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Summer of 6&9: Samsung and HTC Rock Out with Their Flagships for the Season

Posted by WiWavelength , in Author: Andrew J. Shepherd 03 March 2015 · 20,438 views

Samsung Galaxy S6 Galaxy S6 Edge HTC One M9 carrier aggregation CCA/RRPP
Summer of 6&9:  Samsung and HTC Rock Out with Their Flagships for the Season by Andrew J. Shepherd
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates

Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 12:15 PM MST


I got my first real smartphone.
Bought it at the five and dime.
Browsed S4GRU 'til my fingers bled.
Was the summer of 6&9.

Spring has not quite yet sprung for a few more weeks. But with the annual Mobile World Congress just wrapping up today in Barcelona, new smartphones that likely will dominate the mobile landscape through most of the summer are starting to sprout. Germinating at the FCC OET (Office of Engineering and Technology) over the past few days have been authorization filings for the Sprint variants of the Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and HTC One M9. Get ready for the summer of 6&9.

S4GRU started a tradition of FCC OET authorization articles right around this time in 2012 with the debut of Sprint's first LTE devices. So, to celebrate the third birthday in our long running series, let us take a look at the cellular RF capabilities of this latest threesome of Samsung Galaxy and HTC One handsets.

To begin, all three devices follow what has been for the past 18 months the standard Sprint variant configuration: tri band LTE, non SVLTE, single RF path with e/CSFB. No surprises there. On top of Sprint tri band LTE, the three handsets also cover the CCA/RRPP LTE bands -- with one possible caveat for the One M9. More details on that later.

As an aside, Qualcomm is changing up its baseband modem branding and numbering schemes. Previously, branding was Gobi and numbering was, to use one example, MDM9625 for standalone modem chipsets. Then, many Snapdragon processor chipsets also included the same modems on die -- a la the Snapdragon 800, aka MSM8974, which integrated the same stack as in the standalone MDM9625. Branding is now changing universally to Snapdragon and numbering, to use just one example again, will follow the X10 LTE pattern. That last example is the Snapdragon 810's brand new LTE category 9 modem, which has no standalone modem precursor. But other rebranded and renumbered examples with their standalone precursors include the Snapdragon X5 LTE (MDM9625), Snapdragon X7 LTE (MDM9635), and Snapdragon X12 LTE (MDM9645).

That Qualcomm background is useful as we will start the rundown with the One M9, which incorporates the Snapdragon 810 with X10 LTE chipset. To cut straight to the chase, below are the tested ERP/EIRP figures:
  • Band class 0: 20 dBm
  • Band class 1: 25 dBm
  • Band class 10: 20 dBm
  • Band 2: 25 dBm
  • Band 4: 23 dBm
  • Band 12: 18 dBm
  • Band 25: 25 dBm
  • Band 26: 17 dBm
  • Band 41: 23 dBm
For reference, and this will pertain to the ERP/EIRP figures cited later for the Samsung devices, too, the above figures represent our best averaged and rounded estimates of max uplink ERP/EIRP -- with uniquely Sprint frequencies receiving heavier weighting in band class 10, band 25, and band 26. Of course, the usual disclaimers about lab testing versus real world performance apply.

Now, to provide some analysis, RF output looks relatively healthy, somewhere in the better than average range. And it generally, albeit minimally trumps that of its HTC One M8 predecessor -- see our S4GRU article from last year.

The aforementioned caveat about CCA/RRPP bands is that the FCC OET filing for the One M9 does not include separate testing of band 5. Now, that may not indicate omission of band 5 -- because band 26 is a superset of all band 5 frequencies. But we cannot guarantee that the One M9 will attach to band 5 roaming networks without MFBI for band 26.

Two other omissions are worthy of note. First, the FCC OET documents offer no mention of band 41 carrier aggregation capabilities. This may or may not be cause for concern. Current carrier aggregation is downlink reception only, not uplink transmission. And FCC OET testing is just the opposite -- uplink transmission only, not downlink reception. As such, the testing is not required to include carrier aggregation. We do know that the Snapdragon 810 with X10 LTE supports up to 3x 20 MHz FDD/TDD carrier aggregation, so we expect that 2x or 3x band 41 carrier aggregation is on board. S4GRU will follow up if more info becomes available.

Second, the One M9 was not tested, thus is not authorized for domestic GSM/W-CDMA bands. Rabid phone unlockers under the new Sprint domestic unlocking policy, consider yourselves forewarned.

Finally, the One M9 docs suggest VoLTE support at launch. But Sprint has no established timeline for VoLTE, so take that with a grain of salt. It could be just a latent capability.

Moving on to the galactic federation, Samsung has split its Galaxy S6 offerings in two this year, offering a separate Galaxy S6 Edge as a step up version. With one possible exception, both Galaxy S6 handsets have the same RF capabilities. However, their ERP/EIRP figures are not identical, so they are broken out separately below:

Samsung Galaxy S6:
  • Band class 0: 17 dBm
  • Band class 1: 23 dBm
  • Band class 10: 17 dBm
  • Band 2: 22 dBm
  • Band 4: 23 dBm
  • Band 5: 16 dBm
  • Band 12: 21-17 dBm (declining with increasing carrier bandwidth)
  • Band 25: 22 dBm
  • Band 26: 16 dBm
  • Band 41: 16 dBm
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge:
  • Band class 0: 18 dBm
  • Band class 1: 22 dBm
  • Band class 10: 18 dBm
  • Band 2: 22 dBm
  • Band 4: 24 dBm
  • Band 5: 17 dBm
  • Band 12: 17 dBm
  • Band 25: 22 dBm
  • Band 26: 17 dBm
  • Band 41: 19-11 dBm (declining with decreasing center frequency)
As for analysis, both Galaxy S6 variants are about average -- with the Galaxy S6 Edge holding generally a 1 dB "edge," pun intended. Neither, though, holds up to the tested RF output of the One M9. Some surmise that Samsung's much debated shift in handset materials this year from largely cheap feeling plastic to more premium metal and glass has had a detrimental effect on RF design and performance. We cannot jump to that conclusion, but the RF falloff does become even more apparent in comparison to last year's Samsung Galaxy S5 -- again, see our article.

In particular, band 41 EIRP is disappointing. A higher frequency band should precipitate higher RF output. But that is not the case this year, as the band 41 uplink maximum for both Samsung handsets drops 4-7 dB below that of the One M9 and fully 6-9 dB below that of the Galaxy S5.

Also, the band 41 extreme frequency differential in the Galaxy S6 Edge is disconcerting. It is up to 8 dB better in high BRS spectrum than in low EBS spectrum. Meanwhile, multiple band 41 center frequencies in BRS/EBS spectrum will vary from market to market, so performance will also vary. If using the Galaxy S6 Edge on band 41, you better hope for EARFCN 40978 or greater.

Alright, that less than good news out of the way, let us move on to more positive things. The Samsung Galaxy S6 handsets are LTE category 6 -- with explicitly noted support for 2x band 41 carrier aggregation. More on that, too, later. They also have been tested and authorized for domestic GSM/W-CDMA bands, so unlocking in the future for use on other domestic operators may be possible. VoLTE, though, is noted as not supported out of the box. It is, however, on board other Galaxy S6 variants, thus could be added later with a Class II Permissive Change filing and potentially a software update.

Now, back to LTE category 6. In addition to its material design change this year, Samsung has also broken lockstep with Qualcomm, choosing to forgo the 64 bit, octa core Snapdragon 810 processor in favor of its in house 64 bit, octa core Exynos 7420. S4GRU does not traffic in application processor chipset holy wars -- there are plenty of other sites for that. But this chipset change has other ramifications. Unlike the Snapdragon 810, the Exynos does not have a baseband modem on die. Thus, Samsung has had to include a separate modem chipset. And, unfortunately, the full identity of that modem remains a mystery. We know of another Samsung in house chipset -- the Exynos Modem 333 or SS333 -- that could provide the category 6 LTE connectivity, possibly even full 3GPP connectivity.

However, for Sprint, that still leaves lingering 3GPP2 (CDMA2000). Is it provided by a second modem, meaning a third chipset? Could it be a reappearance of the notorious VIA Telecom CDMA2000 modem? S4GRU sincerely hopes not. Or maybe Qualcomm is still on board, not in the processor, but in its aforementioned Snapdragon X7 LTE (MDM9635) category 6 LTE standalone 3GPP/3GPP2 baseband, which supports the same 2x 20 MHz FDD/TDD carrier aggregation. Time will tell.

Well, that is a wrap for this set. If you are young and restless with the Samsung Galaxy S6s and HTC One M9, will you wonder what went wrong? Or will the summer of 6&9 be the best days of your mobile life?

Discuss in the comments.



Sources: FCC, Bryan Adams




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shannonbrian
Mar 05 2015 12:57 PM
You know your getting older when u can sing this song word for word.

According to the RDFs, its the MDM9635 modem, but the CPU is listed as ISTOR...

 

Open in Internet Explorer...

http://device.sprint...-SPRINT/OC1.rdf

http://device.sprint...-SPRINT/OC1.rdf

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themuffinman
Mar 05 2015 01:41 PM
Awesome article as always, I kinda figured the m9 would be better than the m8 and I also had doubts about samsung because of the change in materials. With that said, I will be getting one of each regardless but I really hope the s6 edge proves to be a better performer in real world use.
Thanks for a great article, as always. I think personally, I am going to wait and see what the LG G4 will look like before I decide which of this year's flagships I might get. While I like the new look of the S6, the lack of expandable storage and the indications of possibly so-so reception are significant disadvantages.

You know your getting older when u can sing this song word for word.

 

You know you're getting way older when you can't.

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The_Chemist
Mar 05 2015 05:37 PM

You know your getting older when u can sing this song word for word.

 

 

I have it on vinyl!

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WiWavelength
Mar 05 2015 06:53 PM

You know your getting older when u can sing this song word for word.

 

 

I have it on vinyl!

 

On vinyl, eh?  Was that on vinyl LP?  Or was it on 8-track left sitting on the vinyl seats of your T-top Camaro -- while you went inside the salon to get a trim and perm for your mullet?

 

;)

 

AJ

Back on topic guys.

Great summary as always AJ on 2 of the flagship phones for 2015.  As for me, I am going to wait until the LG G4 comes out and hopefully it provides some better numbers/features than the S6 and M9.  

On vinyl, eh?  Was that on vinyl LP?  Or was it on 8-track left sitting on the vinyl seats of your T-top Camaro -- while you went inside the salon to get a trim and perm for your mullet?

 

;)

 

AJ

 

59932702.jpg

Why aren't there any clear cut phone winners? I'm in the market now for a new phone, but all of my options suck!

1) Strong RF.

2) CCA\RRPP bands

3) Waterproof

4) Wireless charging through a Seidio, Otter, whatever heavy duty case

5) SD card support

6) Removable battery

I think that's my wish list in order.

Why aren't there any clear cut phone winners? I'm in the market now for a new phone, but all of my options suck!

1) Strong RF.

2) CCA\RRPP bands

3) Waterproof

4) Wireless charging through a Seidio, Otter, whatever heavy duty case

5) SD card support

6) Removable battery

I think that's my wish list in order.

 

Same boat as me.......

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newgroundsguru
Mar 06 2015 09:56 AM

So what i get from this is that the M9 has a much better RF then the M7 and a bit better then both the samsung phones?

59932702.jpg

 

camaro.jpg

"Could it be a reappearance of the notorious VIA Telecom CDMA2000 modem?"

please-no-more.gif

It might be MediaTek in the VZW/Sprint S6s instead of either VIA or Qualcomm; see the bottom of this AnandTech piece:

 

http://www.anandtech...eady-in-silicon

 

There's apparently some sort of deal between Samsung and MediaTek: http://www.gsmarena....-news-11431.php

Eh....

 

The Galaxy doesn't have everything, but it does have enough to keep me interested. As far as its RF performance, I'm coming from a single band Galaxy S3. Band 25 looks comparable between the two so everything else is just extra!

 

Source:

 

http://s4gru.com/ind...aunch-imminent/

Man, what a hard decision.  I told myself no more HTC because both of our M8 phones get 1 lousy bar of LTE800 at our house... yet both also get 4-5 bars of 3G on 1900MHZ from the same tower.  It won't reliably hold on to that LTE, either.  My friend with his Samsung Galaxy Note 3 gets 3-4 bars of LTE here and that's on 1900MHZ.  If the M9 has the same reception capabilities as the M8, I'll have to pass.  The numbers tell one story, but my real world experience tells another.  I hope the S6 doesn't suck as much as the numbers here indicate.

Do we know any more information about the modem yet since the pre-orders have begun for the S6ers? 

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WiWavelength
Mar 27 2015 10:18 AM

Do we know any more information about the modem yet since the pre-orders have begun for the S6ers? 

 

Someone posted that the T-Mobile variant utilizes Samsung's own baseband, hence the Exynos Modem 333/SS333 that we reported in the article.  But that is all of the additional info at this point.  We still do not know what baseband(s) the CDMA2000 variants employ.

 

AJ

Both AT&T and T-Mobile (and Canadian) variants are utilizing in-house Samsung's Shannon 333 modem all with full 3GPP support. AT&T also has it listed under tech specs: http://i.imgur.com/Cp40iCY.png

 

Because of the lack of 3GPP2 support in Shannon 333, my educated guess that Sprint/Verizon baseband processor would be Qualcomm's MDM9635. 

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WiWavelength
Mar 28 2015 11:33 AM

Reddit has driven a significant uptake in recent traffic to this article.

 

http://www.reddit.co..._s6_and_htc_m9/

 

AJ

Both AT&T and T-Mobile (and Canadian) variants are utilizing in-house Samsung's Shannon 333 modem all with full 3GPP support. AT&T also has it listed under tech specs: http://i.imgur.com/Cp40iCY.png

 

Because of the lack of 3GPP2 support in Shannon 333, my educated guess that Sprint/Verizon baseband processor would be Qualcomm's MDM9635. 

 

Someone posted that the T-Mobile variant utilizes Samsung's own baseband, hence the Exynos Modem 333/SS333 that we reported in the article.  But that is all of the additional info at this point.  We still do not know what baseband(s) the CDMA2000 variants employ.

 

AJ

I think you guys missed this post

 

According to the RDFs, its the MDM9635 modem, but the CPU is listed as ISTOR...

 

Open in Internet Explorer...

http://device.sprint...-SPRINT/OC1.rdf

http://device.sprint...-SPRINT/OC1.rdf

Photo
WiWavelength
Apr 01 2015 07:22 AM

I think you guys missed this post

 

No, we did not miss it.  Both Milan in his comment and I in my article mention the likelihood of the Snapdragon X7 LTE (MDM9635) standalone baseband.

 

The RDFs may lend some credence to that connection, but they also list the processor chipset as "Istor," which makes no sense.  So, that calls the accuracy of the RDFs into question.

 

AJ

No, we did not miss it.  Both Milan in his comment and I in my article mention the likelihood of the Snapdragon X7 LTE (MDM9635) standalone baseband.

 

The RDFs may lend some credence to that connection, but they also list the processor chipset as "Istor," which makes no sense.  So, that calls the accuracy of the RDFs into question.

 

AJ

 

And the RDF says it has an SD card slot that supports up to 128GB SDXC.  Basically, the details beyond build number and MAYBE OS version of a RDF page really can't be trusted.  But again, this one says 5.0 when it was made clear that it was launching with 5.0.2.

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