A teardown of the U1 chip in the iPhone 11 confirmed that Apple was designed.
iFixit states that the Apple chip has a different design from the DW1000, but uses the same standards and is compatible with third-party devices that use the Decawave chip. A teardown of Decawave and TechInsights ‘ Apple U1 chip confirms that Apple has developed its own technology.
The company shared the news in a blog post.
Apple has spent the last decade becoming a chipmaker. Now they offer the A, M, W, H, T and S series of processors and coprocessors on their devices. The U1 wireless processor is the latest addition, which appears in the new line of iPhone 11. Originally meant to be licensed by Decawave, the chip is actually developed by Apple. In a statement, Decawave told us that “Apple-designed its 802.15.4z compliant chipset, which will be interoperable with Decawave.” The TechInsights technician who dismantled the Decawave package told us that their analysis shows that Apple’s U1 chip is “absolutely different” compared to the DW1000.
The U1 chip uses a variant of Wi-Fi, but in a frequency range that is not used by many others.
Within the UWB frequency spectrum, it can use huge 500 MHz channels. It’s a huge leap from Wi-Fi channels at 20 MHz and bad channels at 2 MHz to Bluetooth. This helps drastically with bandwidth, speed and latency.
“Given that bandwidth is so wide, you can practically eliminate the 2.4 GHz problems,” says Sanitate. The 2.4 GHz frequency spectrum is overwhelmed by a multitude of different devices throughout the home, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee devices, as well as cordless phones, car alarms and microwave ovens. UWB uses higher frequency ranges that are not so overwhelmed. “There’s really nothing in that space,” says Sanitate. “Some Wi-Fi uses 5 GHz, but above 5 GHz there’s really nothing.”
Interestingly, although Apple’s chip adheres to the ultra-wide band (UWB) standard, making it compatible with similar chips in other devices, Apple does not appear to be a member of the UWB Alliance. Current members include iRobot, Hyundai and Kia.
The U1 chip should be used to locate Apple tags, an unannounced version of a tile-like tracker. However, the chip could do much more, including enabling smarter smart blocks.