challenge to properly remedy common network issues that users face. As is often the case with Apple’s licensing arrangements, they do not offer integration with external platforms unless absolutely necessary. While it is still possible to monitor performance at a higher level including call attempts, call drops and accessibility to different networks on iOS, this alone is not the full spectrum of results that carriers need to effectively optimize their networks. So if you’re having a problem making a call with the new and very expensive iPhone X, it may be a real challenge to figure out the issue since access to critical performance info is not permitted. This is why Layer 3 data with these additional parameters is so important to everyone in the industry (and their customers).
We currently solve the above issue by using an array of advanced test equipment combined with rigorous and controlled collection methods. We collect data with both iPhone and Android devices as it offers 99% visibility into how the two main operating systems interact with the networks they rely upon. While iOS Layer 3 network data is unavailable, we do collect other key data points from our controlled iPhone tests including metrics involving throughputs, time-related data and voice tasks, and RF signal. Put another way – our OneMeasure diagnostic app platform has controlled test methods that go beyond the collection of basic data associated with data task failures, call attempts, drops and blocks. Overall, we collect a much broader spectrum of information across both platforms, which enable us to review, through comparison, if an iOS device is likely to perform differently in a certain area. For example, when testing mobile network accessibility, reliability and speed of data tasks across different carriers, we also compare and contrast iPhone results with results from tests conducted using Android devices (such as the Samsung S8). Further, we use other network test equipment to assist us in our performance evaluations.
Through the collection of Layer 3 data, through full control of the device, and rooted access to Android’s OS, we can identify what has caused weak spots in the network; for example, whether a failed call is due to an issue with a particular site, a site handover, 4G to 3G hand down, available PRB resources, VoLTE IMS messaging, or some other network feature (or perhaps it’s device or RF related). Unlike the widely hailed crowdsourced method of pooling network usage data, which only looks at surface level information for both iOS and Android, we are able to take a much more detailed look at network performance.
Networks are going through a significant metamorphosis, a major step up in capabilities — enabling access to new or enhanced devices, features and services. With LTE-A, IoT, connected cars, and 5G either on our doorstep or already in our doorway, there are and will be many new network puzzle pieces to consider and evaluate. Gaining access to critical iPhone performance metrics (access to Layer 3 type data on one of the most significant and prolific mobile devices), will greatly help us understand and assess customer experience in this new era of networks.