2020 iPad Pro Confirmed to Lack a U1 Ultra Wideband Chip

Last week, we laid out evidence suggesting that the just-released iPad Pro models do not contain a U1 Ultra Wideband chip, including the lack of any mention of the chip in tech specs or Apple’s press materials, the absence of software support for U1 features, and more. Most tellingly, iFixit was unable to find the chip or related antennas in the device.


Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber has followed up on the situation, and he has “confirmed with a little birdie who would certainly know the answer” that the new ‌iPad Pro‌ indeed does not have a U1 chip.

At first blush, it seems surprising that the 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ wouldn’t have a U1 chip when Apple deployed it across the entire iPhone 11 lineup last fall and indicated that it would be the basis for a number of future features. Perhaps the most high-profile rumored feature for the U1 relates Apple’s AirTags item trackers that have yet to launch, with the chip allowing for highly precise locating capabilities.

As discovered by iFixit in its teardown of the new iPad Pro, however, the new model’s internals are nearly identical to those of the 2018 model, down to the logic board layout. Even the new A12Z chip is essentially the previous A12X with a previously disabled graphics core enabled.

Adding a U1 chip to the ‌iPad Pro‌ would have required a redesign of the ‌iPad Pro‌ logic board, and depending on how the U1 interfaces with the device’s main chip, may have required more substantial changes in the A12Z chip itself, perhaps necessitating an all-new A13X chip to support the feature.

The U1 chip also requires associated antennas that wouldn’t play particularly nicely with the ‌iPad Pro‌’s metal chassis. On the ‌iPhone 11‌ series, these antennas require cutouts in the metal case lining, but remain concealed thanks to the glass exterior of the phone.

With rumors of a more substantial iPad Pro refresh as soon as this fall, including at least one mode with an A14X chip and a new mini-LED display, the latest model appears to have been a stopgap update to add some new AR-related capabilities without making a full overhaul of the device, and the addition of a U1 chip and associated hardware may have been required more substantial changes than Apple was willing to invest in for this update.

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2020 iPad Pro May Not Have a U1 Ultra Wideband Chip After All

While it was previously reported that all 2020 iPad Pro models feature the same Apple-designed U1 chip as the iPhone 11 lineup, enabling Ultra Wideband support, we have compiled evidence to suggest that this may not be the case.


As a reminder, Apple’s tech specs for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro list an Ultra Wideband chip for spatial awareness, but the chip is not mentioned in Apple’s tech specs for the new iPad Pro. Apple also did not mention the new iPad Pro featuring the U1 chip in its press release or in any other marketing materials for the device.

Beyond that, the directional AirDrop feature that the U1 chip enables on iPhone 11 models is not present on the new iPad Pro running iPadOS 13.4. Likewise, the Ultra Wideband toggle switch that Apple added to iPhones in iOS 13.3.1 is not present on the new iPad Pro.

While all of this could suggest that Apple has simply disabled the U1 chip in the new iPad Pro until it becomes more useful, such as when Apple releases its rumored AirTags item tracking tags, more evidence suggests otherwise.

Earlier this week, the teardown experts at iFixit informed us that they had yet to find physical evidence of the U1 chip in the new iPad Pro. However, iFixit did note that it had yet to remove RF shielding from the logic board to confirm this.

The biggest clue of all is that FCC filings for all iPhone 11 models list operating frequencies in the 6GHz range and the 7-8GHz range, and the rules for these frequencies points to “Subpart F — Ultra-Wideband Operation.” TechInsights last year reported that the U1 chip in iPhone 11 models transmits on two different frequencies, 6.24GHz and 8.23GHz.

By comparison, FCC filings indicate that all 2020 iPad Pro models operate within a max frequency range of 5GHz for Wi-Fi.

All of this presents a pretty solid case that the new iPad Pro might not have a U1 chip after all, but we have yet to confirm this without a doubt. When published, iFixit’s full teardown of the new iPad Pro should provide a definitive answer.

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