The Federal Communications Commission has added Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) devices to its program monitoring smartphone broadband performance. The government agency has launched an app called the FCC Speed Test App for iPhone that helps both iPhone users and the FCC monitor the phones’ broadband speed.
The organization launched a similar app for Android devices late last year. Both apps use the same technology to test the performance of various smartphones using Wi-Fi and cellular connections. “While we believe the app is useful in informing you regarding your phone’s performance, by downloading the app you are also supporting our open broadband data program, contributing to the information we make freely available to the public on the nation’s mobile broadband performance,” the FCC said in a press release.
There are some differences between the two apps, as the Android option has the ability to periodically run in the background and test performance, while iOS users have to open the app and run the tests themselves. The iOS app also doesn’t collect as detailed information about connectivity as the Android app. The FCC assured in its press release that both versions of the app would remain ad-free and that the agency does not collect or use any kind of personal information on the app’s users.
The app is used by the agency to get a better idea of how people’s smartphones are performing around the country. “The information you do provide from testing your mobile performance will help inform everyone about the quality of broadband performance in your area,” the agency said.
According to the app’s description in the iTunes Store, the FCC Speed Test App monitors download and upload speeds, latency, and packet loss. The app is available for any device running iOS 7 or later, but it’s optimized for use with iPhone 5 models.
Getting Apple on board with the project was a big step forward for the FCC. While worldwide, Samsung (SSNLF.PK) devices running on Android lead the smartphone market, in the U.S. Apple is slightly ahead of Samsung and other Android phones. Recent data from NPD show that in the fourth quarter of 2013, 42 percent of U.S. smartphone owners used an Apple device. Samsung came in with a 26 percent share of the market. The launch of the new iPhone 5S and 5C boosted Apple’s share in the U.S. during the latter half of 2013. Apple had just a 35 percent U.S. market share in the same quarter in 2012.
Monitoring details about broadband performance across a wide variety of smartphone users will help the FCC and wireless companies better understand the kind of service users are getting, but users may not be motivated enough to manually perform the occasional tests required of the iOS app.
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