How to enable UWB on Android (and why you should)

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

UWB stands for Ultra Wide Band and is used as a short-range wireless communication protocol that is used to track the location of objects. UWB works by calculating locations within less than half an inch by measuring how long it takes short radio pulses to travel between one device and another. UWB was originally designed as a means to transfer data, but its ability to track very precise positioning has made it quite useful for modern devices.

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One of the most widespread usages of UWB is Apple AirTags but the technology is gaining steam. Another exciting use of UWB is unlocking cars and smart homes.

Both iOS and Android devices are capable of using UWB. However, the list of phones that work with UWB is surprisingly short and consists of the following phones:

  • Apple iPhone 11, 12, 13, and 14
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro and 7 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20, Galaxy S21, Galaxy S22, Galaxy Z Fold 2, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Fold 4
  • Xiaomi MIX4

If you happen to have one of the above phones, you can use UWB to unlock your car and do other nifty things. Of course, not every car works with UWB. For instance, my Mini Cooper is too old and isn’t supported. My wife’s car, on the other hand, does work. The good news is that UWB is catching on and you should expect more cars and more devices to support the technology. And because UWB is so accurate at pinpointing locations, you can be sure it will find even more use cases in the near future.

For example, eventually, cars will be able to recognize your device as you get close enough to your phone and automatically unlock it for you. I would imagine that feature will put a damper on a lot of thriller movies and TV series where the bad guy abducts or assaults someone struggling to get their car unlocked.

The range of UWB looks something like this:

  • Range: 30-600 feet (10-200 meters)
  • Accuracy: 0.1−0.5 m (0.33−1.64 feet)

Not only does UWB have a good range on it, it’s very accurate.

Although a small percentage of Android phones support UWB, you’ll want to know how to enable it (should your car support the feature). Let me show you how it’s done.

Requirements

To enable UWB, you’ll need an Android device that supports the protocol. I’ll demonstrate this on mine Pixel 7 Pro running Android 13.

How to enable UWB on Android

The first thing to do is open the Settings app. To do this, open your app drawer and then locate and tap the Settings launcher.

From within the Settings app, tap Connected Devices, and then Tap Connection Preferences.

The Connection Preferences listing on a Pixel 7 Pro with Android 13.

Accessing the UWB feature is found within Connection Preferences in Android 13.

Image: Jack Wallen

At the bottom of the Connection Preferences page, you’ll see the UWB entry. Tap the ON/OFF slider until it’s in the ON position to enable the feature.

The UWB toggle switch in Android 13.

Enabling UWB on a Pixel 7 Pro running Android 13.

Image: Jack Wallen

At this point, UWB is now enabled. If your car supports the protocol, you should be able to then set it up to automatically unlock as you come near the car. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you probably have to install an app for your car or set this feature up through your car’s system. The process for this will vary from car to car, so make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions on linking your phone and car together.

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