The line outside of an Apple store in anticipation of a new product launch has become a familiar sight over the years. We have all seen the crowds lined up at the Kenwood Apple store, the hyper-connected masses clamoring to be the first of their friends to have the new iPhone, but it begs the question: is it worth it? What has really changed from one iPhone to the next? Sure you might get a sharper camera and some bragging rights, but is this phone really that much of a step forward from the last iteration? With the introduction of Wi-Fi 6 into the market, the answer is yes.
Earlier this month, the Wi-Fi Alliance – an organization made up of members of the tech industry that oversees implementation of the Wi-Fi standard – announced their official Wi-Fi 6 certification program. This represents the beginning of a new era in wireless networks. Essentially, the function of Wi-Fi 6 is to boost connectivity speeds within a crowded network, and the standard set forth by the Alliance requires that certified devices support several individual upgrades that work to make speeds on Wi-Fi 6 up to 40% faster than its predecessor. Manufacturers that participate in the certification program get to put an official badge on their product, signifying its Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
But certification is not required, and there are several devices on the market equipped to handle Wi-Fi 6 despite lacking the Alliance badge. In fact, though it remains a member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Apple has not certified a device with them in years, yet there is little doubt that the upcoming iPhone 11 and 11 Pro – both with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities – will fail to meet the standards. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 will be the first smartphone to be certified for the new standard. All of which is to say that while the Wi-Fi Alliance badge of certification is not required, the fact that they have shifted focus to Wi-Fi 6 alerts the market and the consumers of a new era of wireless capabilities that will become the standard for all devices moving forward.
So how is Wi-Fi 6 better than or different from Wi-Fi 5? Imagine you are at a diner counter, you are one of eight patrons at the counter and there is only one person working on the other side. That one person is your Wi-Fi 5 router, and the eight people are the connected devices. No matter how good that person behind the counter is at their job, they are still fielding eight different requests at one time. Now imagine that person behind the counter has 4 arms instead of two. Now people are being served in half the time, and several disparate requests are being taken care of simultaneously. The four-armed waiter is your Wi-Fi 6 router. As opposed to the Wi-Fi 5 waiter, the one with two arms, the Wi-Fi 6 waiter is a far superior multi-tasker, making the experience for all eight patrons at the counter smooth and uninterrupted. Wi-Fi 6 is essentially an upgrade in efficiency. By carrying more information in each signal they send, Wi-Fi 6 routers can communicate with devices much faster and more efficiently, and can create individual access points for each signal between multiple devices.
While the announcement of Wi-Fi 6 certification ushers in a new era of connected devices, it will still be some time before these speeds are widely available in your home. New phones and laptops will no doubt be using this as the standard moving forward, but ISPs will take some time to get their home routers up to speed. Right now, most home internet plans do not offer nearly the speeds required for Wi-Fi 6 certification, and it may take years before they catch up. But the fact is that with the new standard being rolled out, the vast majority of new connected devices on the market will be set up for Wi-Fi 6 so when the ISPs do catch up, the hardware will already be up to speed.
The announcement of Wi-Fi 6 is sure to change the landscape for years to come. It is a signal to manufacturers that this is the wave of the future and they will need to follow suit or be left behind. November 3rd marks the release of the Wi-Fi 6 equipped iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. Maybe now is the time to start planning your camping trip to the Apple store.
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