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(Pocket-lint) - Apple's iPhone 11 models and iPhone 12 models feature a U1 chip - or ultra wideband chip - that allows them to precisely locate and communicate with other U1-equipped devices. The chip also offers improved spatial awareness. 

It is possible to disable the U1 chip however. Here is what the U1 chip can do, why you might want to disable it and how to disable it on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models.

What can Apple's U1 chip do?

The U1 is a chip by Apple that allows some of its more recent iPhone models (or any U1-equipped device) to detect its exact position relative to other devices in the same room. The U1 joins other "dedicated" chips developed by Apple, like the W1 and the H1 chip found in AirPods. Each chip has specialised tasks it handles, helping Apple's devices to work more efficiently and integrate better.

Pocket-lint has an explainer on the U1 chip here, but, in a nutshell: It uses technology, called Ultra Wideband (UWB), to determine location and spatial awareness. Apple calls Ultra-Wideband "GPS at the scale of your living room", and the iPhone 11 models and iPhone 12 models currently use this system to enhance Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, as well as to make AirDrop work better and smarter. 

Why would you disable Apple's U1 chip?

Some users complained about how the U1-equipped iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro can track location data even when the location services are turned off. In response to this, Apple rolled out a software update to allow users to disable the U1 chip.

There were also reports when the iPhone 11 models were originally released that UWB technology was not allowed in some countries, like Russia, Iran, Argentina, and Indonesia.

As a result, it's possible to permanently turn off the U1 chip.

Apple/Pocket-lintHow to turn off Apples U1 location-tracking chip in iPhone 11 image 2

How to turn off Apple's U1 chip

To ensure your iPhone no longer tracks your location all the time, do this:

  1. Make sure your iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 is running iOS 13.3.1 or later
  2. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  3. Scroll to and tap Privacy.
  4. Tap Location Services.
  5. Select System Services from the list
  6. Go to the Networking and Wireless option and disable it.
  7. Confirm to disable the U1 chip.

Note: By turning the U1 chip off, your iPhone can no longer use location services to improve your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Britta O'Boyle. Originally published on 29 January 2020.