Apple is officially launching a Tile-like item tracker that will work with the company’s software and services. Dubbed AirTag, the small circular tag will allow you to track items within Apple’s “Find My” app on iOS. Much like Tile, Apple’s AirTags will be useful for tracking items like keys or wallets, and you’ll be provided with notifications when you’re separated from your item.
The AirTag itself is a small puck-like device that includes a built-in speaker, accelerometer, Bluetooth LE, and a user-replaceable battery. Apple says the tracker should last for a year of battery life, and you can use an NFC tap to activate a lost mode.
You’ll need to be running iOS or iPadOS 14.5 or later, and both those software updates will be available starting next week.
When your belongings are far away from you, Apple says it will use the Find My network, which is approaching a billion devices, to locate it. It will detect Bluetooth signals from lost AirTags and “relay the location back to its owner, all in the background, anonymously and privately.” You can also enable a “Lost Mode” to be alerted when your AirTag comes back within range or has been located by the Find My network. When a tag is in Lost Mode, people who come across it can tap it using an iPhone or an NFC-capable device, and they’ll be taken to a website showing your phone number (if you chose to provide it).
If you’re carrying your fobs on your person while you travel, Apple wants to reassure you that no location data or history is physically stored inside the devices. When you use the Find My Network to hunt down your missing item, Apple says the communication is end-to-end encrypted so only you have access to your AirTag’s location data. Plus, no one, including Apple, will know “the identity or location of any device that helped find it.”
Apple said the AirTag is designed to track items, not people, so there are features built in like unwanted tag detection, rotating identifiers and audible alerts from unknown tags. Though it says this “set of proactive features that discourage unwanted tracking” is an industry first, it’s worth noting that Samsung recently unveiled a similar feature with its SmartThings network, too.
Apple’s system does seem more sophisticated, using rotating Bluetooth signal identifiers to prevent unwanted location tracking, as well as detecting when unknown AirTags have been traveling with you from place to place over time. Even if you don’t have an iOS device, you’ll still be alerted to any AirTag near you that has been separated from its owner for an extended period of time. If you come across an unknown AirTag, you can use an iPhone or NFC-capable device to tap it and follow the instructions to disable its tracking.
The AirTags are rated IP67 for water and dust resistance so you won’t have to worry too much about them getting damaged if you leave them outside, and Apple promises the removable battery will last over a year. There’s a built-in speaker so the tag can ring to let you know where it is. You can ask Siri to find each fob by its assigned name, and it will play a sound if it’s within range.
AirTag will be available for $29 on April 30th, or $99 for a four-pack of the devices. Preorders begin this Friday at 5AM PT / 8AM ET.