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Apple confirms that new iPhones have U1 locator chips and promises "great new opportunities"

One of the understated components of Apple & # 39; s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro is the new U1 chip. It did not receive a prominent explanation on the stage of today's announcement event, but it will support what Apple says that "amazing new possibilities" will come to iOS devices in the future, including a more accurate, directional version of AirDrop that will be released with iOS 13 delivered.

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The & # 39; U & # 39; in U1 stands for & # 39; ultra broadband & # 39 ;, the technology that Apple uses to drive new location tracking features for its smartphones and, hopefully soon, other accessories. With the U1 chip, the latest iPhone can locate and communicate with other U1 devices in a more accurate and fast way.

Think of ultra-broadband as in the same overall margin as Bluetooth Low Energy, because it is also an energy-efficient, short-range radio technology used for wireless data transfer. But this time it's packed in a special chip on Apple's new phones, and it has a number of handy location tracking benefits, such as improved spatial awareness and more precise localization of fellow U1 chips.

In that sense, the U1 can be considered as part of the chip family that contains the W1 and newer H1 chip found in Apple & # 39; s AirPods, which allow the company's wireless earbuds to better connect Bluetooth connections to iOS devices. manage. Apple's goal here is to use its growing chip power and tight ecosystem control to make all its devices work better and faster with other Apple-made gadgets. That makes it more convenient to buy Apple, even when there are other hardware makers who can make better, cheaper things.

Apple has not promoted the U1 on stage, but it does have its own slide in the Promotional material for iPhone 11 on the Apple website. There it is described as the basis for the new directional version of AirDrop that takes into account what your phone is pointing to in relation to the device with which you are trying to share files. "Think of GPS on the scale of your living room," writes Apple. "So if you want to share a file with someone using AirDrop, just point your iPhone at his and they are the first on the list."

One of the options that enthusiastic Apple fans hoped for was the anything but confirmed Apple Tag, a Tile-like locator device for keeping track of your keys, wallet, and other easy-to-lose items. Code buried in the iOS 13 beta showed that the product and its function were en route, making Apple compete against Tile and other similar hardware makers who have been selling Bluetooth-based versions of similar locator products for years. But Apple Tag was a no-show at today's event, meaning it can appear at the annual iPad event in October.

As for Tile, the location tracking company is trying to embed its technology directly into Bluetooth chips in a way that resembles the operation of the U1 in the new iPhones. Tile works with Qualcomm, Dialog Semiconductor, Silicon Labs and Toshiba to include Tile compatibility as an option on future chipsets. Tile has also previously entered into a partnership with Boosted and Bose to embed its location tracking network directly into gadgets.

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So when Apple Tag finally comes out, the iPhone maker will certainly face tough competition from within the wider Tile range. But at least we now know that Apple's secret weapon is the U1.