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The iPhone 11 has a few more features than we first thought

We take a look at a few features you may have missed.

The iPhone 11 review and reviews for the 11 Pro and Pro Max are out, with praise for everything from the impressive cameras to improvements in battery life. Now that the phones are on sale, we have some more details about the hardware inside. In this week's Apple Core roundup we uncover some lesser-known details about every version of the iPhone 11 and take a closer look at the cameras.

Read: iPhone camera comparison: iPhone 11 with Deep Fusion vs. iPhone XR

The new U1 chip has a lot of potential

One of the most significant internal additions to the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro is something Apple didn't cover at all during its September keynote: the U1 chip. All the new iPhones have it inside.

This chip powers ultrawideband technology. Put simply, this technology can pinpoint the location of items like a phone or a tracking tag. It could even be used to unlock your car. By measuring how long it takes for short radio pulses to travel between devices it works out precise locations for your lost items.

A few weeks before the September event there were rumors about Apple working on tracking tags, or a Tile competitor. With the U1 chip, maybe you could ping a tag from your phone to help locate the item inside your house.

Read: Steven Soderbergh might need to upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro for his next film | Best cases for the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max


Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller touted the company's U1 chip for UWB in the iPhone 11.

Screenshot and illustration by Stephen Shankland/CNET

For now there's only one official use case for the U1 chip: improved AirDrop accuracy in iOS 13. Sometimes when using AirDrop it can take some time to find the person you're trying to transfer to, especially if there are a lot of other AirDrop users around. With the U1 chip you'll be able to point the iPhone toward another iPhone to prioritize the transfer.

This technology has a lot of potential beyond more efficient AirDrops. Say, if you were walking up to your car, it could recognize your phone and unlock. Or your laptop could wake from sleep when you entered the room.

The iPhone 11 uses custom Corning glass

Every year during its September keynote, Apple says its glass is the toughest ever in a smartphone.

This week we got some more detail on the glass used on the 11 and 11 Pro. It's custom-made by Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass. While this isn't a huge surprise given that Corning has supplied the glass for every iPhone since 2007, Apple made its second investment in Corning for future development of iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad glass.


Corning has supplied glass for every iPhone since 2007.


Gorilla Glass 6 is the latest version of Corning's tough glass, which is also used on other flagship phones this year such as the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. According to the company's specifications, Gorilla Glass 6 can survive 15 drops from a height of 3.2 feet (1 meter). 

The head of Corning's Gorilla Glass business declined to give CNET details about the toughness of the glass used on the new iPhone, but did say the glass was specific to Apple.

I did my own drop test on the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. Turns out the glass is significantly tougher than I was expecting.

The iPhone 11 camera gets an intriguing improvement

The developer of Halide, a popular third-party iOS camera app, uncovered some more details on the iPhone 11 camera. We know the basics: All phones have 12-megapixel sensors, with an ultrawide 13mm f/2.4 and regular wide 26mm f/1.8, while the Pro and Pro Max add a 2x telephoto at 52mm f/2.

According to the Halide developer's blog post, the wide and telephoto cameras are more sensitive to light than last year's iPhone XS, with a higher maximum ISO. That would definitely help with the new iPhone camera night mode that merges many shots together to get a cleaner, brighter photo. 

And the camera has a much faster minimum exposure time of 1/125,000 of a second. We don't know yet if users can access that fast speed, or if it's used for one of the many computational photography tricks (such as Night Mode or Deep Fusion). I should note that Deep Fusion is probably the most significant new camera feature for the iPhone despite still being in beta. It is supposed to improve the detail and limit the image noise of photos you take in medium to low light situations like indoors. And that's where people take the majority of their photos.

The real results will come once we've had more time to test out the camera features on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro and compare them with results from other phones that we expect to excel in computational photography, like the upcoming Pixel 4. For now, you can find photo and video samples in our iPhone 11 and 11 Pro reviews.

But what about reverse wireless charging?

Apple didn't mention anything about reverse wireless charging (which could allow you to charge things like your AirPods on the back of the iPhone). But that doesn't stop the rumor mill from churning out thoughts on the feature. 

A tweet from Apple leaker and blogger Sonny Dickson indicates that maybe this feature is in the phone but it's just waiting to be activated via software update. This seems to contradict what Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in the days before the Apple event, indicating that the feature had been scrapped. 

We all remember what happened with the (now defunct) AirPower wireless charging mat, so it's no surprise that Apple may be a little reserved when it comes to unveiling new charging features.

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