OPPO now appears to be working on a Li-Fi smartphone, potentially gearing up to push the technology into the mainstream. Spotted by Dutch publication LetsGoDigital, the patented device shows a fairly standard design for OPPO. That’s with the exception of Li-Fi sensors included in the frame.
OPPO’s design considers multiple placement options for the sensors, starting with a single sensor at the back of the phone. Another patent design shows the sensor housed in the top-edge. Conversely, a third option considered by the company would utilize both sensors.
If you asked what Li-Fi is, you’re not alone
Now, Li-Fi is not a “new” technology but it is still very much in its infancy. So much so that it’s still really not found in many, if any, real-world products. It was invented back in 2011 by Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh. Among its most recent mainstream appearances, it has been featured in a connectivity-enabled, voice assistant-enhanced lamp.
The company behind that device intended users to pair the lamp with USB dongle for a laptop or other gadget. That would have then worked in conjunction in order to provide connectivity.
Around the same time, reports spotted Li-Fi in at least one mobile phone case design. The design effectively sought to bring the connectivity option to smartphones. Although in that case the connection was only measured at a rate of 42Mbps, that’s actually very slow for Li-Fi. That’s one of the advantages of this technology. Albeit not the only one.
Li-Fi only has an effective range of up to 10-meters compared to Wi-Fi at 32-meters. But it has a frequency rate that’s 10,000-times that used for Wi-Fi and the theoretical speed to match. Specifically, it’s capable of between 1Gbps and 20Gbps. That’s as compared to the current maximum of around 1Gbps from Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi works by transmitting data via light. That means that it’s able to work in more dense environments but also that it has drawbacks like needing a direct line of sight with the transmitting light. It also can’t transmit through walls.
So while OPPO could potentially change that with a Li-Fi-enhanced Android smartphone, it’s still going to be a very hard sell. At the very least it’s going to be a hard sell until the technology is more widely available and mainstream.
What might OPPO use Li-Fi for in this smartphone?
Since Li-Fi is still in its infancy, any OPPO device might need to come with its own take on a source for data transmission. For instance, OPPO might need to ship the device with Li-Fi enabled bulbs or technology for transmitting and receiving the data. Even if that’s the case, its best use-case scenario may be as a secondary data source.
Speculatively, OPPO could sell the device with a means to connect via Li-Fi and then utilize a dual-transmission feature such as that found in some other flagship smartphones. That way, the phone could utilize both Wi-Fi and Li-Fi simultaneously to gain higher speeds between the smartphone and the router.
But, realistically, OPPO could go any number of directions with this patent. So it may be best not to speculate at all.