Smartphone High Accuracy Real-Time Location to Drive UWB-Enabled Devices to 1.3 Billion Shipments by 2026

04 Nov 2021

Despite the initial impact of Covid-19 to the mobile devices market, sales of smartphones and an increase in demand for more wearables, tablets, and laptops have all contributed to a solid market recovery. The increase in sales and demand has been driven by consumers indefinitely changing their working, learning, and entertainment consumption habits, creating a need for improved intelligent devices and enhanced connectivity capabilities. While 5G connectivity is grabbing the consumer technologies headlines, the market is also witnessing a massive uptake of ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. Despite UWB being early in its ecosystem development, it is fast becoming a major short-range wireless technology for use across many applications, including smartphones, wearables, tablets, mobile accessories, and other consumer electronics. According to new research from global technology intelligence firm, ABI Research, UWB-enabled devices will reach more than 1.3 billion shipments by 2026, growing from 143 million in 2020.

UWB has emerged as a secure, fine ranging technology that can enable a wide range of location-based user experiences that other wireless connectivity technologies have been unable to support effectively, although it is also highly interoperable with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), NFC and Wi-Fi. “Based on its wide application in several industries, UWB initially gained market traction in asset management and location services in 2016 but is now witnessing explosive growth having entered the Consumer market in 2019, targeting mainly smartphones,” explains Filomena Iovino, Consumer Technologies Research Analyst at ABI Research.

Apple was among the first to adopt UWB in its smart devices, initially adding the feature to its iPhone 11 and Watch 6 portfolios. Now UWB present in products from Samsung, Xiaomi, and Honor, with many more vendors set to follow. “Over 190 million smartphones (14% of total shipments) will have UWB by the end of 2021, rising to 643 million (around 40%) by 2026. The ‘cellular’ sector, led by smartphones, currently accounts for the largest part of the UWB market, and of the total 1.3 billion UWB device shipments expected in 2026, ‘cellular’ will hold the lion’s share with 59%,” Iovino says.

With UWB set to become a mainstream technology in most mobile devices, it will also grow in other sectors, namely smart home devices, such as fans, lamps, and smart speakers, and automotive, highlighting the growing breadth of applications for the UWB ecosystem. Despite this expected phenomenal growth, there are challenges ahead, notably the relatively large size of the UWB antenna that is difficult to integrate, particularly in smaller devices, such as tags, wearables, and sensors. “The higher costs of UWB components and infrastructure versus that for alternative short-range technologies could also be prohibitive. At the same time, regional variations and restrictions add complications to the development and deployment of a standardized UWB ecosystem,” concludes Iovino.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Consumer Technologies application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Consumer Technologies research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual market or geography.

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