Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, while quite impressive on its own, has largely been remarked to be less “adventurous” than its predecessors. Apparently, Samsung might have actually been holding off on some of those novel features from the public. Over at Reddit, some soon to be owners are getting quite excited at the discovery that the Galaxy Note 7 actually supports 4×4 MIMO, making it the first ever commercial smartphone to do so, promising, at least in theory, faster and more reliable network connections and overall improvement in efficiency.
Most of the discussion might make regular users’ eyes glaze, but here is the technology in a nutshell. 4×4 MIMO, or Multiple Input Multiple Output, utilizes 4 antennas to keep a connection with cellular towers. More antennas mean not only means being able to receive data at a faster rate, it also means there are more fallback channels when some of other antennas, usually the two base ones, aren’t able to hold their connections well enough.
What this means in theory is that Galaxy Note 7 owners should be able to get more reliable connections from cell towers and, if all four channels are operational, better downlink speeds. This advantage indirectly affects battery efficiency as well. If you finish downloading data faster, the phone’s components, especially the CPU, can sooner go into a low power mode, saving on battery.
Those, however, are the ideal situations. That said, the real world is hardly ideal and, aside from actual network and atmospheric conditions, there are some other caveats. The particular Galaxy Note 7 displaying the 4×4 MIMO support was found in a T-Mobile store. T-Mobile’s networks, however, currently utilize only 2 network layers, though mapping those to 4 antennas in towers that do support 4×4 MIMO. In short, 4×4 MIMO really works best if both transmitter (like cell towers) and receiver (like smartphones) fully utilize 4 channels.
And finally, this 4×4 MIMO technology is only found, for now, in Qualcomm’s X12 LTE Modem, which happens to be in the Snapdragon 820. At least as far as smartphone chips are concerned. This does mean that Galaxy Note 7 models with an Exynos chip won’t get the same technology. Luckily for T-Mobile’s subscribers, the Snapdragon 820 model is exactly the variant being sold in the US.
That said, just because the hardware is there doesn’t mean the feature is already available. In addition to T-Mobile enabling it on their networks and sites, Samsung also has to flip the switch on the Galaxy Note 7. Fortunately, that might only require an OTA update later on.