Wi-Fi 6 makes iPhone 11 faster than ever

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iPhone 11 with Wi-Fi 6
The iPhone 11 is one of the first devices with Wi-Fi 6.
Photo: Apple/Wi-Fi Alliance

An overlooked feature of the iPhone 11 series is Wi-Fi 6, a faster version of this nearly ubiquitous short-range wireless-networking standard.

And it’s not just about speed. This update is expected to offer better performance when dozens of hundreds of devices are all trying to connect to Wi-Fi at once.

An iPhone 11 Wi-Fi performance improvement

And these benefits are definitely in Apple’s latest. Located in an “other good stuff” section of the official iPhone 11 specifications is a promise of “Faster WiFi: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) lets you download up to 38 percent faster.”

This feature is in the iPhone 11 and both the iPhone 11 Pro models.

More Wi-Fi 6 specifications

On of the goals of Wi-Fi 6 is to simplify naming. While technically dubbed IEEE 802.11ax, no one has to remember that obscure code name. Especially as the Wi-Fi Alliance has renamed the current 802.11ac standard to Wi-Fi 5. It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that version 6 is better than version 5.

But the improvements go way beyond nomenclature. In addition to being faster than Wi-Fi 5, the new version enables many more devices in an area to have a wireless connection at once, a benefit for stadiums, airports and industrial parks.

“Wi-Fi 6 brings greater speeds and more efficiency to Wi-Fi networks, expanding its role as a critical communication platform,” said Phil Solis, research director at IDC.

For those who want to get technical, the latest standard supports Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), which enables an access point to transmit data to a larger number of devices at the same time than earlier versions, and allows more downlink data to be transferred at once. And don’t forget Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), which shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower latency for both uploads and downloads in high demand environments.

iPhone 11 is only half the battle

Just buying an iPhone 11 won’t automatically lead to faster Wi-Fi — getting these improvements also requires an access point that supports Wi-Fi 6.

The Wi-Fi Alliance today kicked off the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program, which will let companies market their products as compatible with with improved type of wireless networking.

And that might be a bit early, as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has yet too fully approve IEEE 802.11ax. But that hasn’t stopped companies from releasing products that support preliminary versions of the new standard, paired with promises to upgrade their software to be fully compatible when Wi-Fi 6 gets its final ratification.

Apple is one of those companies, and so is Samsung. As noted, the iPhone 11 supports the latest version of Wi-Fi, and it’s joined by the Galaxy S10 series and the Galaxy Note 10 too.