With final month’s extremely anticipated AirTag launch, Apple lastly levelled up the U1 chip in its iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 fashions, however there’s one gadget that also appears to have been ignored of the occasion: the Apple Watch Sequence 6.
It was one thing Apple didn’t speak about in any respect when it unveiled the brand new Apple Watch lineup final fall, which in all probability isn’t stunning as a result of it didn’t really do something on the time. Its presence was clearly famous within the spec sheets for the Apple Watch Sequence 6, and actually it was one of the differentiators from the lower-cost Apple Watch SE.
Nonetheless, even now, the Apple Watch Sequence 6 chip stays sadly unused, even for the comparatively extra pedestrian options that Apple debuted with the iPhone 11 and the brand new HomePod mini.
To be honest, Apple didn’t have something to say in regards to the U1 chip at its iPhone 11 launch occasion both, though it was conspicuously proven in a graphic behind Phil Schiller, and never lengthy after the occasion the iPhone 11 product web page particularly talked about the chip underneath the heading “Extremely Wideband know-how involves iPhone,” and hinting at great things to come.
Again then, nonetheless, the extremely wideband capabilities of the iPhone had been associated to focusing on AirDrops to a selected person by pointing your iPhone at them. Whereas this was type of a cool characteristic for somebody in a busy room, it was on no account groundbreaking.
Then got here the HomePod mini final fall, which leveraged the U1 chip for a cool new handoff feature, a barely nicer quality-of-life enchancment, however once more one thing that fell in need of what we’d lengthy been hoping the U1 chip would do.
Nonetheless, regardless of quietly gaining the U1 chip a couple of months earlier, the Apple Watch Sequence 6 didn’t get to play alongside, since very like the AirDrop characteristic from the 12 months earlier than, the wearable doesn’t help Apple Music handoff even with its paired iPhone, a lot much less with a HomePod mini.
Nonetheless, we’ve been satisfied for the reason that U1 chip first arrived in 2019 that the actual function for its existence was to help discovering Apple’s AirTags, and final month the corporate confirmed this to be true with its Precision Finding feature that’s unique to the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models.
Sadly, whereas it appeared like this may be the opportune time for the Apple Watch Sequence 6 to shine, it was as a substitute utterly ignored of the sport.
Regardless of its U1 chip, there’s no Discover My Objects help for the Apple Watch Sequence 6. The one Discover My app on the Apple Watch is Discover Folks. AirTags can only be located with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, not an Apple Watch, nor does the Apple Watch even report the location of nearby AirTags.
Now, that doesn’t imply that this isn’t on the way in which, after all. In actual fact, the very presence of the U1 chip within the Apple Watch Sequence 6 strongly hints that we’ll see a Discover My Objects app in watchOS sooner reasonably than later. Sadly, it’s not within the present watchOS 7.5 betas, and whereas it’s nonetheless doable it may make an look in a later beta, our guess is that if it’s coming in any respect, it’s slated for watchOS 8, which is anticipated to debut at WWDC subsequent month.
That stated, there’s extra to the U1 chip than simply AirTags, after all, and whereas it appears inconceivable to us that the Apple Watch wouldn’t develop into a part of the Discover My Objects household, it’s completely doable Apple has even greater plans up its sleeve.
U1 within the Residence
Apple already gave away some other possibilities with a patent utility final 12 months, which not solely included the applied sciences present in AirTags, however a number of different attention-grabbing concepts that the Apple Watch may take part in.
For instance, since an Apple Watch is extra prone to be worn on an individual even when their iPhone is sitting on a desk, different U1-equipped HomeKit units, like HomePod mini audio system, may use the U1 chip to find out the place you’re in your house, permitting issues like music playback and lighting to be robotically managed as you progress from room to room.
As of now, the one HomeKit accent that has a U1 chip is the HomePod mini, however we’re positive Apple would love to provide customers another excuse to deploy extra HomePod minis round their house. Nonetheless, it’s additionally not laborious to think about different sensible house accent makers incorporating U1 chips into issues like sensible locks, lights, and even thermostats.
For instance, some door locks, reminiscent of August’s Good Lock, can already use GPS location and Bluetooth proximity detection to robotically unlock whenever you method your entrance door — it’s a characteristic a few of us use on daily basis — however the U1 chip may make this even higher by avoiding the necessity for GPS knowledge completely and solely unlocking your door whenever you’re proper in entrance of it, reasonably than 20–30 ft away.
Additional, think about a house the place lights turned off robotically whenever you left a room, or the place temperatures may very well be adjusted based mostly on the areas of your house which are occupied — all with out clumsy movement sensors.
U1 on the Street
When Apple unveiled its new Car Key feature last year, it felt like extra of a proof of idea than a helpful characteristic. Restricted solely to BMW autos at launch, it relied on NFC connections that required you to tug out your iPhone and faucet it towards your automobile to unlock, after which place your iPhone in a delegated spot on the console earlier than you may begin your automobile.
Contemplating that the important thing fobs that include virtually each trendy automobile permit for a a lot larger stage of comfort, it was actually laborious to see what the purpose was of Automotive Key. Certain, you may share digital (and time-based) keys with family and friends through iMessage, however when it got here to truly utilizing it with your individual automobile, it was actually extra bother than it was value.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that Apple solely launched Automotive Key to get it on the market and whet our appetites, forward of the brand new spec that will implement Ultra Wideband support. This will probably be the place Automotive Key really comes into its personal, since it should permit for a similar capabilities as present key fobs, and extra. It’s additionally not laborious to see how the Apple Watch will probably be on the centre of this.
U1 on the Retailer
One other concept that Apple appears to be laborious at work on is using U1 to improve the Apple Wallet experience.
Whereas we suspect this one is a bit additional off, because it requires retailers to get on board, the thought could be to insert extremely wideband chips into fee terminals to permit the right fee and loyalty playing cards to be chosen robotically from the Pockets app.
This might additionally transcend simply funds, for the reason that Pockets app can even retailer issues like tickets and boarding passes, so it’s not laborious to think about a state of affairs the place your live performance tickets or airline go are able to go as quickly as you method the lineup.
In actual fact, whereas it will clearly want the cooperation of the banking and funds industries, Apple may ultimately take UWB even farther, changing NFC-based funds completely. Think about a state of affairs the place you not have to gap your iPhone or Apple Watch proper up towards a terminal to make a fee, however may as a substitute simply pull it out and make sure and authorize the fee immediately out of your gadget.
The underside line is that it’s clear that Apple is taking part in the lengthy sport right here with the U1 chip and extremely wideband know-how, which is sometime anticipated to energy a mess of different issues as properly, reminiscent of indoor navigation in malls, airports, and sporting venues.
Regardless of indications that Apple wanted to get AirTags out back in 2019, it’s pretty clear that by the point it added the U1 chip it knew that its merchandise monitoring tags had been nonetheless a means off. Nonetheless, it was nonetheless decided to put the groundwork to be sure that when AirTags lastly did come alongside, there could be much more units outfitted to deal with options like Precision Discovering.
We suspect that is additionally the case with the U1 chip within the Apple Watch. It does nothing proper now, however we will safely count on it to develop into a typical part of future Apple Watch fashions, in order that by the point the know-how is prepared, many individuals will all the things they should make the most of it already sitting on their wrists.