Apple Reportedly Testing Super-Fast Li-Fi Tech for New iPhones
Could Apple be ready to ditch Wi-Fi on its iPhones? Technology news chatter is exploring the very real possibility based on new code found within the iOS mobile operating system.
It appears Apple may be transitioning the prominent wireless technology built into its iconic smartphones for an even faster alternative. That technology is called Li-Fi, and the first real-world usage by home automation solutions firm Velmenni indicates that it’s 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.
Twitter user Chase Fromm was the first to notice coding in the latest versions of iOS firmware, beginning with iOS 9.1, that mentions "Li-Fi Capability." Since then, AppleInsider has reportedly confirmed Fromm's discovery.
Li-Fi, which is short for light fidelity, is a networked wireless communication technology that works similarly to Wi-Fi. Li-Fi inventor Harald Hass coined the term to describe this form of visible light communication and its subset of optical wireless communications.
Not Ready for Prime Time
Clearly, Li-Fi offers major advantages over Wi-Fi. But will Apple really switch over? Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, doesn’t think so. He told us that Apple would most likely add Li-Fi to its lineup of wireless connections just as it added 802.11ac.
“We have to remember that if the Apple phone has Li-Fi and you don’t have a hotspot that supports it, Li-Fi doesn’t help you a bit,” Entner said. “So both your router and the device needs the same wireless standard for it to work. It’s like a handshake and you want two hands. You don’t want to have a hoof and a hand.”
Ultimately, if the speculation pans out and Apple is putting Li-Fi into its future iPhone lineup it means the company is anticipating a future when Li-Fi will be more mainstream. And Li-Fi is not quite ready for prime time yet. The first prototype emerged in 2011. Hass cofounded a company called pureLiFi in 2012 that currently offers several early products.
Across the Board Li-Fi
According to pureLiFi, the technology offers capacity, energy efficiency, safety and the security benefits of a wireless system, just like Wi-Fi, but it also offers capabilities Wi-Fi can’t match. For example, Li-Fi can drive about 1,000 times the data density of Wi-Fi. That’s because the visible light can be better-contained in a tight illumination than using other technologies.
Despite the future promises, Entner still doesn’t anticipate that Apple will remove Wi-Fi from its products. Because consumers don’t change routers too often, Apple needs to offer backwards compatibility so the wireless connection in its products work with every router on the market.
“If Apple puts Li-Fi in the iPhone I would also expect it will put Li-Fi in its AirPort router so then they can say, 'Well, here’s the new AirPort and there’s a reason why you should buy this together with the iPhone,'" Entner said. “If Li-Fi comes to the iPhone it will also come in all the laptops, tablets and all the other devices.”
Image credit: Product shots by Apple; iStock/Artist's concept.