Google appears to be testing ultra-wideband (UWB) connectivity for future Android hardware, possibly for the upcoming Pixel 6 smartphone.
XDA Developers’ editor-in-chief Mishaal Rahman tweeted that Google is testing support for an UWB API in Android 12 on a device sporting codename ‘raven.’ Further, raven could refer to a next-gen Pixel device, possibly one powered by Google’s in-house ‘Whitechapel’ GS101 chipset.
It’s worth noting that previous reports have linked Google’s Whitechapel chip to two codenames: raven and ‘oriole.’ For now, we don’t know which devices these codenames refer to. However, it’s safe to assume at least one of them refers to the rumoured Pixel 6 likely to launch in the fall. The only other Pixel device we know is coming is the Pixel 5a 5G, which the company confirmed in April (although there remains some confusion whether we’ll see one Pixel 5a 5G device, or multiple 5a devices like last year’s 4a / 4a 5G).
Rahman stresses that he doesn’t know any other details, or even if the next-gen Pixel smartphone will feature UWB support.
I’ve just been informed that Google is testing support for Android 12’s Ultra-wideband (UWB) API on “raven”, one of the code-names that could belong to the GS101-powered next-gen Pixels.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 30, 2021
9to5Google expands on Rahman’s tweet, reporting that documentation it viewed corroborates Google’s UWB work. Specifically, the publication notes that Google worked with UWB hardware developed by a company called Qorvo. Moreover, 9to5 explains that some open-source UWB code in Android 12 suggests the next version of the operarting system could use UWB to determine how far away two devices are and the angle they approach each other from.
Unfortunately, the only other detail gleaned from Android 12 code suggests the OS will lock UWB to system apps. In other words, other Android developers may not be able to access the UWB code.
It hardly comes as a surprise that Google is working on UWB for its hardware efforts. Both Samsung and Apple have made UWB critical parts of new hardware. Most notably, Apple’s UWB is a core part of its new AirTag tracker experience. However, improving tracking devices is just one possible benefit of UWB — it could also help with device-to-device data transfers (like AirDrop or Android’s Nearby Share), using phones to unlock cars, indoor navigation and more.