Rumor: The next Apple TV and HomePod mini to double as UWB base stations

According to a prominent leaker, the next Apple TV and a smaller $99 HomePod model will double as ultra-wide band (UWB) base stations capable of tracking the user’s location as they walk around the house. This is going to require Apple’s A1 chip for spatial awareness that will allegedly be built into the next Apple TV and the HomePod mini. In addition, the feature will require an U1-enabled device like one of the iPhone 11 or Apple Watch Series 6 models.

Reliable Apple leaker Jon Prosser said in a tweet today that the HomePod mini and the new Apple TV, neither of which is expected to be announced at Apple’s event tomorrow, will “precisely track your location as you walk inside house with other U1 devices.“

How to use the new Find My app

The gathered indoor micro-positioning location data will in turn be creatively used for things like media controls, brightness and volume controls and door locks, “effectively turning regular Apple hardware into HomeKit hardware,“ he added.

In a subsequent tweet, the leaker added that Apple customers might even be able to use their ‌HomePod‌ mini and the new ‌Apple TV‌ in the Find My app when they’re away from home, “to alert you if any of your devices have been moved within or taken from your home.“

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The U1 chip is currently found in the iPhone 11 smartphones and the new Apple Watch Series 6 smart watch. The chip bears a model number “TMKA75“. It’s a standalone piece of silicon rather than being embedded into Apple’s A-series system-on-a-chip. The low-power U1 chip is manufactured on TSMC’s 16-nanometer FinFET process technology.

So far, Apple has used the U1 for direction AirDrop, a feature that lets you point your iPhone toward someone else’s to have AirDrop prioritize that device, resulting in faster sharing. If there’s any substance to this rumor, Apple might use the U1 for a lot more. For instance, it should play a crucial role in the Apple Glasses, allowing that rumored VR/AR device to track spacial relationships of objects via time-of-flight-ranging and network position estimation.