Apple has finally released a promised update to its AirTag tracker that allows AirTags to make louder sounds when they’re separated from an iPhone or other Apple device of its owner. The company promised this as part of a service pack in February, and the first such feature has already been rolled out.
“Set up unwanted soundtracking for easier detection of unknown AirTag,” Apple notes in the changelog for version 1.0.301. Along with these changes, Apple has worked on other improvements to make AirTags a less attractive tool for harassment. The company has released a new Tracker Detect app for Android users and has also promised to improve the tracking accuracy of unknown AirTags.
While Bluetooth trackers aren’t a new technology, AirTags are controversial precisely because they’re from Apple.
“Unwanted tracking has long been a public issue, and we took it seriously when developing AirTag. That’s why the Find My network is built with privacy in mind, uses end-to-end encryption, and that’s why we’ve implemented the world’s first proactive system that alerts you to unwanted tracking. We hope this will become an industry trend for other companies that will also provide such proactive warnings in their products,” Apple said earlier this year. Improvements made to Tile trackers subsequently confirm Apple’s view that this is the beginning of an industry trend.
While Bluetooth trackers aren’t a new technology, AirTags are controversial precisely because they’re from Apple. This is for two reasons. First, Apple tends to do things that used to be considered “geeky” much more accessible and user-friendly. More and more people know about them and can easily use them. This includes normal people, and, unfortunately, stalkers and other slackers. In short, Apple lowers the entry threshold.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, the ubiquity of the Find My network gives AirTags (and, to some extent, Samsung SmartTags) a huge advantage over Bluetooth trackers like Tile. AirTags can be detected by any iPhone in the world, which will then report the location to the owner. There is no dependency on the users who install the application. It’s always on all iPhones.
A growing chorus of voices has urged Apple to do more. An Apple-focused blog, the Mac Observer, asks Apple to stop selling AirTags entirely, while tech site Tom’s Guide asks for a temporary Pause. While Apple covers cases where AirTags have been used to search for lost wallets and backpacks, concerns remain about their potential involvement in harassment, theft and domestic violence.