Apple Opening U1 Chip to Developers With New 'Nearby Interaction' Framework

Introduced last year, the U1 chip in iPhone 11 models enables Ultra Wideband support for improved spatial awareness, but Apple has so far only used the technology to power a directional AirDrop feature in iOS 13.

ios 14 nearby interaction demo
In the upcoming months, that should change, as Apple has announced that it is opening up its U1 chip to developers with a new "Nearby Interaction" framework for iOS 14. This framework can stream distance and relative direction between U1-equipped devices, paving the way for some interesting new spatial-related user experiences.

Apple provides some examples:

  • A multiuser AR experience places virtual water balloons in the hands of its participants
  • A taxi or rideshare app employs a peer user's direction in real time to identify the relative locations of a driver and a customer
  • A game app enables a user to control a paddle with their device and respond to a moving ball on the peer user's screen

"Nearby Interaction" will function on an opt-in basis, with users having to grant permission for their iPhone to find and be found by nearby devices each time they open an app that incorporates the framework. Random identifiers are generated for each session.

In its video overview of the framework, Apple noted that both iPhones should be in portrait orientation to ensure accurate measurement of distance and direction. If one iPhone is in portrait orientation and the other is in landscape, this could limit the measurement capabilities, as can walls, people, pets, objects, and other obstacles between the devices.

Apple has added "Nearby Interaction" support to its Simulator tool within Xcode 12 so that developers can experiment with the framework.

Related Forum: iOS 14

Top Rated Comments

GeoStructural Avatar
19 months ago
How cool is this? iOS and iPad OS are slowly becoming what we always wished for. This update is so good, literally the only things missing are XCode, Final Code Pro, and Logic for iPad. And USB-C for iPhone (not software-related, I know).

The fact that XCode and the other apps have been rewritten for A-chips or ARM architecture hints that they can finally come to the iPad.

Edit: More wishes:

* No notch on iPhone
* Multitasking on iPhone (side-by-side, top-bottom apps)
* Full Finder-like Files app on iPad
* Multiplatform iMessage.
* iMessage + Facetime in a single app.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
entropys Avatar
19 months ago
I would like to be able to point my iPhone at a TV/display screen and flick whatever is on it straight onto the big screen.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
konqerror Avatar
19 months ago

Would be nice if the could use the extra bandwidth the U1 can use to make airdrop a lot, lot faster
The protocol used in UWB (802.15.4z) has a whole 27 Mbps of data throughput. This UWB standard is made for positioning, not high speed data transfer. They can't compete against Wi-Fi at this point.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GregA Avatar
19 months ago
Any chance "Find my (wife)" will use the U1 chips in our phones to help pinpoint which direction she is in a store?

"Find my" works pretty well to get me within 30m/100ft, even though it ignores what floor we're on and doesn't integrate with Apple's maps of the mall or compass (so I need to work out my own bearings). But it's not quite good enough.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
newyorksole Avatar
19 months ago

How cool is this? iOS and iPad OS are slowly becoming what we always wished for. This update is so good, literally the only things missing are XCode, Final Code Pro, and Logic for iPad. And USB-C for iPhone (not software-related, I know).

The fact that XCode and the other apps have been rewritten for A-chips or ARM architecture hints that they can finally come to the iPad.

Edit: More wishes:

* No notch on iPhone
* Multitasking on iPhone (side-by-side, top-bottom apps)
* Full Finder-like Files app on iPad
* Multiplatform iMessage.
* iMessage + Facetime in a single app.

I feel like we’ll see top/bottom apps in portrait on iPhone by next year in iOS 15. And when turned to landscape mode the apps will be side-by-side.

Here’s hoping!
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unchecked Avatar
19 months ago
Ok so the U1 chip is the difference in Apple’s implementation of Android’s Instant Apps. Is it safe to assume not all android phones have a similar proximity chip?

Wonder what are the practical advantages and how developers will make use of it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

General black friday 20 sale feature 2

Best Thanksgiving Black Friday Deals on Apple Watch, AirPods Pro, MacBook Pro, More

Wednesday November 24, 2021 8:06 am PST by
We're one day away from Black Friday 2021, with many sales already in full swing and just as many ready to kick off tomorrow. In this article we're providing a quick summary of all the best sales we've seen so far this season, and the highlights to keep your eye on come Friday. For more on the best sales happening this week, visit our Black Friday Roundup. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Delays iOS 15 Feature for Adding Your Driver's License to Your iPhone Until Early 2022

Tuesday November 23, 2021 9:35 am PST by
Apple recently updated its website to indicate that an upcoming iOS 15 and watchOS 8 feature that will let you add your driver's license or state ID to your iPhone and Apple Watch in participating U.S. states has been delayed until early 2022. Apple previously said the feature would launch in late 2021. In September, Apple said Arizona and Georgia would be among the first states to introduce ...
airpods pro blue holiday 3

Black Friday: AirPods Pro With MagSafe Drop to $159 on Amazon

Tuesday November 23, 2021 9:12 am PST by
Amazon is now matching Walmart's price on the AirPods Pro with MagSafe, available for $159.00, down from $249.00. These are shipped and sold directly from Amazon, and in stock now. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. Stock may begin dwindling soon, ...
airpods pro pink holiday

Black Friday: AirPods Pro With MagSafe Hit Lowest Ever Price

Tuesday November 23, 2021 7:47 am PST by
Apple's AirPods Pro with the new MagSafe Charging Case is now available for its lowest ever price thanks to Black Friday sales. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. The limited-time deal is available at both Amazon and Walmart, which are both...
maxresdefault

There's No Windows for Arm Macs Yet Because Microsoft Has Secret Exclusivity Deal With Qualcomm

Monday November 22, 2021 12:56 pm PST by
Microsoft has declined to make a version of Windows 11 available for Apple's M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max Macs that are built on an Arm architecture, and now we may know the reason - a secret exclusivity deal with Qualcomm. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. According to XDA-Developers, Arm-based Windows has only been made available on devices with Qualcomm SoC's because of ...
airpods pro holiday 2

Apple Black Friday: AirPods Pro With MagSafe Drop to All-Time Low of $159 ($90 Off)

Monday November 22, 2021 12:01 pm PST by
Update November 23: This deal is now also available at Amazon. Black Friday is officially in full swing this afternoon, with the launch of one of the first major discounts at Walmart. There you can get Apple's AirPods Pro with MagSafe Charging Case for just $159.00, down from $249.00. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a...
maxresdefault

HomeKit Accessories Worth Checking Out

Tuesday November 23, 2021 7:06 am PST by
Every so often, MacRumors videographer Dan rounds up some of his favorite home products that he's been using. We have another installment of our HomeKit series, this time featuring devices from Lutron, Belkin, Sonos, and more. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. You can see everything in action in the video, and we have links and a short description for the HomeKit...
wrap up 3 homepod spotify 1

Spotify Users Growing Impatient and Canceling Subscriptions Over Lack of Native HomePod Support

Monday November 22, 2021 10:39 am PST by
Spotify users are growing impatient with the music streaming giant over its lack of HomePod support, pushing several customers to the brink of canceling their subscriptions entirely and moving to alternative platforms, such as Apple Music. More than a year ago, at the 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced that it would be adding third-party music service support to HomePod. A ...