Apple releases iOS update featuring U1 chip location tracking fix

Black iPhone

The latest update to iOS will please anyone with privacy concerns. iOS 13.3.1 gives iPhone owners the chance to toggle the location-tracking U1 Ultra Wideband chip on and off -- something Apple promised a couple of months ago.

There was controversy when security experts discovered that the chip meant iPhones were periodically tracking people's location even when location services were disabled. Now it is possible to ensure that such tracking cannot be carried out.

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As the U1 chip is currently only used for AirDrop file-sharing, there is little harm in having it disabled at any time this is not being used. That's not to say that Apple won't introduce more features that make use of the chip in future, and that when the toggle may end up being switched on and off constantly.

While it did not seem that Apple was actually collecting any user data when location tracking was activated, there were understandable concerns voiced. This caused the company to issue a statement explaining what was going on:

Ultra wideband technology is an industry standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations. iOS uses Location Services to help determine if an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.

The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.

But with this latest update, iPhone owners are placed in control.

Here is Apple's full changelog for iOS 13.3.1:

This update:

  • Fixes an issue in Communication Limits that could allow a contact to be added without entering the Screen Time passcode
  • Adds a setting to control the use of location services by the U1 Ultra Wideband chip
  • Addresses an issue that could cause a momentary delay before editing a Deep Fusion photo taken on ‌iPhone 11‌ or iPhone 11 Pro
  • Resolves an issue with Mail that could cause remote images to load even when the "Load Remote Images" setting is disabled
  • Fixes an issue that could cause multiple undo dialogs to appear in Mail
  • Addresses an issue where FaceTime could use the rear facing ultra-wide camera instead of the wide camera
  • Resolves an issue where push notifications could fail to be delivered over Wi-Fi
  • Addresses a CarPlay issue that could cause distorted sound when making phone calls in certain vehicles
  • Introduces support for Indian English Siri voices for HomePod

Apple also released iPadOS 13.3.1, macOS Catalina 10.15.3 and watchOS 6.1.2.

Image credit: Primakov / Shutterstock

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