Apple last year introduced a U1 chip in the iPhone 11 series that enables Ultra Wideband support for improved spatial awareness. The distance between two devices that support Ultra Wideband can be measured precisely by calculating the time that it takes for a radio wave to pass between the two devices, with much more accuracy than Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi.
Apple has so far only used the technology to power a directional AirDrop feature in iOS 13, and earlier this year, MacRumors teamed up with repair site iFixit to confirm that the 2020 iPad Pro lacks the U1 chip, however the fact that it is included in the Apple Watch Series 6 provides reassurance that Apple is still committed to Ultra Wideband.
Perhaps the most high-profile rumored feature for the U1 relates to Apple’s AirTags item trackers that have yet to launch. In June, Apple also opened up its U1 chip to developers with a “Nearby Interaction” framework for iOS 14 that can stream distance and relative direction between U1-equipped devices.
These developments support the theory that Apple has big plans for the technology, and in a new Ultra Wideband-related rumor, leaker Jon Prosser has today claimed that the rumored “HomePod mini” expected to be announced tomorrow and next year’s Apple TV model will act as “UWB base-stations,” meaning they will be able to precisely track your location as you walk around the house with other U1 devices.
Prosser claims that as base stations the HomePod mini and Apple TV will use location information for media controls, brightness and volume controls, and door locks, effectively turning regular Apple hardware into HomeKit hardware. He also claims that the HomePod mini and new Apple TV will also be able to 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.”
Can 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.
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) October 12, 2020
According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a new Apple TV with a faster processor and a revamped remote control. The updated remote control, which was also hinted at in iOS 14 code, is said to include a new feature that’s similar to Find My iPhone for locating the remote when it’s lost inside the house. However, the new Apple TV is expected to launch in 2021 rather than 2020. Prosser also recently claimed that Apple has “pushed back the announcement and launch of Apple’s AirTags to March 2021.”
Prosser has a mixed track record so far with Apple rumors. He was correct about both a second-generation iPhone SE being announced on April 15, 2020 and the 13-inch MacBook Pro being refreshed on May 4, 2020, but he has also shared a fair amount of incorrect information, including iOS switching back to iPhoneOS branding, the new iPhone SE having the same rear camera system as the iPhone XR, and fake images of an AirPower-like wireless charging mat, so take this latest rumor with a pinch of salt for now.