Last year, Apple introduced a new U1 chip in the iPhone 11 lineup which enables support for Ultra Wideband to offer better spatial awareness. It allows for accurately measuring the distance between devices with Ultra Wideband support by recording time taken by a radio wave for reaching from one device to the other. And, it’s way more accurate than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE.
So far, the technology has only been used by Apple for powering a directional AirDrop feature that came in the iOS 13. Earlier in 2020, it was confirmed that the iPad Pro 2020 didn’t feature that U1 chip. However, Apple included the chip in its Apple Watch Series 6 reassuring users that they’ve still not dumped the Ultra Wideband technology.
Probably, the most high-end feature rumored for these U1 chips is related to the new AirTags item trackers from Apple which haven’t yet been launched. Earlier in June, the Cupertino-based smartphone manufacturer also revealed the U1 chip to its developers along with the “Nearby Interaction” framework introduced in iOS 14 that would stream distance as well as relative direction for the U1-equipped devices.
According to these developments, Apple seems to have major plans for the Ultra Wideband technology and a new rumor related to the tech claims that the upcoming “HomePod Mini” as well as the Apple TV that will ship next year might serve as the “UWB base-stations”. What this means is that they’ll be able to track precise locations as people with the U1 devices walk around their homes.
According to the leaker, as base stations the Apple TV and HomePod Mini will use this location information for brightness & volume controls, media controls, and door locks. This will effectively turn your typical Apple Hardware into a HomeKit hardware. The leak further claims that the new hardware could also be “used in the Find My app when you’re away from home, to alert you if any of your devices have been moved within or taken from your home.”