Apple is supposedly working on new products to rival Tile, a popular hardware tracker that attaches to items in order to locate their physical over Bluetooth or crowdsourcing. Similarly, Apple’s trackers, thought to be called Apple Tags or Air Tags, will allow users to locate lost or stolen items.
The existence of these devices has been widely reported on by the media and leakers since last year. They’re expected to look like circular discs and should feature the same ultra-wideband tech as Apple’s latest iPhone 11 range. They’ll also use the Find My app, along with crowdsourcing, to precisely locate your devices, even in a room. Here’s everything we know so far about them.
Apple Tags/AirTags: Name
Most reports are currently referring to Apple’s trackers as “AirTags”, although they’ve also been called “Apple Tags”. Apple has yet to confirm it is working on trackers, of course, so neither of these names has been confirmed by Apple. They’re not official and could even change.
Apple Tags/AirTags: Release date
In a research note (via 9to5Mac), analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said he expects Apple’s partners to ramp up production of the trackers in the second or third quarter of 2020. That would suggest an autumn release date, meaning they could debut during Apple’s annual September event for iPhone launches. However, Apple could announce them even earlier, like at WWDC.
Since Apple Tags or AirTags or whatever they end up being called will be an entirely new product category, we suspect Apple might unveil them at WWDC, which is expected to take place sometime in June, just so that developers have a chance to prepare for their arrival.
Keep in mind Kuo is usually spot-on with his predictions and insight into Apple. Whatever he says is usually treated as gospel by Apple watchers.
Apple Tags/AirTags: Design
9to5Mac spotted assets in an iOS 13 beta pertaining to a “Tag1,1″ product that pairs to other devices by proximity. Another asset in the beta hinted at a potential design. As you can see in the image above, AirTags might be circular, with an Apple logo in the centre. These beta assets complement other reporting, so speculation about the new trackers is at an all-time high.
Keep in mind Tile’s own trackers are square-shaped, so Apple would certainly differentiate itself from Tile if it launched circular trackers.
Apple Tags/AirTags: Features
Find My app
Apple’s trackers will likely be integrated with iOS. You will be able to access and control them via the new Find My app your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Once the items trackers launch, there should be a new Items tab in the Find My app so you can track their location.
Screenshots, courtesy of MacRumors, show the Items tab tells users to ”keep track of your everyday items”. It adds: “Tag your everyday items with B389 and never lose them again.” B389 is the internal codename for Apple’s trackers, 9to5Mac claimed.
Apple’s trackers likely attach to belongings in some way, whether that be a purse or keys or stuffed animal. And they will pair to your iCloud account by proximity to an iPhone – just like AirPods do. The idea is, reportedly, you will receive a notification when your iPhone gets too far away from the tracker. So, if the tracker is attached to your keys and you walk away from them, you will receive an alert on your phone.
Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (in a research note with TF International Securities today obtained by MacRumors) said he expects Apple’s new trackers to feature ultra-wideband technology, which all three iPhone 11 models have, thanks to the U1 chip. (The “U” in U1 stands for “ultra-wideband”). It’s a low-energy, short-range radio technology used for wireless data transmission.
The distance between two ultra-wideband-equipped (UWB) devices can be measured much more precisely by calculating the time that it takes for a radio wave to pass between the two devices. Even when not connected to the internet, a UWB-equipped device will constantly send out signals. These signals will be noticed by any passing iOS device, and the device’s location is forwarded – anonymous and encrypted – to Apple.
From what we can tell, the Find My app will leverage UWB devices like the iPhone 11 – in other words, it’ll crowdsource – to find your Apple trackers. Potentially, it could ping hundreds of millions of iPhones. That’s a massive locator network that even Tile can’t beat. Better yet, reports indicate Apple’s trackers will be able to offer very precise item tracking, down to an exact position in a room.
You’ll be able to put Apple’s trackers into a Lost Mode, 9to5Mac reported, so your contact information stored on the device can be made available to other Apple users. If and when that happens, you’ll be alerted, so that you know the tracker (and your item) has been found.
Apple’s new Find My app will leverage Apple’s ARKit platform. An internal build of iOS 13 included an asset for a 3D red balloon, which MacRumors said can help a user locate and spot a lost item after scanning a room with their iPhone. Apple tells users to “walk around several feet and move your iPhone up and down until a balloon comes into view”. There’s even an image of a 2D orange balloon.
Removable battery (or magnetic charging?)
MacRumors also spotted code in an internal build of iOS 13 that suggested Apple’s device trackers would feature a removable battery and may use the. same small batteries used in Tile trackers. “Unscrew the back of the item and remove the battery,” one code string in the Find My app said. A low battery warning would also force the tracker to send a final location before it dies, apparently.
However, Mac Otakara more recently claimed Apple’s trackers will feature magnetic wireless charging technology similar to the Apple Watch. If that’s the case, we suspect Apple’s trackers won’t feature a removable battery.
Mac Otakara also said Apple’s trackers will be “completely waterproof”.
Mac Otakara is a Japan-based new site with deep connections to the Asian supply chain and accessory manufacturers, although it also shares information gleaned from other sites. Nevertheless, it’s largely accurate and is considered a prolific Apple watcher and trusted source on rumours.