iOS 16 Will Unleash the Capabilities of Accessories With U1 Chip

BY Sriansh

Published 21 Jul 2022

AirTag Find My iPhone

Apple announced iOS 16 with a lot of features last month. The key highlights of the new operating system include the new Lock Screen customizations, improvements to first-party apps, and more. However, there’s one key under-the-hood change in iOS 16 that has the potential to change your entire experience — it will allow third-party accessories with the U1 chip to trigger real-world actions hands-free.

While it doesn’t sound earth-shattering on paper, the feature will enable new capabilities in the Apple ecosystem that have never been seen before. With iOS 16, accessories with the U1 chip will be able to communicate with your iPhone and perform actions based on location. For example, the new feature would allow for turning on the lights when you enter a room or starting a workout when you get on your bike. 

The feature makes use of Apple’s Nearby Interaction framework. This is the same framework that lets you hand off the music to your HomePod by just holding it near the speaker. Coupled with ARKit, this framework also allows the Find My app to find the exact location of your AirTag using the Precision Finding feature. 

Apple is now opening up the Nearby Interaction framework to accessory makers and developers so they can create similar experiences for third-party apps/accessories. The company says that iOS 16 will allow accessories with the U1 chip to trigger these actions even when the app is running in the background. It is not necessary for the user to be actively using the app. 

It remains to be seen how accessory makers utilize the new framework. Popular chip maker Qorvo has announced (via MacRumors) that its Ultra Wide Band chips have been given the MFi certification. This means that third-party brands can now use their MFi-certified chip to make U1-compatible accessories and experiences. 

With the new iOS update, Apple is trying to take the ecosystem even further and allow third parties to take advantage of UWB technology and create more precise, directionally aware app experiences. What are your thoughts on this feature? Let us know in the comments section below!