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.

Today’s Apple Event with the new iPhone 11 Pro

I took about two hours this morning to watch Apple’s keynote event – each September Apple holds one of these primarily to announce the new family of iPhones. They did that today – along with some other interesting things. Below are my notes.

Tim Cook – Good morning! Apple is all about empowering people to do incredible things. Big morning today! Big announcements! So much that he skipped the usual business updates.

Arcade – First game subscription service. Exclusive new games. Over 100. Subscription-based. Arcade tab in the App Store icon. New games every month. Game demonstrations from Konami, Capcom, and Annapurna Interactive. Arcade will be available Sep 19th. Cost $4.99/month for family subscription. 1 month free trial. 

Apple TV+ – Bringing the best original stories from the best creative minds. “Stories to believe in, stories with purpose.” Examples: For All Mankind. Dickinson. The Morning Show. Three trailers released earlier this summer have >100 MM views. Apple TV+ first shows on Nov 1 in the Apple TV app. $4.99/month for family subscription. Starting today – 1 year of Apple TV+ included with new purchase of iPhone, Mac, etc.

iPad – transforming how we learn, work, play. New replacement for the 9.7 inch iPad – new 7th generation iPad. New larger 10.2 inch Retina display. A10 Fusion chip. Smart connector and Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil (first generation) support. 100% recycled aluminum enclosure. $329 starting price. $299 for education. Order today, shipping September 30. 

Apple Watch -Three new health studies coming: Apple Hearing Study, Women’s Health Study, Heart & Movement Study. Use new Apple Research App to enroll in studies – available later this year in US. New Apple Watch Series 5 with always on display. High/low brightness. Built-in compass and updated Maps app. New Compass app shows lat/lon/elevation. International emergency calling in every cellular model. New case finishes – 100% recycled aluminum. Stainless in new colors. Titanium in two finishes. Ceramic – brilliant white. New Nike models. New Hermes models. GPS models start at $399. $499 for cellular. Order starting today. Available Sep 20. Series 3 remains in the line. $199 price for GPS model. 

iPhone 11 – Anodized aluminum/glass on front and back. 6 new colors. 6.1” display. Sound virtualizer with Dolby Atmos. Camera – dual camera system – new 26 mm wide camera. 13 mm ultra wide camera with 120 degree field of view. Updated image pipeline. Semantic rendering. Smart HDR. Portrait mode. Photos of pets. New lighting effect – high key mono. Night mode – automatically turns on. Adaptive bracketing. QuickTake – just hold shutter button to take video. New 12 MP front camera. Added slo mo to front camera. Slofies. New A13 Bionic chip – fastest CPU ever in smartphone. GPU – fastest GPU in a smartphone. Battery life – 1 hour more than iPhone Xr. Faster FaceID. Wifi 6. $699 starting price. 

iPhone 11 Pro – first phone called Pro. Surgical grade stainless steel. Glass, matte textured back. New finishes – midnight green, space grey, silver, new gold. Display comes in two sizes 5.8 and 6.5 inches. Brighter, contrast ratio, etc. Spatial audio sound, Dolby Atmos. Super Retina XDR display. A13 Bionic chip. Battery life – 4 hours more than iPhone Xs. Max up to 5 hours longer. Fast charge 18W charger included. New Pro camera system with three cameras – 26mm/f1.8, 52mm/f2.0, 13mm/f2.4 cameras. Sneak peek coming this fall – using neural engine – Deep Fusion. 9 images shot – 4 images shot before the shutter button. Performs pixel by pixel optimization.  Video – 4K 60 bps XDR video. New Apple U1 chip. New line of cases including clear cases. Starting price at $999, Max at $1099. Preorder starting this Friday at 5 AM Pacific. Shipping on September 20. Keeping iPhone Xr and 8 also in the line. 

Apple Retail – Personalization – with Apple Watch Series 5 – can choose any case and pair with any watch band. Apple Watch Studio – in stores and online. Apple Trade In program for iPhones. On Sep 20, hosting reopening of Apple 5th Avenue Store in NYC. 

Tim Cook – exciting morning! Arcade, Apple TV+, new iPad 10.2 inch, new Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro. “Thanks to everyone at Apple for doing the best work of their lives.”


What to do? Being such a photography buff, the new iPhone 11 Pro camera system looks very exciting to me! It’s amazing to me how the smartphone cameras are evolving with new capabilities and overtaking the existing camera industry (see Om’s post). I expect I’ll be upgrading from my iPhone Xs Max to the new iPhone 11 Pro later this fall.

More: A video replay of the event is also available. Also, John Voorhees at MacStories has put together a useful post with the release dates for OS Updates, New iPhones, and Apple Watch.