Find My App Brings Power to Third Party Accessories With iOS 14

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There are a lot of reasons why you would want to dive head-first into the Apple ecosystem. From iMessage, to specific apps, and others, there’s also another feature that Apple has which works amazingly-well — Find My.

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The Find My app and service has been around for years, initially making its debut way back in 2010 along with iOS 4.2. Then, in 2011, it separated from MobileMe and become a free service for all iCloud users. Since then, we have seen some minor updates along with the ability to keep track of more devices, including your Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even AirPods.

What’s new with the “Find My” app?

Find My App Overview Developers iOS 14

Find My App Overview Developers iOS 14

The problem with Find My is that not all of your accessories or products likely come from the world of Apple. Some just aren’t available, and others are too expensive or unnecessary. That’s where products like the Tile or KeySmart come into play, as these companies provide third-party apps to be able to find and locate those accessories.

With iOS 14, Apple decided to let down the walled garden a bit and has opened up Find My to accessory makers and product manufacturers. In the official release notes for iOS 14, here’s what Apple had to say:

Find My will add support for finding third-party products and accessories with the new Find My network accessory program. This will allow customers to use the Find My app to locate other important items in their lives, in addition to their Apple devices. User privacy remains central to the Find My network with end-to-end encryption built in. A draft specification is available for accessory makers and product manufacturers starting today.

The benefit here is that accessory makers will no longer have to rely on third-party application for users to download. That means less accounts needing to be created, while offering a seamless experience across iOS, even if the accessory doesn’t come from Apple.

Apple has released the first draft specification of the “Find My network accessory protocol”, which is what these accessory and product makers will have to follow. Provided that all of the T’s have been crossed and I’s have been dotted, this protocol will provide end-to-end encryption and “industry-leading security” for accessories and users. But it really opens the door for a great experience for users and product makers alike.

Is Apple gearing up for a new product line?

AirTags Render
A depiction of what AirTags could look like.

At first glance, you may think that this announcement has something to do with the oft-rumored AirTags. This new product line is slated to take on the likes of Tile and others that are designed to keep track of your things. However, we are of the frame of mind that it’s less to do with AirTags specifically. Instead, it likely has something to do with Tile’s latest accusation.

In a Congressional panel, Tile took to the floor and accessed Apple of more anti-competitive behavior. This steams from the release of iOS 13, which required apps to continue prompting users for location data access. At a glance, this would be come an annoyance and would likely turn users off to the idea of using products. Of course, doing so would open the door for Apple to swoop in and say “our products don’t do that”. Plus, the AirTags would work automatically with the Find My app, while others would not be able to do so.

Here’s the statement that was made in that Congressional hearing:

“Despite Apple’s multiple promises to reinstate ‘Always Allow’ background permissions option for third party apps’ geolocation services, Apple has not yet done so,” Tile said.

Apple maintains that the processes put in place are to help product user privacy. However, it’s clear that Tile may have been onto something with the improved changes to the Find My service. Now that accessory and product makers will be able to tie their products into the Find My app, this should create a better experience for everyone.

When is the Find My program set to launch?

You may be thinking that this Find My Program is coming this Fall alongside the release of iOS 14. However, Apple stopped short of providing a firm date during WWDC 2020. Instead, Apple states that the program will launch “by the end of the year”, but developers can get a head start now.

After enrolling and being accepted into the program (much like the MFi program), accessory makers can create new products to tie into Apple’s lineup. This includes access to the NFC chip, the new U1 locator chip in the iPhone 11, and much more. Plus, accessories will also be able to take advantage of offline support for the Find My app, after it was introduced last year.

We are extremely excited to see what’s to come in the pipeline from accessory makers. But I’m even more excited about the prospect of having all of my accessories taking advantage of Apple’s foundation in the Find My app. Let us know what you think and what accessories you are looking forward to seeing.

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