What you need to know

  • A teardown has confirmed Apple's U1 UWB chip is its own design.
  • The news puts an ends to speculation it was actually designed by Decawave.
  • U1 chip is purportedly for locating rumored Apple Tags.

An iPhone 11 teardown has revealed that the U1 Ultra Wideband chip in the iPhone is a product designed by Apple, not the Decawave Ultra Wideband DW1000 as some suspected. As reported by iFixit, a teardown carried out by a TechInsights technician has seemingly confirmed that Apple designed its own chip for the launch of iPhone 11.

According to the report:

Since the iPhone 11 announcement, theories have abounded that Apple's new U1 wireless chip is actually a Decawave Ultra Wideband DW1000. But a teardown of both Decawave and Apple's U1 chip by TechInsights confirms that Apple developed their own technology. But what is the U1 chip, and what capabilities does it give Apple?

Apple has spent the last decade becoming a chip powerhouse. They now offer the A, M, W, H, T, and S series of processors and coprocessors across their devices. The U1 wireless processor is the latest addition, appearing in the new iPhone 11 lineup. Originally thought to be licensed from Decawave, the chip is in fact Apple's own design. In a statement, Decawave told us that "Apple has designed their own chip set that is 802.15.4z compliant which will be interoperable with Decawave." The TechInsights technician who disassembled the Decawave package told us that their die analysis shows that Apple's U1 chip is "absolutely different" than the DW1000.

UWB is a short range radio technology, similar to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, it uses a much wider frequency spectrum compared to other technologies, allowing it to utilize 500MHz- channels which gives a huge boost to bandwidth, speed and latency capabilities. UWB can also measure how long it takes signals to transfer between transmitters to accurately measure distance and location.

This is interesting for Apple users because UWB in the iPhone 11 has purportedly been installed for use with Apple's rumored Tags, small tracking devices much like popular product Tiles. It could also improve iPhone's (and future phones) capability with smart home tech, AR, mobile payments and more. According to Apple:

The new Apple‑designed U1 chip uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness — allowing iPhone 11 to understand its precise location relative to other nearby U1‑equipped Apple devices.3 Think GPS at the scale of your living room. So if you want to share a file with someone using AirDrop, just point your iPhone at theirs and they'll be first on the list.3

Now we know that Apple's UWB technology was created in-house. Whilst the design may be different to the DW1000, it will be compatible with the chip, so Apple's UWB capabilities may extend to third-party devices and accessories.