Testing RF Performance

Last Updated: 18-Jul-2013

Over the years the main concern for RF performance was the ability to make phone calls. While some people do still use smartphones for that purpose, the bulk of usage has shifted to data, and so I've decided to change my RF testing regime to focus upon the ability for a phone to move data.

As the signal gets weaker the data rate falls off, regardless of which technology is used. Subsequently, given the same underlying technology used by two test phones, the one that can sustain the highest data transfer rate has done the best job of keeping the RF signal clean and usable. It is therefore possible to compare this aspect of performance between a test phone and a reference sample and make a determination as which processes the best RF performance.

Over the years however, something else has happened in the industry that almost negates this test to begin with. There are only a handful of different chipsets available, and in the case of North America only one manufacturer that supports LTE. Because of that, just about every smartphone I test, regardless of manufacturer (or where in the world they build their phones) inevitably uses a Qualcomm chipset. Antenna design used to be hit or miss, but the theory behind that has been worked out and there also doesn't appear to be much difference in antenna performance from one device to another. The bottom line is that there just isn't much difference in RF performance between one phone and the next.