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A slow smartphone connection can be frustrating. Among office workers, slow Wi-Fi and internet connection speeds are the top IT complaint, cited by 60 percent of employees. Some consumers are even so frustrated about slow connection speeds that they’re taking their providers to court. AT&T has recently faced multiple discrimination complaints for allegedly delivering slower connection speeds to consumers in low-income neighborhoods, a contention AT&T disputes.

Sometimes your slow connection may be your provider’s fault, but in other cases, your phone’s hardware may actually be the culprit. The type of processor and hardware your phone uses can have a major impact on how fast you’re able to access downloaded data. Here’s a look at how your hardware can affect your data speed and how advances in processing technology hardware are solving the problem of slow data.

Clock speed

The biggest hardware factor determining your phone’s data speed is your central processing unit’s clock speed, also known as the clock rate. Clock speed refers to the rate of frequency at which a CPU performs computing operations. Early computers measured frequency in terms of hertz (Hz), but by the 1970s, microcomputers had reached megahertz (MHz) speeds, and since 2000, CPUs for computers have run at gigahertz (GHz) speeds. Today, 1 GHz is considered a minimum level of acceptability for a smartphone CPU, but the top mobile processors deliver clock speeds of 1.8 to 2.2 GHz or more.

Core architecture

Another factor impacting your phone’s data speed is your processor’s architecture. Whereas traditional computer chips used a single CPU to process data, today’s cutting-edge computer and smartphone processors use multiple processing units, known individually as cores, with the resulting architecture known as a multi-core processor. A multi-core architecture allows a processor to run commands on multiple cores at the same time, speeding up data processing speed. This can be especially useful for certain data-intensive applications, such as running video game graphics.

Most smartphone processors today use at least two cores, known as a dual-core architecture. Today’s fastest mobile processors use four (quad-core), six (hexa-core), eight (octa-core) or ten (deca-core) cores. In most cases, an app only runs on one processor at a time, so as long as your processor has at least two cores, the easiest way to measure performance is generally to look at clock speed. However, people who use their smartphone for things like video games as well as AR and VR may wish to consider both clock speed and core architecture when selecting devices.


Another variable affecting how fast your phone processes data is your device’s random access memory (RAM). Your RAM is the memory used for storing data from apps that are currently being run, in contrast to memory used for long-term storage. RAM data is designed to be quickly accessed by your CPU, so your available RAM space affects how fast your phone can process data.

Early smartphones could only store megabytes (MB) of RAM. Today, supporting basic functions of your phone such as your home screen, your keyboard and your phone’s system interfaces can take up to half a gigabyte (GB) of RAM, and any apps you’re running consume additional RAM. This means you need a smartphone with at least 2 GB of RAM. For Android devices, 3 to 4 GB of RAM is desirable, and more is even better.

Antenna quality

Another hardware factor that can affect how fast your smartphone processes data is the quality of the antenna your phone uses to receive your carrier’s signal. A smartphone is similar in function to a two-way radio, and like a radio, it uses an antenna to receive your carrier’s wireless signal.

Older smartphones used large external antennas, but today’s phones use smaller, more sophisticated internal antennas, and often use multiple antennas for different types of signals, such as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. Today’s best mobile processor antennas use specialized technology to improve signal reception. For instance, some of the fastest mobile processors are integrated with TruSignal antenna technology, which is designed to optimize signal strength in order to deliver fewer dropped calls, which means faster data speeds.

Final thoughts

Clock speed, core architecture, RAM and antenna quality are four hardware factors that can influence how fast your smartphone processes data. Selecting your hardware carefully can help you enjoy faster data processing and a better user experience.

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