Everything we know about Apple’s AirTags tracking devices so far

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Apple is largely expected to be working on some type of Bluetooth-like tracking device that would compete directly with Tile. Per the latest information we have, they’ll likely be called AirTags.

But, rare for an Apple product, we already know quite a bit about AirTags well before their supposed product launch. From an expected design to possible special features, here’s everything we know about AirTags so far.

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What we know about AirTags so far

AirTags
AirTags will integrate with the Find My app and let users locate everyday items.

AirTags are currently unreleased Apple products, but we do already know quite a bit about them.

Unlike other Apple rumors, most of the current information we have about AirTags was actually sourced from internal and public builds of iOS.

In other words, they’re essentially “confirmed” features because they cam from an official source. (Although Apple could pull certain features before launch.)

What are AirTags?

AirTags are small tracking devices that users can attach to their everyday items like keys, bags or purses. Essentially, it’ll be like a Tile tracker but much more deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem.

While it isn’t clear what AirTags will look like exactly, there are some hidden placeholder images within iOS that suggest they could be circular in design. They may be small circular tags with an Apple logo on the front, though it isn’t clear how big they will be.

The actual physical form factor is likely to be simple by design. As far as other design details, AirTags will likely be completely waterproof (or at least highly water-resistant).

As far as the moniker, it seems all but confirmed at this point. Hidden assets within iOS 13.2, as well as some investigative trademark journalism by MacRumors, both suggest that Apple will call its tracking devices AirTags.

How will AirTags work?

Users will be able to track their AirTags in a new “Items” tab in the Find My app. As a result, that means they can track normally analog items like bags or keys.

The setup process appears to be similar to other Apple accessories. According to leaked test menus, users will pul a specific tab on AirTags and bring them close to an iPhone to set them up.

AirTags themselves will be discoverable via both Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband. The latter technology is a relatively new system that could allow for pinpoint location tracking.

In the Find My app, you’ll be able to see the last location of AirTags and get directions to that location. You’ll also be able to have AirTags play a sound.

Additionally, you can set up the Find My app to ping you with a notification when you’re leaving an AirTag behind. Of course, you’ll be able to set up “safe zones,” like your home or office, so you won’t be bombarded by false alerts.

What special features will AirTags have?

The addition of UWB tracking seems to be one of the primary draws of AirTags, allowing for extremely precise location data — even indoors.

Augmented reality, and ARKit in particular, will also play a role. You’ll be able to open up a camera viewfinder-type screen in the Find My app and see a floating AR icon (like a balloon) over your lost items.

There’s even a hidden string of code within iOS 13 that describes the process: “Walk around several feet and move your ‌iPhone‌ up and down until a balloon comes into view.”

AirTags will also take advantage of Apple’s offline Bluetooth tracking features, which were introduced in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina. That will allow users to locate AirTags even though they won’t have a cellular or GPS connection.

When another iPhone comes across a lost AirTag, you’ll receive a notification on your own device as well as the updated location. The other iPhone user will also be able to see your contact information on their hand, so they can get in touch with you.

What we don’t know about AirTags

AirTags
While we don’t know exactly what AirTags will look like, a placeholder in iOS 13 could point toward a circular design like this. Image via MacRumors.

Despite all of the known features that have been leaked or revealed, there’s still quite a bit that we don’t know about AirTags. Here are just some of the significant details.

How will users charge AirTags?

At one point, it seemed like we knew how AirTag’s power supply would operate. But then, a recent report via Mac Otakara threw a wrench in the rumor mill.

Originally, hidden assets within iOS 13 suggested that AirTags would run on user-replaceable batteries. Presumably, that meant small watch batteries that were readily available and long-lasting.

But that aforementioned Mac Otakara report claimed that AirTags would be charged similarly to an Apple Watch. That suggests an internal battery and inductive wireless charging.

At this point, it’s a toss-up. (It’s worth pointing out that the replaceable battery tidbit came from an official iOS build, while Mac Otakara’s report didn’t.)

Which devices will be compatible with AirTags?

It seems like AirTags will be compatible with all of your Apple devices. In fact, with iCloud.com Find My availability, there’s a chance that you can locate AirTags on anything with a web browser.

Of course, since AirTags are thought to rely on UWB, some advanced features may be restricted to newer Apple flagships. Only the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have an Apple-designed UWB chip. For users on older devices, AirTags may default to standard Bluetooth tracking.

How much will AirTags cost?

There’s been absolutely no official word on pricing for AirTags, so we can only guess at their final price point.
For what it’s worth, similar rival devices like Tile are priced between $25 and $40 for a single tracking tag.

AirTags may fall within that range. But there’s a chance that they could also be slightly more expensive, because of their UWB chips.

We won’t know for sure until Apple announces the devices though. Speaking of which…

When will AirTags be released?

Signs of AirTags first started appearing in special builds of iOS 13, as well as public versions of that operating system, last year. Because of that, a debut within 2019 seemed possible. That didn’t happen, of course, but AirTags are still likely to launch sooner than later.

Oft-accurate TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that Apple could announce AirTags within the first half of 2020. That leaves a possible March event, as well as WWDC ’20, as contenders.

With that being said, a later supply report penned by Kuo indicated that Apple’s supply chain wouldn’t gear up to mass produce AirTags until later in the year. That seems to suggest an actual launch date sometime in fall or winter.

Still, Apple typically unveils new first-generation products well before their actual release date. So the company could announce AirTags within the first half of the year and actually start shipping them in the second half.

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