Apple AirTag is still evolving, but will it be enough?


Ten months ago we were in a Milanese park with a couple of AirTag, ready to leave them among the plants to tell you how they work. In fact, Apple had recently launched its little trackers, designed to be combined with an object – keys, backpacks, remote controls, wallets, etc. – so as to facilitate the finding in case of theft or loss.
It was not an absolute novelty. Many before Cupertino had proposed similar solutions but Apple had millions of devices ready to track down the missing AirTags.
The result? Apple’s trackers worked – and continue to work – better than those offered by the competition. Maybe too much. In fact, someone has begun to exploit them to track the movements of other human beings. In a word: stalking.
From that moment on, the American giant has tried to improve the security of the AirTags, with a big update coming in the coming months: the tiny circular devices should thus become noisier and signal their presence much earlier.
But will it be enough?

Apple AirTag: how it works today

Apple AirTag is a circular tracker composed of a plastic shell, a stainless steel cover, a battery (replaceable) and a series of technologies – the U1 chip, the accelerometer, the Bluetooth and the NFC – that allow it to communicate with the outside world.

How does it work? First of all it must be associated with an iPhone or an iPad, so you can give it a name to easily identify it and then find it again within Where is, the application that allows you to track down your Apple devices.
Always taking advantage of the app you can then know where the tag is and make it sound. This both outside and inside the house, albeit with a small difference: inside, using iPhone 11, 12 and 13, you will have extremely precise indications that take advantage of the ultra wideband, while outside you will have to rely on the Dov’è network, therefore to all Cupertino mobile devices that can pick up the AirTag signal and communicate – anonymously and only to the legitimate owner – where the tracker is located.
Basically, every owner of iPhone and iPad can, unknowingly, help you find a lost object.

But what if it is physically found by someone who decides to keep it? In reality it is not possible. Once associated with an Apple ID, the AirTag remains faithful to it forever.

So what’s the problem?

Let’s assume you have bad intentions.
Buy an AirTag – which costs only 35 euros -, pair it with your iPhone and then randomly drop it into someone’s bag or backpack.
The Dov’è network, which relies on millions of Apple devices around the world, could help you keep track of the movements of that specific person. At least for a while. In fact, after a variable time between 8 and 24 hours, the tag begins to emit a sound to signal its presence, unless reconnected with the original iPhone.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the human being who has been mapped out by someone else.
8 hours – at best – where someone else knows exactly where you are.
It would be an unfortunate scenario even if the other person didn’t have any bad intentions.

Apple AirTag: what changes?

Apple has taken AirTag-based stalking cases extremely seriously and is now preparing to update its trackers.
What will change?
First of all Cupertino will modify the algorithm for reduce the time needed to report the presence of the AirTag. The beep will then sound much earlier, although we still don’t know after how many hours.

The second novelty concerns the possibility of use the ultra wideband of iPhone 11, 12 and 13 to precisely locate the tracker, a function that until now was reserved only for the owner of the AirTag. This means that, instead of going crazy to understand where it can be, you will receive clear indications (meters and direction) to quickly recover the small device.

The company led by Tim Cook it will modify the sound emitted by the AirTag so as to make it noisier and more recognizable; in addition, iPhones in the vicinity of the offending tag will receive, simultaneously with the sound alert, a notification, so, if you don’t hear the sound, you will still know that there is a tracker to look for.

Finally Apple will modify the AirTag configuration screen for remind users that the device is designed to track objects onlythat exploiting it to follow other people is a crime and that law enforcement agencies can request information from Cupertino to identify the attacker.

Is all this enough?

At the moment we don’t know when Apple will release these updates, we only have a generic “Later in the year”.
We do not even know how long it will be before the AirTag signals its presence, how the acoustic signal emitted will change and if there are any news that can also help Android users. Any increase in decibels will also be convenient for those who have chosen smartphones with the Google operating system but, if they could not hear it, they would have no way of detecting the presence of the AirTag.
In the United States it is possible to use the app Tracker Detect Apple, available for free on the Play Store. However, not everyone knows about its existence, without counting all the other countries – including ours – where the app is not available. And then none of us download an application without needing it, which means that, before downloading, we should have somehow detected the presence of an AirTag.

In short, the Apple update will not solve the situation. However, the effort is evident Apple in trying to solve a problem it didn’t actually create. In fact, AirTag is the most popular and easiest to use tracker but it is not the only one. We therefore hope that all the companies that produce these devices can join forces to find a definitive solution to the problem, one that, of course, does not foresee the burning of this technology since, when used conscientiously, it can help us find important objects.

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