Most phones won't achieve the high throughput that 11n can deliver on other products -- 200Mbps or more -- because they typically will be built to handle just a single stream of data in and out of the device. But 11n phones should get a more reliable signal over a longer distance from the access point, Davis-Felner said. An 11n network is also more efficient, so the phone will expend less energy communicating, she added.
Handset owners eventually will also be able to take advantage of the next major feature being pushed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi Direct. With this technology, which the Alliance expects to begin certifying in the third quarter, devices can organize themselves in ad hoc networks without an access point. Laptops will probably be the first devices with Wi-Fi Direct, but phones will follow shortly after, Davis-Felner predicted. With it, phones will be able to stream content directly to consumer electronics devices such as TVs. As long as carriers allow it, they will also be able to serve as hubs for small local networks, linking several devices via Wi-Fi and letting them share the phone's 3G or 4G Internet connection.