Apple's rumored tracking tiles will likely be more accurate than Tile devices and be deeply integrated with the Find My app.
By Macworld staff
Apple does a lot to help us find our misplaced iPhones, Apple Watches, and iPads, and rumors strongly suggest that Apple is currently working on a Tile-like device that will allow us to find other items as well. Here’s everything we know so far.
Update 3/29/2021: Each AirTag will reportedly cost $39 each, according to the EverythingApplePro YouTube channel.
AirTags may be more affordable than we thought
We’re still not sure when Apple’s AirTags will arrive, but we’re still expecting them to arrive very soon. And a new rumor suggests they may be something of an impulse buy. On the YouTube channel EverythingApplePro, longtime leaker Max Weinbach estimates that the AirTags may cost $39, less than the $40 price of Samsung’s ultra wideband-powered Galaxy SmartTag Plus and likely in line with Tile’s new UWB trackers. We had previously expected AirTags to cost at least $49. He also confirms previous rumors about the new trackers: a circular shape about the size of the Tile trackers (32mm x 32mm x 6mm) and use Bluetooth to keep your data anonymous.
iOS 14.5 can track ‘Items’ in the Find My app
With rumors piling up that AirTags are arriving sometime this month, an update to the iOS 14.5 beta might provide the strongest evidence yet. As spotted by Macrumors, Apple now includes support for Accessories in the Find My app and says you can “add non-Apple products to Find My. Locate your backpack, luggage, headphones, or other items. You’ll be able to find these things in a new “Items” tab. While Apple doesn’t explicitly name AirTags in the description, there’s no other way to track non-Apple devices without a Bluetooth device.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously released a report that states that AirTags will finally ship in 2021. Kuo has built a reputation based on the accuracy of his reports, though he doesn’t provide any details as to a specific date or event that AirTags will be revealed.
Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech reported in a video (below) that he has seen the final version of AirTags. The product looks similar to what he reported back in September 2020. Prosser says the animation of AirTags shown in the video could be the animation that appears in iOS when connecting to the device, similar to the animations shown when connecting an iPhone to AirPods.
In September of 2020, Prosser said in a video that he has seen video of Apple’s tracking device, and with the help of Concept Creator, made renders based on what he saw. Take a look below.
Prosser says an AirTag is about the size of a bottle cap. They work using Ulta-wideband (UWB) technology, which is explained in the “What are AirTags” section below.
But, how do you attach these little disks? In a very Apple way, Prosser reports that keychains and other attachment devices will be sold separately. Kind of like how the stand for Apple’s Pro Display XDR is sold separately. Prosser doesn’t have pricing information, but you’ll need to keep in mind that you have to dish out additional cash when purchasing AirTags.
What are AirTags?
AirTags are tracking tiles that will likely be similar to popular Bluetooth tracking products from Tile, Adero and similar companies. You can attach these tiles to objects like keyrings, suitcases, or bags (or even put them in your wallet), and then you can find the tile and the object it’s attached to by looking at an app on your phone.
AirTags are rumored to be more accurate than traditional Bluetooth trackers, as each one is thought to contain a U1 ultra wideband chip, much as you find in the latest iPhones. These chips transmit more data than Bluetooth and at a higher rate. That means you won’t just be able to tell if an AirTag is in a house—you’ll also be able to pinpoint exactly where it is. Augmented reality will probably assist with the process of finding your stuff as well.
Tile’s devices are square, but an asset discovered in the iOS 13 beta by 9to5Mac last June suggests that the AirTags will be round, white, and have an Apple logo in the middle. It’s possible this is just a mockup, though, and not the final design. (Also, the same assets suggested that the tags are codenamed as “B389” within Apple.)
In April of 2020, Apple itself accidentally posted a video on its YouTube page showing that AirTags can still work even when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular connections. The video was quickly pulled.
How will AirTags work?
AirTags will likely have a proximity chip inside them that will allow you to pair them with an iPhone quickly by holding them next to your phone, much as with the AirPods on the HomePod.
You’ll likely do the actual tracking through the recently redesigned Find My app, which is rumored to be getting a new “Items” tab where you can track multiple AirTags.
There are several rumored features, many of which MacRumors reported after getting access to an internal iOS 13 build in August of 2019. Your iPhone might send you a notification if you get too far from an AirTag, for instance, which could be useful if you keep the tag attached to your keys or inside your wallet. You might be able to add “Safe Locations” to ignore, though, so your phone isn’t constantly pinging you when you, say, leave your wallet in your gym locker while working out. You will probably also be able to put the tracker in “Lost Mode,” allowing the tag to relay your contact information to other Apple users who come across the tag, who will then be able to contact you. The AirTag should also send you a notification when it’s found.
Much as Tile does with people running its app, Apple will likely use the proximity data of nearby iOS device owners to help pinpoint the location of your AirTag as well. The person whose iPhone was used for the location pinpointing will never know about it—unless, of course, you put your AirTag into Lost Mode. Apple has an advantage over Tile in this regard because of the massive number of people without iOS devices around the world.
Much as you can with an iPhone or an Apple Watch, you might be able to make the AirTag emit a sound through the Find My app in order to make it easier to find. Also, when you’re close to your AirTag, Apple might let you use the camera to see balloons in the direction of your AirTag with the help of augmented reality. This is similar to how the Pixie Wireless Tracker works.
AirTags may also have a button-cell removable battery like those found in digital cameras and similar electronic devices. If an AirTag has a low battery, it will probably send out a final location before it goes offline.
When will AirTags be released?
AirTags are still a rumored product, so there hasn’t been an official statement from Apple regarding a release date.
In February of 2020, though, respected TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in an investor report that Apple will begin mass production of AirTags in either the second or third quarter of this year. That means we’ll likely have to wait until fall to see them in stores at the earliest, but there’s a chance that Apple could actually announce them at this year’s WWDC. In April, Bloomberg pegged their release in the fall as well, and it’s worth noting that the report refers to the devices as “Apple Tags.” Despite confirmed internal use of the name “AirTags” in the March support video, that suggests there’s a chance the trackers might have a different name by the time they release.
We currently don’t know how much they’ll cost, but the general consensus is that they’ll be relatively affordable because Apple would want users to buy multiple AirTags.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.