Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren for Macworld

Will 2021 be the year Apple’s U1 chip goes wide?

Apple’s no stranger to introducing and popularizing new technologies. The original iMac wasn’t the first to use USB, but it drove adoption of the standard. Multitouch displays existed before the iPhone, but it was the first real commercial product offering it. Sometimes those technologies take a while to gestate, though. And there may be no better example in recent years than Apple’s take on ultra wideband, or UWB.

Like those other technologies, ultra wideband isn’t new as a concept, but it’s something that hasn’t really found a home in the consumer market. In 2019, Apple released the iPhone 11 series and included a custom chip dubbed the U1. During the introduction, Apple talked up the amazing properties of the U1, and how it could be used to not only track the location of objects with amazing precision, but even has the ability to point you in the right direction towards them.

But almost a year and a half later, U1 remains a technology without much of an application. Yes, it’s built in to AirDrop to show you which other devices are closest, but that only works with other U1-enabled iPhones and it’s more of a proof of concept than an actual feature to tout. Other than that, there’s really not much there there—yet. With a few U1-enabled technologies waiting in the wings, 2021 finally be the breakout year for this technology.

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