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 Roundups: iOS 14, iPadOS 14
Related Forum: iOS 14

Top Rated Comments

GeoStructural Avatar
16 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
16 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
16 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
16 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
16 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
16 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)

Top Stories

calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
gradiente iphone white

Brazilian Electronics Company Revives Long-Running iPhone Trademark Dispute

Tuesday May 19, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Apple has been involved in a long-running iPhone trademark dispute in Brazil, which was revived today by IGB Electronica, a Brazilian consumer electronics company that originally registered the "iPhone" name in 2000. IGB Electronica fought a multi-year battle with Apple in an attempt to get exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark, but ultimately lost, and now the case has been brought to...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
maxresdefault

New MacBook Pro Models Coming at WWDC, Suggests Leaker

Monday May 24, 2021 1:27 pm PDT by
New MacBook Pro models are coming at WWDC, according to leaker Jon Prosser who has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting Apple's plans. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Prosser provided no additional information, but there are new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models in the works. The new MacBook Pros will feature the most radical redesign to the MacBook Pro ...
omg lightning cable comparison

Security Researcher Develops Lightning Cable With Hidden Chip to Steal Passwords

Thursday September 2, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
A normal-looking Lightning cable that can used to steal data like passwords and send it to a hacker has been developed, Vice reports. The "OMG Cable" compared to Apple's Lightning to USB cable. The "OMG Cable" works exactly like a normal Lightning to USB cable and can log keystrokes from connected Mac keyboards, iPads, and iPhones, and then send this data to a bad actor who could be over a...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived last October in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12...
Top Stories 75 Thumbnail

Top Stories: Last-Minute iPhone 13 Rumors, Apple Announces App Store Changes, and More

Saturday September 4, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The finish line is in sight! Apple's annual iPhone event is likely just a week or so away and all eyes will be on the company as it unveils the next version of its most popular product line. With any luck, we'll also see the next-generation Apple Watch and perhaps even some new AirPods. Other news this week saw Apple making some more changes to its App Store policies in response to a...
M1X MBP Feature

Leaker: Upcoming MacBook Pro to See Price Hike Over Current Model, Equal Performance Across 14 and 16-Inch Sizes

Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:28 am PDT by
The upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro is set to be more expensive than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and both the 14 and 16-inch models will offer the same performance, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." The leaker shared the information on Twitter, explaining that both of the upcoming MacBook Pro models, expected to come in 14 and 16-inch sizes, will feature the same performance due...