Wi-Fi 6E is the must-have feature for your next phone — here’s why

A frustrated man looking at his smartphone
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The days of upgrading to the latest and greatest smartphone every year may be over but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Not only are you saving money by holding on to your current smartphone longer but you also have even more time to carefully consider the features you need in your next upgrade.

While a bigger and brighter screen, a high refresh display, more RAM and additional storage are all important features to consider, there’s one that often gets overlooked: Wi-Fi. Yes, 5G support will get you faster download and upload speeds on the go, but what about when you’re at home?

With one of the best Wi-Fi routers and a gigabit or even a multi-gig internet plan, you’ll really notice a difference when browsing the web, downloading files or even just using your smartphone at home. Even smartphone manufacturers don’t advertise the Wi-Fi capabilities of their devices like they should. However, connecting to a fast Wi-Fi network when you finally get home feels a lot like sitting on a comfy couch after a long day. Maybe that’s one reason why most people tend to take Wi-Fi for granted.

You shouldn’t though, as the latest wireless standard can deliver more than a gigabit per second (Gbps) if you’re in the same room as your router. For instance, in our tests, we were able to reach speeds of 1.788 Gbps at a distance of 15 feet from a router with Wi-Fi 6E. These are the kind of speeds that used to require hardwiring your devices with an Ethernet cable.

For those that have been holding off on their next smartphone upgrade, I implore you to consider getting one of the best phones with Wi-Fi 6E support. Compared to 5G, the difference in speed is astronomical.

Three bands makes it easier to manage all your devices

A man uses a smartphone to connect to a Wi-Fi network, with a router and a laptop sitting on a desk.

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Regardless of whether you have a big family or live by yourself, you probably have a lot more connected devices in your home than you did a few years ago. From smartphones and tablets to TV and smart home devices, they’re all competing for bandwidth.

With a traditional router, you have two bands to spread your devices across: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The great thing about the best Wi-Fi 6E routers though is that they add an additional 6GHz band that’s significantly faster and much less crowded since only the latest smartphones and laptops ship with Wi-Fi 6E support

If you upgrade to a smartphone with Wi-Fi 6E and have a Wi-Fi router that supports this new wireless standard, you can ensure your smartphone isn’t fighting with the best streaming devices, game consoles and every other connected device in your home for bandwidth. In fact, Wi-Fi 6E makes managing the devices you already have even easier.

For instance, you can have your security cameras, smart lights and sensors on your router’s 2.4 GHz band, your TVs, game consoles and streaming devices on the 5GHz band and your smartphone and laptop on the 6GHz band. This way they’re all spread out and the devices that require the most speed — your smartphone and laptop — won’t see any slowdowns.

Android phones with Wi-Fi 6E

If you use one of the best Android phones and are planning your next upgrade, you have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to picking out a smartphone with Wi-Fi 6E. Samsung, Google, Motorola, Asus and other Android device makers have been using chips with Wi-Fi 6E on board for the past two years now.

On the high end, Samsung’s flagship phones including the new Galaxy S23 lineup all ship with Wi-Fi 6E. However, if you want to save a bit, last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra and even the Galaxy S21 Ultra both support Wi-Fi 6E.

Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Besides driving Android smartphone innovation, Google has also been incorporating Wi-Fi 6E into its Pixel phones since 2021. The Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and even our current budget pick, the Pixel 6A all support Wi-Fi 6E.

Motorola has the most phones with Wi-Fi 6E in its lineup including the Motorola Edge 2022, Moto Razr 2022 and the entire Motorola Edge 30 family of devices. However, if you’re looking for a Wi-Fi 6E capable device on a budget, the Motorola Edge 2021 ($299, Amazon) is even cheaper than the Pixel 6A.

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SamsungGalaxy S21 UltraGalaxy S22 UltraGalaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus, Galaxy S23 UltraGalaxy Z Fold 3 5G
GooglePixel 6, Pixel 6 ProPixel 6APixel 7, Pixel 7 ProRow 2 - Cell 4
MotorolaMotorola Edge 2021Motorola Edge 2022Moto Razr 2022Motorola Edge 30, Motorola Edge 30 Ultra, Motorola Edge 30 Pro, Motorola Edge 30 Fusion

iPhone users will want to hold off on upgrading — for now

iPhone 14 Plus vs iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

If the iPhone 14 Pro Max and its Dynamic Island didn’t win you over or the iPhone 14 wasn’t the upgrade you were expecting, your decision to wait on picking up this year’s iPhone is going to pay off. This is because the iPhone 15 is rumored to ship with Wi-Fi 6E.

These rumors are still unconfirmed but the move to include Wi-Fi 6E in the next iPhone makes a great deal of sense as the latest Mac mini and MacBook Pro alongside the iPad Pro already support this new wireless standard.

At the moment though, we don’t know whether all iPhone 15 models will have Wi-Fi 6E or if it will be a Pro exclusive. Either way, it’s progress in the right direction and will make the best iPhones even better.

Don’t take your Wi-Fi for granted

Mobile internet has vastly improved over the years with the release of 4G and then 5G but it still can’t beat the download and upload speeds you get over Wi-Fi. Not to mention the fact that unlimited home internet plans are much cheaper than unlimited mobile data plans.

Even with the fastest phone, your experience using it will still be slowed down if you’re using an older Wi-Fi router or your device itself doesn’t support the latest wireless standard. While you may want to shell out more for a bigger screen and more storage, at the end of the day — better Wi-Fi will make a huge difference in your day to day experience.

While you may not immediately see which Wi-Fi version a particular smartphone supports when you check its specs page online, it’s worth digging further to ensure you get a device with Wi-Fi 6E support. This way, your next smartphone upgrade will last you even longer while giving you the fastest speeds possible at home.

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.