Android’s Find My Device network highlights a neglect of UWB

This week, after a huge delay, Google finally began rolling out Android’s Find My Device network. This exists, but it also highlights the fact that Google, and Android as a whole, have seriously neglected UWB technology.

UWB or ultra-wideband technology is not particularly new. It is used for very short range communications. On a large scale, this is useful for very high-speed connectivity in smaller areas. But where the technology’s limitations are highlighted by this use case, the same weakness also makes UWB particularly effective at communicating with nearby devices, in a way that lets you know how close objects are. close to each other.

As such, UWB is useful for things like digital car keys or for “tapping” nearby devices to interact with them. Android supports this type of use, but it all depends on your device – this use of UWB requires additional hardware aside from cellular radios – as well as what the software can do.

Google hasn’t really done much with this.

As it stands, you can hardly do anything with UWB, for example on the Pixel 8 Pro, which supports this technology. And this, even though Google has also integrated the necessary hardware for this into the Pixel 6 Pro, 7 Pro and Pixel Fold. One of the few places it is currently leveraged is Quick Share.

Quick Share uses UWB on some Android devices

And that won’t change with the Find My Device network either. While Apple AirTags have used UWB since day one to help users pinpoint the exact location of a lost item, none of the AirTag-like trackers announced for the Find My Device network actually support it. ‘UWB. It’s possible this could change in the future, but Google hasn’t even mentioned UWB support for this network yet, so it’s unclear what the company’s plans are.

However, some developments are on the horizon.

Google has confirmed that the Pixel tablet will soon support “Tap to Cast” with UWB-enabled Android phones starting this year, and it looks like the Pixel Watch 3 will also support the technology to better unlock your phone when the two are close to each other. . These are genuinely useful ways to show off and use technology in a way that you actually notice.

“Tap to Cast” is coming to the Pixel tablet…at some point

Of course, Google isn’t the only culprit. In 2020, Samsung raved that UWB was going to be a big deal, but it hasn’t gotten very far since. The company still only equips its high-end smartphones with this technology, and also integrates UWB into the Galaxy SmartTag 2 (which does not work with the larger Android Find My Device network).

What future for UWB on Android? I hope that UWB trackers are in the future, but I really want to see Google start using this technology, as it seems the company is finally starting to do. UWB has tons of fun apps, many of which Apple already uses, but they’ve been so neglected.

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