Skip to main content

iPhone 12's rumored 802.11ay WiFi might be for Apple Glasses

Glasses on iPhone 11 Pro
Glasses on iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Rumors of 802.11ay WiFi in the next iPhone is fuelling speculation about Apple Glasses.
  • Earlier this week it emerged that the iPhone 12 might support the new WiFi standard.
  • It's adept at sending data at high speeds over short distances which is useful for features like AirDrop, or maybe something more exciting.

Reports that the iPhone 12 might contain the 802.11ay WiFi standard has led some to speculate the feature may be geared towards the release of long-rumored AR hardware from Apple.

As reported by 9to5Mac:

A report earlier this week suggested that the upcoming iPhone 12 may support a new WiFi spec, 802.11ay. This would pretty surprising, as the standard is so new the spec hasn't even be finalized, and Apple normally waits a while before adopting new tech – as we've seen for everything from 3G onward.A piece today speculates that Apple's interest in this might be for connectivity with the long-rumored Apple Glasses …

The report is based on speculation by MacWorld that 802.11ay might point to the fact that Apple is planning for the release of augmented reality or a virtual reality headset.

802.11ay isn't really meant for internet access. For one, it can't penetrate walls. It's actually the second coming of an old standard 802.11ad, nicknamed "WiGig", which used 60Hz frequency to send data at speeds of up to 7 gigabits per second. 802.11ay is faster and stronger, reportedly capable of speeds as fast as 44Gigabits per second (four streams can also be bonded together for 176 gigabits!).

So if (and it is still an if) Apple were to implement 802.11ay in the next iPhone, what could that mean?

From MacWorld:

The point of putting 802.11ay in an iPhone would be to make direct, local, point-to-point connections with other 802.11ay devices. Specifically, other iPhone 12 (or later) phones or...other future Apple stuff.Connecting to another iPhone via 802.11ay wouldn't be a very big deal. It would make AirDrop really fast—like blink-and-you'll-miss-it transfer speeds. But most people just send photos and short videos with AirDrop and it's already surprisingly fast.The exciting part of 802.11ay is that it provides high enough bandwidth and low enough latency that it can be used to send data to high-resolution, high refresh rate displays. Like, say, virtual reality or augmented reality headsets.

It's long been rumored that Apple is working on some kind of AR/VR/headset. MacWorld's suggestion is that Apple could use this WiFi standard as a means to transmit data from an iPhone to a headset, the iPhone serving as a base station much like Apple Watch.

It's an interesting theory, certainly plausible, but remember the inclusion of 802.11ay is just a rumor at this point. So we are speculating about new Apple products based on rumored features, nothing concrete... for now!

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

2 Comments
  • A big question I have is what is their goal with an AR style headset? Are they wanting it to act such as the Google Glass did in the past where it's more of a heads up display? Or are they wanting more on the HoloLens interactivity side? I think they have an opportunity to offer both a consumer and Enterprise platform for AR.
  • Wouldn't this help the speed of transfer between the iPhone and  watch? Seems to me if so, this would be a more viable reason for it to be there to begin with......