Tuesday, April 20, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

AirTag

Apple (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Whether attached to a handbag, keys, backpack, or other items, AirTag taps into the vast, global Find My network and can help locate a lost item, all while keeping location data private and anonymous with end-to-end encryption. AirTag can be purchased in one and four packs for just $29 and $99, respectively, and will be available beginning Friday, April 30.

[…]

Customers can personalize AirTag with free engraving, including text and a selection of 31 emoji, when purchasing from apple.com or the Apple Store app.

[…]

iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time. And even if users don’t have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it.

[…]

AirTag is designed for over a year’s worth of battery life with everyday use. The CR2032 battery is user-replaceable and widely available.

This seems very well done, although it’s not clear to me what I would use them for. I don’t misplace keychains or bags. I guess it would be fun to put them in luggage, to be alerted when it arrives, though I’m not sure whether that would trigger the “separated from owner” feature. And, hopefully, AirTag would work from inside the luggage, so you don’t have to buy special tags and put them at risk of theft.

Previously:

Update (2021-04-20): Scott Morrison:

Maybe I am old and just don’t understand these things but I cannot for the life of me grasp how a little bit of leather, stitching and a metal ring justifies a $450 CAD price tag.

Update (2021-04-22): John Gruber (MacRumors):

The timeout period for when an AirTag will play a sound if separated from its owner is currently three days — but that’s not baked into the AirTags themselves. It’s a server-side setting in the Find My network, so Apple can adjust it if real-world use suggests that three days is too long or too short.

John Gruber:

Takes a little longer than I’d wish to get the initial signal — sometimes — but once it has the signal, it’s accurate to within inches.

See also: Apple, Dieter Bohn, Matthew Panzarino.

Update (2021-05-03): Hartley Charlton:

As the two leading item trackers share a number of key features, it may not be immediately obvious which is better for your personal use case. Our guide answers the question of how to decide whether AirTag or Tile is best for you.

Sami Fathi:

Apple has shared considerable information regarding the safety mechanisms in place within its Find My network and AirTags, that prevent unwanted tracking. One of the biggest measures is the ability of an iPhone to detect if an unknown AirTag has been following a person for a period of time. In the unfortunate event that does occur, the iPhone can display an alert.

Mark Wilson (via Hacker News):

Apple declined to answer any of our specific questions, including whether the company consulted domestic violence organizations when designing AirTags and why they did not extend full AirTag protections to Android users. They also declined to address how domestic abusers might exploit AirTags to harass people close to them.

[…]

If you are an Android user—note that Android made up 87% of the worldwide smartphone market share as of 2019—you don’t have the protection of Apple’s network notifications. Instead, an AirTag that has not paired locally with its iPhone in three days will emit a sound. So if you are an Android user who has had an AirTag placed on you, you will know in 72 hours. (Apple told Fast Company last week that it could lengthen or shorten that time span in the future, and it reiterated that point for this article.) If you are an Android user living with an iPhone abuser, however, a hidden AirTag could be pairing far more often.

Sami Fathi:

iFixit has shared the first of its two-part series in tearing down Apple’s AirTag item tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout.

Update (2021-05-05): Howard Oakley:

Just as Macs can’t activate and add new AirTags, they can’t remove them either.

John Gruber:

If you have a good idea for a third-party product on a big platform, you need to expect that the platform maker will eventually use your idea. If they don’t, maybe it wasn’t that good an idea in the first place. If they do, you should be ready to keep your product viable by going further than the platform maker is willing to go. Target the enthusiast/professional/power user market. If your idea doesn’t have room for an enthusiast/professional/power user tier — hello, Tile — again, maybe it wasn’t that great an idea in the first place, or it was simply a good idea whose time as a viable product has passed. You can say that’s a shame, but it’s hard for me to buy that Tile has been wronged.

Update (2021-05-06): Juli Clover:

Apple’s safeguards include privacy alerts to let iPhone users know that an unknown AirTag is traveling with them and may be in their belongings, along with regular sound alerts when an AirTag has been separated from its owner for three days.

Update (2021-05-24): Jerry Hildenbrand:

To be clear: if you use an Android phone and I drop an AirTag in your trunk under the carpet, you will never know that I am tracking where you go. You’ll never hear it, you have no way of knowing it’s there, and you will come in contact with someone using an iPhone who hasn’t bothered to opt-out of the whole tracking network thing. If you live with the stalker, the AirTag will never ring, so it can be dropped inside your bag and track where you go outside of your car. This is an absolute privacy and security nightmare.

Luckily, it’s a nightmare that is easy to fix: Apple just needs to build a utility that can warn Android users when an AirTag is moving with them, just like it does for iOS users.

See also: iFixit.

Update (2021-06-04): Juli Clover:

At the current time, AirTags play a sound after three days of being away from their owner. After the update, AirTags will begin playing at a random time in a window after eight hours and within 24 hours.

Eight hours seems really short.

Apple is also working to create an app for Android devices that will let them detect an unknown AirTag or Find My network-enabled item that is found to be traveling with them, which will prevent AirTags from being used to stalk Android users.

Update (2021-07-13): Garrett Murray:

AirTags have been a complete failure for us. I bought two, and put one on our cat’s collar. Even here in a densely packed street, it takes an hour to find him at night. You basically have to get within 10 feet of him by heading to a huge general area and walking around.

The Tag constantly reports as unable to connect and when it does ping, the area is a block wide, and, generally very inaccurate.

Update (2021-08-13): Dan Guido:

My scooter was stolen last week. Unknown to the thief, I hid two Airtags inside it. I was able to use the Apple Find My network and UWB direction finding to recover the scooter today. Here’s how it all went down[…]

8 Comments

Re: Hermès accessories, these prices are actually cheaper than other comparable Hermès leather accessories (key chains, charms, and luggage tags). Hermès has been in the business of manufacturing and care of luxury leather goods for almost 200 years, starting with equestrian equipment (with some of the original horse saddles, now owned by the much younger generations of families of the original buyers, they apparently still maintain). They have their customers and their market strategy. It’s not for most people, and most people have never seen their price tags until their products were posted on Apple’s website, which is a site that most people do visit. But Hermès is doing alright for themselves. :-)

Kevin Schumacher

I don't dispute there's a market for it. I dispute the sanity of the people who make up that market.

It's one thing to spend $50k on a Mac Pro workstation when you're using for its intended purpose. It's another thing entirely to spend $400 on a piece of leather. Yes, it may be a very nice piece of leather. But at the end of the day it's still a piece of leather that is not only functionally identical but mechanically identical to pieces of leather that are several orders of magnitude cheaper.

> not only functionally identical but mechanically identical

Not that I'm in the market for this product, but that misses the point. Plenty of decor and accessories have zero function whatsoever, but still cost a non-zero (and often three to four) value.

Old Unix Geek

It's the sort of thing that could be useful while travelling with luggage in public transport: you have to leave your luggage far from your seat, and sometimes, if you're unlucky, someone steals it, and you never get it back. Knowing that it is on the move would be useful. But for that application 30 feet might be too little.

AirTags seem completely useless. They're too big. Anything that's small enough to frequently lose would become big enough to not lose simply by attaching an AirTag-sized item to it. How many people really lose their car keys these days when most of the time there's a giant remote fob attached to it? This really seems like a non-issue. I think a lot of people will buy AirTags because they sound useful, but in reality I think they'll end up in the bottom of a lot of junk drawers once people realize AirTags aren't as useful as they imagined and they're not actually losing things as often as they thought.

Kevin Schumacher

I don't know that they're completely useless, but I agree that for the majority of people, they serve no real purpose, and certainly not for their at-home advertised uses. The things people misplace (glasses come to mind) are not going to have AirTags attached. The other things people misplace (their phone) doesn't need an AirTag.

The use cases with luggage and other bags when you're out and about are actually real, but I'm not sure that it works with theft, either. In a world where bags, especially bags worthwhile enough for a thief to target, could be presumed to have AirTags or other trackers in them, the contents of the bag are going to be extracted and the bag is going to be ditched ASAP, rendering the tracker useless.

Old Unix Geek

For travelling, it looks like Tile is a better choice: it works up to 400 feet away and not only with Apple devices. However it'd be good to pack it inside the luggage for the reasons Kevin mentioned. https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/store/tiles/pro

But it also looks like Apple is trying to main them: They took away one of our critical permissions, which requires our customers to go deep, deep, deep into their settings to turn Tile on. Find my, by contrast, is on by default…

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/24/this-week-in-apps-an-apple-event-more-clubhouse-clones-and-an-app-store-antitrust-hearing/amp/

Andrew Abernathy

I hid an AirTag in my car, after testing and confirming that my phone could detect the tag from a (modest) distance away from the car. Just maybe it'll come in handy if my car is ever stolen. (And just maybe it'll help me find my car if I forget where I parked and my phone didn't record the location. Maybe I should put one on my bike to help remember where I parked *it*.)

I have some other things that I think I may tag on an ad-hoc basis, if I need to leave them somewhere temporarily and I'm worried they could get stolen. In general a thief could find and dump the tag easily enough, but at least for a period I'm guessing the odds are fairly high an opportunistic thief wouldn't think to check. (Maybe I'm overly optimistic about that.)

I wish I could share the location of a tag with someone else. Most of my examples for that so far are admittedly fairly contrived, but I expect there would be times it would be useful. (I wonder how well it would work for something like tracking a package mailed via USPS?)

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