iPhone 11’s U1 chip will far beyond just locating Apple Tags

By embracing ultra-wideband location tech, Apple has a chance to reshape experiences far beyond Airdrop and locating Apple Tags. On the company’s website, Apple describes the U1 chip: “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.”

Jason Snell for Six Colors:

From raw data alone, UWB devices can detect locations within 10 centimeters (4 inches), but depending on implementation that accuracy can be lowered to as much as 5 millimeters, according to Mickael Viot, VP of marketing at UWB chipmaker Decawave…

The possible applications of UWB go way beyond AirDrop and tracking tags. Decawave’s Viot says potential applications include smart home tech, augmented reality, mobile payments… keyless car entry, and even indoor navigation…

In terms of smart home tech, both security and functionality could be improved by devices knowing exactly where they are, and where the humans in the house are. (This is one reason why Viot thinks that Apple will add UWB support to the Apple Watch sooner rather than later: we aren’t always with our phones, but we bring our wrists with us wherever we go.) Imagine a whole-home audio system moving music playback through multiple rooms based on the location of an individual listener. Consider the peace of mind of knowing that your smart door lock won’t open unless you’re standing right in front of it—and can lock the moment it knows you’re inside.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last week:

When looking at Apple Tagged objects while wearing Apple Glasses, the U1 chip will be invaluable!

Grocery and every other retail store that wishes to remain in business will be full of Apple Tags. Imagine golfing while wearing Apple Glasses with an Apple Tagged golf holes. Or shooting pool. Or driving past Apple Tagged road signs. Or holding a baseball card. Or touring a city or museum or hiking a wilderness trail. Or running a 5K. Or looking at vehicles on a car lot or rideshares as they arrive to pick you up. Or, through crowd-sharing, precisely locate where that last remaining Cabbage Patch doll is within 25 miles of you on Christmas Eve. “Hey, Siri, find me a Cabbage Patch Doll for sale with 25 miles of me! Buy it and hold it for me, on on my way!” Extrapolate from there.


    1. Apple has a pretty good track record of bringing useful stuff to commercial application. You can randomly gripe and snipe (and you do), but this sounds like one of those features that will stick and grow to become ubiquitous. My guess is that other vendors will rapidly move to copy Apple on this feature because it has the potential to improve user engagement with such a wide range of assistive functions, both in and out of the home.

      1. You forgot to finish your sentence. Apple, now a largely directionless corporation, once had a track record of bringing useful stuff to commercial application but now is more famous for abandoning them if they can’t be tied to subscriptions.

        Apple rapidly moving on is nothing new, but these days Apple doesn’t even try to replace a weak product with a follow-up. Back in the day, Apple usually had something better to offer next year; Lisa was replaced with the Mac. Hockey pucks were replaced with oblong mice quickly. These days Apple lets its lead in tech rot, and lessons were not learned. The failed cube was replaced with the trashcan which sold miserably for 6 YEARS. Apple builds a brand and a loyal following and then suddenly everyone discovers that Apple stopped supporting the product 5 years before without a word. Affordable Apple Displays. Airports. Apple Server. Appleworks/iWork. iPod shuffle, mini, nano. Even crap like Apple Beacon. LiquidMetal. Sapphire Glass, all just overhyped investments that went nowhere. The expensive Apple-branded Qi charging mat. Inexpensive Mac laptops. Mid range headless desktop Macs. ALAC. Quicktime. Lickable GUIs with decent skeu. Aperture and dozens of other great software titles. Multiple generations of failed online services. The reason pros cannot trust Apple anymore is because even if they are willing to be fleeced on cost, they are not stupid enough to trust that Apple will support the product and expend the effort to build a vibrant 3rd party ecosystem. That only happens on iPhone. Everything else is a hobby, and today that appears to include the Mac, the last truly personal computer Apple offers.

        Apple has always been a laggard in NFC, and you know it. Apple also abandoned WiFi and networking tech long ago (perhaps you don’t remember when Apple declared it was going to be a leader in secure networking?). Today there is nothing Apple is going to offer in the next year or three that Apple’s supplier Qualcomm can’t sell to all of Apple’s competitors first. Apple gave up on networking thanks to shortsighted beancounters.

        There was a time when Apple was worth the premium price, but for many people, those reasons are falling away rapidly. The gripes are more than justified.

        On the other hand, it will be amusing to watch Timmy burn Apple’s accrued cash in Hollywood.

  1. “Indoor navigation” is an interesting concept, especially when you consider the potential for blind people, navigating their homes and their workplace. That is a whole new area (market) for Apple.

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