What is UWB and why should Galaxy S21+/S21 Ultra owners care?
Ever since announcing its latest premium smartphone line, Samsung was eager to highlight UWB support as one of the key selling points of both the Galaxy S21+ and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But what does that actually mean? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a type of radio technology that Samsung believes will be the next big thing in mobile communications. To that end, it started equipping its Android flagships with support for this kind of wireless tech. While the UWB push technically started last year with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, it wasn’t until the Galaxy S21 series that Samsung started delivering universally practical applications of this radio standard.
What does UWB have over NFC and Bluetooth?
The UWB specification has been designed for short-range communications with high bandwidth requirements. As an added bonus, it’s extremely energy-efficient. It’s hence not inaccurate to think of UWB as an NFC on steroids, especially given how its security features and range are also superior to the near-field communications standard. In fact, UWB is as resilient to relay attacks and signal jamming, in general, as Wi-Fi is.
Naturally, the extra oomph comes at the expense of energy requirements, but take any comparisons targeting power consumption levels of wireless networking with a grain of salt, including the one below. Because that all depends on use cases and the exact psychosis stage at which a developer is while implementing any given solution.
|Data speeds||Up to 2Mbps||Up to 27 Mbps||Up to 424 Kbps|
|Location accuracy||∼10 cm||Up to ∼10cm||Yes, duh|
|Typical signal latency||>3s||<1ms||>1s|
|Chip cost in 2021||∼$2||Up to $5||$0.25|
Though that doesn’t mean Samsung is done with NFC R&D, UWB definitely has a higher ceiling and is looking much more promising in the medium- to long-term. As for right now, an extremely powerful version of Nearby Share is perhaps the number one advantage of owning a UWB-ready smartphone.
The ability to quickly locate your electronic belongings is another notable implementation of the ultra-wideband protocol. Branded as SmartThings Find, this functionality just started rolling out to wearables and Android Auto vehicles this month. By the time the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S21+ are available for purchase, there should be dozens of Galaxy smartwatches and IoT appliances compatible with Samsung’s solution. Oh, and have we mentioned that SmartThings Find includes a futuristic augmented-reality component? It’s like you’re the Terminator and your car is John Connor.
Speaking of Android Auto, how about being able to unlock your car after finding it, using just your smartphone? Samsung developed this convenient feature in cooperation with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), so everyone from Ford and Audi to BMW and Genesis will soon be offering it to their customers.
Our today’s look at the state of UWB adoption might have been focused on the Galaxy S21+ and the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but Samsung already committed to firmly embracing the standard moving forward. Meaning that many more Galaxy devices with UWB support are to be expected in the near future.