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The Apple Watch Series 6 is hiding a significant hardware upgrade

The newly-announced Apple Watch Series 6 may seem like a modest upgrade from a hardware perspective, but there’s more to it than that new SpO2 blood oxygen monitor.

Apple didn’t make a song and dance about it during its Time Flies event on Tuesday, but the Apple Watch is the first to rock the U1 Ultra Wideband chip. It’s not in the Apple Watch SE and wasn’t within the Series 5.

The presence was revealed during the presentation in a graphic showing all of the Apple Watch Series 6 new features (via The Verge), as well as within the spec sheet on the Apple Store website. So, what does it do? Well, the U1 UWB chip is a short range radio technology that enables communication with other compatible devices.

The chip was featured within the iPhone 11, with Apple only revealing it enabled directional AirDrop functionality. However, at its core, it enables equipped devices to locate each other when they’re in close proximity, similar to Bluetooth.

It’s purpose within the Apple Watch Series 6 is unclear, but the potential is clear. It could power the forthcoming AirTags Tile-rival, which would be one reason Apple isn’t making a song and dance about its presence yet.

The U1 Ultra Wideband chip could also be used to improve the digital Car Key feature, which enables iPhone and Apple Watch users to unlock and start compatible cars. Perhaps we’ll hear more about this when Apple announces the iPhone 12 in the next few weeks?

The Apple Watch Series 6 features a few other hardware upgrades beyond the SpO2 “health sensor”. There’s an upgraded always-on display offering 2x higher maximum brightness compared with the Series 5, while the new S6 processor is 20% faster than its predecessor.

There are a host of new colour options, including the first Project Red Apple Watch, as well as the new Solo bands, which have no clasp and simply stretch over the wrist.