Learning about Ultra Wideband

While watching yesterday’s Apple Keynote event, one of the iPhone slides showing some of the enhancements in the new iPhone 11 made mention of “Apple-designed U1” chip. This chip wasn’t mentioned during the keynote – it was only mentioned on that slide.

Turns out that Brian Roemmele was tweeting about this during the event and then went on to post an article on Quora titled “What is the new Apple U1 chip, and why is it important?

His article points out that there’s some text on Apple’s website saying more: “Ultra Wideband technology comes to iPhone” – which describes the U1 chip as enabling spatial awareness in the new iPhone 11 models – “Think GPS at the scale of your living room”. The first practical usage for the feature is for AirDrop sharing of files with someone nearby – “just point your iPhone at theirs and they’ll be first on the list.” Apple goes on: “It’s like adding another sense to iPhone, and it’s going to lead to amazing new capabilities.”

Roemmele describes more about this new ultra wideband technology, some of the intellectual property behind it – including several interesting Apple patents – and calls it a “personal radar system.” He goes on to speculate about how this technology could be used, implications for developers, etc. It’s quite an article he’s written!

This ultra wideband is fascinating stuff – I look forward to learning more about this technology and the applications coming that will take more advantage of it!

Update (9/12/19): Wired has an article titled The Biggest iPhone News Is a Tiny New Chip Inside It with more information about ultra wideband including a link to the original FCC order discussing it.