iPhone 7: is Apple planning to launch superfast Li-Fi capabilities


Posted on Jan 21, 2016


Apple could be planning to introduce Li-Fi technology to its range of phones and tablets in the future, with speculation that the technology could be on the iPhone 7.

Li-Fi is a form of data-transfer technology that uses light rather than radio waves, making it "100 times faster" than Wi-Fi, says the Daily Telegraph.

Wi-Fi can transmit data at roughly 7 gigabits per second (gbps), whereas tests so far have shown that Li-Fi delivers more than 100gbps, with a theoretical maximum of 224gbps.

As an example of what this could mean, the Telegraph says the technology would allow a full-length HD film to be downloaded in a matter of seconds.

However, they also point out it is "extremely unlikely" to arrive on the iPhone 7 in September, despite being mentioned within the coding of the iOS 9.1 operating system.

The line of code signalling that Apple is indeed interested in the new technology was found by codebreaker Chase Fromm, who tweeted: "Li-Fi testing is already imminent. May appear in the next iPhone 7 according to iOS code in iOS 9.1 firmware," along with a screengrab to the relevant section of code.

Li-Fi is being billed as both a potential successor to Wi-Fi and a complimentary technology, but there are still problems to iron out, such as light not being able to travel through solid walls, which means devices in a home could only connect if they were in direct line of sight of each other. There are security benefits to this though, as it means networks can be confined to single rooms, making them much more secure.

The technology was first developed by Professor Harald Haas at the University of Edinburgh and, according to TechRadar, uses smart LED lightbulbs that flash on and off very quickly, faster than the eye can see, to send binary information. He has in the past demonstrated that a single flickering LED can transmit more data than an entire cellular tower.

The tech website adds that the mention of Li-Fi within the iPhone's code could suggest Apple is developing smart lightbulbs for the home that could interact with their devices, possibly as part of their HomeKit network.

Li-Fi technology research has become public in recent years. The Daily Mailreports that scientists have "taken to the streets" to test out Li-Fi capabilities, and it has recently undergone initial workplace testing in Estonia, being used in certain offices and industrial settings around the country's capital Tallinn.

But The Mirror weighs in on the wild speculation by saying we will have to wait a little bit longer for Li-Fi to become a viable source of super-fast data transfer, pointing out that researchers say the technology will be "ready for commercial use by the end of the decade" - so think more iPhone 9 or 9S.

According to Business Insider, Apple has been interested in developing Li-Fi capabilities for future iPhones for a few years now. The site points out that in 2013 the company filed a patent outlining an "optical modulation using an image sensor" which would use the camera fitted on the rear of the iPhone to transmit data via light. Business Insider also reaffirms that the technology is still some years off, saying that the complete absence of Li-Fi equipped devices on the market at the moment means there is little to compare Apple's ambitions to.