Apple quietly adds ultra wideband technology to the 2019 iPhone models

Apple quietly adds ultra wideband technology to the 2019 iPhone models
There is something inside the new iPhone models that Apple briefly revealed during last week's new product event, and we're not talking about bilateral wireless charging. According to CNET, Apple's latest and greatest handsets have a new chip inside called the U1. So what does this U1 do? The chips allow the phones to access a technology known as ultra wideband, or UWB. With the latter technology, super-short radio waves are sent out and the time it takes to travel between devices is measured. UWB will help an iPhone 11 owner find a phone, a lost dog, a key ring a tag and more.

UWB sounds like it would be employed with the rumored Apple Tags, and if Apple ever releases such a product, perhaps it will. But the potential for this goes far beyond finding mere tags. Apple itself hints at this on its website when it says, "The new Apple‑designed U1 chip uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness — allowing iPhone 11 Pro to understand its precise location relative to other nearby U1‑equipped Apple devices. It’s like adding another sense to iPhone, and it’s going to lead to amazing new capabilities."

The technology can be used now to put a fellow iPhone user at the top of your AirDrop list


Potentially, such technology could allow you to approach your car and have it unlock automatically without having to press a button (as long as you have your iPhone with you). When you drive to your next destination and leave the car, the vehicle would lock by itself as you walk away. And once you arrive home and head to your door, the lights would turn on automatically, safely brightening the walkway. While devices using Bluetooth can hone in on a location in two seconds, UWB does it one thousand times faster. In addition, Bluetooth is not as accurate and certainly not as secure as UWB which does have cryptographic capabilities.


Currently, the U1 chip will allow iPhone users to point their device at another iPhone and put that phone at the top of their AirDrop list. While Apple didn't actually mention the U1 or UWB last Tuesday, the chip did appear on a screen behind Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller while he was discussing all of the features of the iPhone 11 Pro models.


The U1 joins the Apple family of processors including the A-series SoC that powers devices like the iPhone and iPad, and the M-series coprocessors used on the iPhone so that the handset can determine whether the user is driving, walking, running, or sleeping. And while the tech giant didn't make a big deal about this technology, it has been busy filing patent applications related to UWB.


A chipmaker named Decawave is one of several tech companies involved in UWB. The firm's VP of marketing, Mickael Viot, says that UWB can pinpoint locations down to four-inches and under certain conditions that could be improved to an accuracy of two-inches. To obtain this type of accurate location sensing, UWB transmits up to 1 billion pulses per second. The technology is actually found inside the shoulder pads worn by NFL players for instant replay use and companies like Boeing use the technology inside factories to tag and keep track of tools and other items found on the floor of its factories.

Whatever Apple has in mind for UWB over the long run, it all starts now with the U1 chip inside the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Max.

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27 Comments

1. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

That's cool. How about silently adding ram and having 128gb base storage for the $1000 model?

3. TheOracle1

Posts: 2329; Member since: May 04, 2015

How about adding a bundled fast charger across the board? Their teens and housewives market can't figure out anything beyond FaceTime on the damn things so what use is this to them?

4. Vancetastic

Posts: 1508; Member since: May 17, 2017

That was pretty harsh, and pretty funny. Sensitive types won't like it, though....

6. gadgetpower

Posts: 265; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

Apple added fast charger on Pro models.

8. Vancetastic

Posts: 1508; Member since: May 17, 2017

Across. The. Board. Duh.

22. Deadeye

Posts: 95; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

That´s if you consider 18W "fast".

27. darkkjedii

Posts: 31256; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Should be all.

17. Mike88

Posts: 435; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

What if it’s being used to track your precise location. The way apple did it quietly without specifying it’s uses is quite alarming. They should explain more about this chip and confirm that it can never be misused to track someone down on that precise level. It can be a tool for govts and criminals. Privacy is a fundamental right and apple and anyone else shouldn’t be able to track people when location is off.

5. gadgetpower

Posts: 265; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

you have mistakenly iphone from android. iOS is fine with 4gb of ram though the storage is ridiculous but it’s apple’s marketing for people to get the higher storage.

14. dimas

Posts: 3380; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

iOs is not android, 4gb ram is enough yada yada yada. Come on, it's 2019 and you still love getting duped with your hard-earned $1000. Phones are commodities, they're not state of the art products anymore. They keep updating apps and adding features so 6gb ram is future proof to not have a turtle phone. Most of the influencers say safe things like "i'm glad apple added it this year". Nobody said that "dang, apple is so late with this feature."

16. midan

Posts: 2971; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"They keep updating apps and adding features so 6gb ram is future proof to not have a turtle phone." Apple is all about speed and performance, don't you think they haven't thought this very carefully? I'm sure their engineers knows very well how much RAM you need on your device or going to need in future. iPad Pro have 4GB (except 1TB model) and it runs desktop quality graphics designing apps extremely well and real photoshop coming too very soon. You won't see such a big apps on your phone in many years if ever. Are people suddenly forgetting which kind of computers we had like ten to twenty years ago? and what those already were capable to do with very small specs.

18. TheOracle1

Posts: 2329; Member since: May 04, 2015

Yeah Apple have thought it out very carefully. That's why they were caught throttling phones to force people to buy new ones and continuing to install sub-par batteries so they can cash in every other year to replace them. How about charging $700 for a phone without a fast charger? Or only offer 64GB of memory? Or not even a $5 case for that price? Yeah they've really figured out how to screw you guys.

21. midan

Posts: 2971; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

I see you got your daily TICK out of you, good for you! Apple hating is like tourette, you have your TICKS and you have to release them because it makes you itch.

23. Deadeye

Posts: 95; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

Same as you did, Apple white knight.

24. TheOracle1

Posts: 2329; Member since: May 04, 2015

Funny how you can't defend anything I said.

26. Vancetastic

Posts: 1508; Member since: May 17, 2017

Why is it when someone rightfully criticizes Apple or disagrees with you they are "haters"? Are you that sensitive?

20. nodes

Posts: 1160; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

There is not such thing as future proof if what manufacturers do only spec-race. Hardware specs, such as woah my phone has more RAM than your computer, seriously man, those 12GB of RAM are used for running ads services in the background. a phone doesn't matter if it runs Android or iOS is fine with 4GB of RAM.

10. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2427; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Well the base iPhone 11 did add one more GB of RAM compared to last year according to benchmarks. And considering the Pixel phones have done fine on 4GB I have no reason to think the iPhone can’t. And the Pixel 4 supposedly comes with a base 64 GB as well. So it’s not just Apple.

13. midan

Posts: 2971; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Where you need that RAM? people(android?) are complaining about lack of more RAM and yet if Apple would add more no-one would notice any difference in use because the amount iOS devices already have is more than enough.

25. Vancetastic

Posts: 1508; Member since: May 17, 2017

Because they can't do true multi-tasking or split screen?

2. cmdacos

Posts: 4248; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

So ibeacons 2.0?

7. gadgetpower

Posts: 265; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

This is cool. Android will get on this board on their next phones.

9. Alcyone

Posts: 461; Member since: May 10, 2018

The 1 of 2 things that Android OEMs didn't do first. Still waiting on Apple to introduce the 3 that they refuse to do.

12. Phullofphil

Posts: 1814; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

You bust be young and forget that all smartphones as we know it are iPhone clones with a ripped off operating system. Along with an App Store that clones apples. The only inovation that android manufactures have are hardware innovations. Well because like Samsung that are a hard ware company.

19. Plutonium239

Posts: 1230; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

You must have forgotten, android predates iPhone. In addition, neither Android or ios were on the first smart phones, windows mobile was.

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