Apple’s UWB Support to Help Propel the Technology into the Mainstream

by Andrew Zignani | 4Q 2019 | IN-5625
Though much of the talk about the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro has centered on their new “ultra-wide” camera, perhaps the most exciting and innovative development was their inclusion of the U1 Ultra-Wideband (UWB) chipset, making the iPhone 11 first smartphone to market with UWB technology. Apple has stated that the new Apple-designed UWB U1 chip will leverage the technology to determine an iPhone’s precise location in relation to other UWB-equipped Apple devices. In terms of use cases, to date, Apple has only explicitly announced that its AirDrop feature on U1-capable devices will take advantage of this additional precision to determine if another U1 device is nearby, allowing an iPhone user to point at another iPhone to put it at the top of the AirDrop list. However, Apple is also heavily rumored to be developing its own personal tracking tags leveraging UWB technology. It is not yet clear whether Apple’s UWB capabilities will be locked in to Apple’s own devices, features, and apps, or if the technology will be able to operate alongside UWB-capable Android devices that are likely to emerge over the next 12 months. However, Apple’s decision to incorporate UWB capabilities follows a resurgence in interest and new technical enhancements for UWB technology over the last couple of years, and UWB technology itself has tremendous potential for a wide range of applications and could transform the way we interact with our environments and devices in the coming years.

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