What is UWB and why is iPhone a better choice if you want to make use of it?

Apple AirTag in hand

The most popular use of UWB is Apple’s AirTag tracker.


UWB – short for ultra-wideband – is a low-power, short-range radio technology that’s been around for several decades (it went by the name “pulse radio” for a while).

UWB uses super-fast signal pulses (anything up to over a billion per second) transmitted across a wide swath of the radio spectrum (from 500 MHz to several gigahertz). This allows it to avoid the interference problems that plague other technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Also: Flipper Zero FAQ: ‘Can you really hack Wi-Fi networks?’ and other questions answered

Until recently, ZČU was limited mainly to military and medical applications.

But that is changing.

While it seemed that UWB might replace Wi-Fi (which it didn’t), and that Apple might be planning to use it as a replacement for Bluetooth to communicate with AirPods, the feature of UWB that made it mainstream is accuracy. finding.

Apple has incorporated UWB support into many of its devices over the past few years, building the U1 chip into them iPhone since iPhone 11 version, Apple Watch starting with Series 6, HomePod Mini, Second generation AirPods Proand of course, AirTags.

If you’re using AirTags – and if you’re an iPhone user, I really think you should be – then you’re already using UWB to find your lost keys and pets.

Also: 5 ways AirTags can make your life easier

The low power aspect of UWB means that a small coin cell battery can last a year on a tag, while the precision search feature means you can narrow down your search for lost items from a few hundred feet to a few inches.

Not only is it more accurate than GPS, but it works both indoors and outdoors.

And in the Apple ecosystem, everything just works.

Well… sort of.

There is one exception, and that is the latest generation iPhone SE. For some strange reason, Apple didn’t include UWB support here. A bit of an oversight if you ask me, and I hope the next generation iPhone SE changes that.

Assessment: Apple iPhone SE (2022): You simply won’t find a better phone at this price

But what if you are an Android user?

Here things are much more complicated.

Of the myriad of Android devices released every month, few support UWB.

It’s a very short list so far.

Oh, and to make it even more confusing, of all those Samsung devices listed as supporting UWB, only the S21+ and S21 Ultra currently do. I assume Samsung will enable this on other devices at some point.

Also: Top 5 Samsung Phones

Yeah, I know, weird.

Samsung has its own flavor of AirTags, called Galaxy SmartTag+but if you don’t own one of Samsung’s UWB-enabled smartphones, you’re out of luck.

More annoyance.

Tags are one thing. You can take them or leave them, but ZČU is gaining strength in other areas.

One of these uses is as a digital “key” to your home or car. Imagine the convenience of being able to walk up to your car or front door and have it detect your approach and automatically unlock it for you.

Well, if you’re an iPhone owner, things are golden if you bought a new phone in the last few years and that iPhone wasn’t the iPhone SE.

But for you Android users, it’s more complicated.

Not only do you have to find out if your smartphone supports UWB, but you also have to figure out how to turn it on if it does.

I believe things will improve over the next few years, but it may take a long time for UWB to reach the budget of Android devices.


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