AirPods Studio Could Be the First Earphones to Get Apple’s U1 Chip

AirPods Studio Headphones Concept Credit: Jon Prosser / Concept Creator
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We’ve been hearing for almost two years now that an Ultra-Wideband revolution is coming, and when Apple debuted the new U1 chip in its iPhone 11 lineup last year, it seemed to be the first step into a much bigger world, but unfortunately, it’s largely been a baby step so far.

It’s been a year since the launch of the first device with the U1 chip, and at this point, Apple hasn’t yet done anything more with the groundbreaking new technology than simplify AirDrop sharing. In essence, iPhone 11 users are better able to target their AirDrop broadcasts by pointing devices at each other, which can be helpful in a busy environment where lots of people have AirDrop turned on, but compared to what ultra-wideband is actually capable of, it’s pretty underwhelming to say the least.

Ultra-wideband ultimately promises to make location services significantly more accurate, powering everything from indoor navigation to item tracking tags — there’s no doubt in fact that it will be a key component of Apple’s AirTags that are expected to launch any day now.

Despite the 2020 iPad Pro missing out on the new U1 chip, Apple did actually did sneak it into the Apple Watch Series 6 last week (but not the Apple Watch SE), without any real comment as to what it might actually be used for, and now if the rumours are true, there may be another product on the horizon that will incorporate the U1 chip.

AirPods Studio

After Apple dropped the U1 chip into the iPhone 11 lineup last year, we almost expected to find it in the AirPods Pro that launched a couple of weeks later, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

While it seems fairly likely that Apple’s AirPods will get these capabilities at some point — after all, it would make the Find My AirPods feature way more useful — with most reports suggesting that we won’t see any new AirPods until early 2021, it may actually be Apple’s upcoming on-ear headphones that will be the first to gain the coveted chip.

Expected to be dubbed “AirPods Studio,” this is a product that we’ve already been expecting for a while; after all, Apple has reportedly been working on it for about two years now, and at this point they’re reportedly already in production in Vietnam.

In fact, just last week we saw a purported leak of the new AirPods Studio design, which are expected to be available in two different versions — the rather spartan design shown in the leak is most likely the “Sport” variant — are already expected to include several other cool features, including sensors that allow you to wear them either way, head and neck detection so that they automatically pause music when you remove them from your ears, and even custom EQ mode.


As for where the U1 chip would fit in? Well, it’s hard to say with absolute certainty, but it seems like this would be used to basically allow iPhone users to locate their headphones wherever they may happen to be using the Find My app, although it could also certain unlock other possibilities, such as allowing AirPods Studio to know when other Apple headphones are in close proximity in order to provide easier access to things like Audio Sharing.

The rumour of a U1 chip in Apple’s headphones was shared by the generally reliable @L0vetodream, in a tweet that simply said “u1 for studio,” but it’s a leak that makes a lot of sense when you think about it, since with Apple’s actual AirTags undoubtedly on the horizon, the company would also be in a unique position to promote AirPods Studio as the first device with “AirTags” built-in; in fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple comes up with branding for the feature itself such as “AirFind” to promote its devices that have these capabilities incorporated into their designs.

Another follow-up tweet, translated from Chinese by MacRumors, goes into a fair bit more detail about where the U1 chip might actually fit in, tying it also in with the Apple Watch Series 6 and suggesting that it could empower the new spatial audio feature in iOS 14 to make it even more accurate in recognizing the actual positioning of the headset relative to the user’s iPhone.

I said this point a few months ago. With the launch of S6 and the U1 chip, it has confirmed my prediction that the ecosystem in the future will use U1 to determine distance and direction, similar to AirPods’ spatial audio function in iOS 14. It is likely that the new headset with the U1 chip should be able to automatically recognize the left and right positioning of the headset.


If true, however, this might be a capability that Apple isn’t ready to fully unlock out of the gate. Certainly, at this point, it would be limited to working with the iPhone only, since none of Apple’s iPads yet include the U1 chip — even the newly-announced iPad Air makes no mention of it — but it definitely does seem possible that this is something Apple could turn the switch on in the future as the capabilities of the U1 chip expand even further.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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