The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro come with Apple’s new U1 Ultra Wideband chip. Despite the marketing name, it was believed by many that Apple was using a Decawave Ultra Wideband DW1000 chip inside its new iPhones. However, a teardown has confirmed that the Decawave chip and Apple’s U1 chip are both very different.
Decawave itself confirmed this and also mentioned that Apple’s chip is 802.15.4z compliant which means it will be interoperable with Decawave chips.
Apple did not talk much about its U1 wireless chip when it first announced the iPhone 11 series. So far, it has also only used the chip for a new feature in AirDrop. However, this chip has a lot of potential as explained by a radio frequency engineer.
“[Ultra wideband] uses a whole bunch of bandwidth to transfer data,” says William Sanitate, VP of Engineering at O & S Services. It accomplishes this by utilizing a much wider frequency spectrum than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which both only focus on a specific frequency spectrum. Furthermore, within UWB’s frequency spectrum, it can utilize huge 500MHz-wide channels. That’s a massive jump from Wi-Fi’s 20MHz-wide channels and Bluetooth’s puny 2MHz channels. This drastically helps with bandwidth, speed, and latency.
iFixit’s blog post then goes on to speculate that Apple could use the U1 chip and UWB for a number of purposes. Apart from Apple Tags, it could use UWB for data transfer when using AirDrop. Compared to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, data transfer over UWB would be notably faster since it has higher bandwidth and lower latency. If Apple ends up adding UWB to the AirPods, it could allow one to find the exact location of the wireless earbuds when they are lost.
Since Apple has put the effort to create an entirely new wireless chip, the company must have a lot of plans regarding it. For now, the first product that will take full advantage of the U1 chip inside the new iPhones is likely going to be Apple Tags which Apple should announce later this month.[Via iFixit]