Why do we need the mysterious U1 chip in the iPhone 11

In the iPhone 11 model, a company from Cupertino added a U1 chip.

Oddly enough, there was no talk of it at the presentation; its presence in smartphones was indicated only on the English version of the Apple website on the devices page.

However, U1 can greatly influence the development of the technology industry.

What is the U1 chip for?

With the U1 chip, smartphones support the ultra wideband wireless standard (UWB). It allows devices to transfer files among themselves directly without Wi-Fi and low power consumption.

In newer iPhone models, she is improving wireless file transfer via AirDrop, as indicated on Apple’s website.

Just point your iPhone to another device with U1 where you want to transfer files. Then it will rise to the first place in the list of supported devices, and you will easily find it.

So, you instantly identify the device you need in the room, even with ten devices. At the same time, Wi-Fi connection is not required.

How practical is such an AirDrop substitute?

You can use it. In UWB networks, the maximum data transfer rate is 27 Mbps. This is slower than Wi-Fi, but faster than Bluetooth.

In addition, UWB works well where other communication standards are already in use. For example, the network is absolutely harmless in hospitals.

This is in contrast to Bluetooth, which can interfere with the work of medical electronic devices.

What else can this technology give?

Accurate AirDrop is just one of the features that U1 and ultra-wideband technology provide. In addition to file transfer, an important feature of UWB is the location of the device.

The location of the object is identified with an accuracy of 10 centimeters, says vice president of marketing at Decawave, a company that manufactures chips for working in UWB.

In some cases, the location is determined with an accuracy of 5 millimeters.

For this reason, writer Jason Snell is confident that the U1 chip and UWB network will enhance smart home, augmented reality and device security.

Here’s how gadgets will change with a U1 chip

– they’ll more accurately determine where things have gone.

The day before the presentation, the code for iOS 13 found a mention of the Apple Tag tracker (B389) for tracking things that works with U1. One line of the description says “tag your daily items with the B389 and you will never lose them.”

With the capabilities of U1, the Find iPhone app will work better.

– smart home will get better. By pinpointing the location of a smartphone, devices will better understand user requests and commands.

For example, you have audio speakers throughout your home. Knowing your location, a smart home will turn on music not only in the room where you are, but also in the corner where your favorite chair is, for example.

Move to another room with several speakers, and thanks to U1, music will turn on in another location on the speaker closest to you.

Apple calls the U1 “GPS for your living room.”

– devices, car and home will be more secure.

The door lock will not open until your smartphone is pointed at it, the car too. This will eliminate mechanical locks.

In this case, the principle of operation is the same as unlocking the Mac using the Apple Watch – the system determines the transit time of the radio signal to determine how far the device is.

– Augmented reality will be more realistic. With this chip, the device more accurately determines the correct location of virtual objects.

This technology still has problems

To transfer data or locate an object, both devices must operate in ultra-wideband networks. There are almost none, and so far this is the main problem of technology.

The iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are the only smartphones to have a U1 chip. One wonders if it will spread among other mobile devices.

9to5mac is confident that other major manufacturers will quickly pick up the technology. Google, Samsung, HTC and other popular vendors are members of the UWB trading groups and may receive chip shipments.

But this is just a guess.

From concrete examples, perhaps the FiRa consortium. A number of companies, including Sony, Samsung Electronics and Bosch, have teamed up to develop an ultra-wideband ecosystem.


It is logical that Apple did not talk about U1 at the last presentation. The bet on the chip and ultra-wideband communication standard is an investment in the future from the company.

Best of all, the benefits of these technologies will be visible on brand-name devices not yet announced, such as the Apple Tag and Apple Glass . With them, the first will more accurately indicate its location, and the second will better display objects of augmented reality.

Therefore, the words about an ultra-wideband communication standard would be too abstract, and the topic is incomprehensible.

I am glad that in Cupertino’s office they are thinking about steps for the future, and not just about capitalization. Wireless connectivity and augmented reality are the future of the electronics industry, and here the company can become one of the leaders.

With this approach, Apple will hold on top for a long time.


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