Apple tells accessory makers how to make things work with iPhone's U1 chip

Airtag Video
Airtag Video (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple has outlined how accessory companies can make use of the U1 chip found in modern iPhones.
  • Accessories using the U1 chip will be able to operate in a way that's similar to AirTag.

Apple has shared a specification for the Nearby Interactions with U1 (opens in new tab) system that will ultimately allow accessory makers to create devices that make use of iPhone 11 and iPhone 12's U1 chip.

The documentation was made available as part of WWDC21 and includes information for app developers, accessory manufacturers, and chipset makers who want to learn more about making the best of the U1 chip.

Allow people to interact with connected accessories in completely new and exciting ways by leveraging the U1 chip in iPhone or Apple Watch. The Nearby Interaction framework makes it easy to get started with integrating Ultra Wideband (UWB) in your apps and hardware accessories.

The draft specification could ultimately allow manufacturers to create accessories that use the U1 chip for Precision Finding similar to that offered by AirTag. This could then open the door to AirTag getting real competition. Similar Bluetooth trackers don't offer the same level of Precision Finding right now due to the lack of U1 compatibility.

The draft specification is intended for accessory manufacturers looking to integrate UWB into new or existing accessories. To learn how to build apps that work with Nearby Interaction-enabled accessories, view the the Nearby Interaction framework documentation. Chipset manufacturers who are interested in building a UWB solution that is interoperable with Apple U1 should join the MFi Program.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.