AirTag

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AirTag
Apple AirTag logo.svg
Apple AirTag.svg
An Apple AirTag
DeveloperApple
ManufacturerFoxconn
TypeKey finder
Release dateApril 30, 2021; 17 months ago (2021-04-30)
AvailabilityApril 30, 2021; 17 months ago (2021-04-30)
ConnectivityBluetooth Low Energy
Ultra-wideband via U1 chip
Near-field communication[1]
PowerCR2032 button cell
Current firmware1.0.301
Online servicesFind My network
DimensionsDiameter: 31.9 mm (1.26 in)
Thickness: 8 mm (0.31 in)
Mass11 g (0.39 oz)
Websitewww.apple.com/airtag/

AirTag is a tracking device developed by Apple. AirTag is designed to act as a key finder, which helps people find personal objects (e.g. keys, bags, apparel, small electronic devices, vehicles). To locate lost items, AirTags use Apple's crowdsourced Find My network, estimated in early 2021 to consist of approximately one billion devices worldwide that detect and anonymously report emitted Bluetooth signals.[2] AirTags are compatible with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device capable of running iOS/iPadOS 14.5 or later. Using the built-in U1 chip on iPhone 11 or later (excluding iPhone SE 2nd generation and iPhone SE 3rd generation), users can more precisely locate items using UWB (ultra-wideband) technology. AirTag was announced on April 20, 2021,[1][3] made available for pre-order on April 23, and released on April 30.

AirTags have been described as 'a gift to stalkers', the Washington Post found that it was "frighteningly easy" to bypass the systems put in place by Apple to stop their use in stalking.

History[edit]

The product was rumored to be under development in April 2019.[citation needed] In February 2020, it was reported that Asahi Kasei was prepared to supply Apple with tens of millions of ultra-wideband (UWB) parts for the rumored AirTag in the second and third quarters of 2020, though the shipment was ultimately delayed.[4] On April 2, 2020, a YouTube video on Apple Support[5] page also confirmed AirTag.[6] In Apple's iOS 14.0 release, code was discovered that described the reusable and removable battery that would be used in the AirTag.[7][8] In March 2021, MacWorld stated that iOS 14.5 beta's Find My user interface included "Items" and "Accessories" features meant for AirTag support for a user's "backpack, luggage, headphones" and other objects.[9] AppleInsider noted that the beta included safety warnings for "unauthorized AirTags" persistently in the user's vicinity.[10]

Features[edit]

AirTag set up on iOS

AirTags can be interacted with using the Find My app. Users may trigger the AirTag to play a sound from the app. iPhones equipped with the U1 chip can use "Precision Tracking" to provide direction to and precise distance from an AirTag. Precision Tracking utilizes ultra-wideband.[11]

AirTags are not satellite navigation devices. AirTags are located on a map within the Find My app by utilizing Bluetooth signals from other anonymous iOS and iPadOS devices out in the world. To help prevent unwanted tracking, an iOS/iPadOS device will alert their owner if someone else's AirTag seems to be with them, instead of with the AirTag's owner, for too long.[12] If an AirTag is out of range of any Apple device for more than 8 to 24 hours,[13] it will begin to beep to alert a person that an AirTag may have been placed in their possessions.[14]

Users can mark an AirTag as lost and provide a phone number and a message. Any iPhone user can see this phone number and message with the "identify lost item" feature within the Find My app which utilizes near-field communication (NFC) technology. Additionally, Android and Windows 10 Mobile phones with NFC can identify an AirTag with a tap, which will redirect to a website containing the message and phone number.[11][15]

AirTag requires an Apple ID and iOS or iPadOS 14.5 or later.[16] It uses the CR2032 button cell replaceable with one year of battery life (though batteries with child-resistant bitterants cannot be used due to the design of the AirTag battery terminal).[17] The maximum range of Bluetooth tracking is estimated to be around 100 meters. The water-resistance of an AirTag is rated IP67 water and dust; an AirTag can withstand 30 minutes of water immersion in standard laboratory conditions. Each Apple ID is limited to 16 AirTags.[7]

Criminal use[edit]

Stalking ability[edit]

Despite Apple's including technologies to help prevent unwanted tracking or stalking, The Washington Post found that it was "frighteningly easy" to bypass the systems put in place. It has been described as 'a gift to stalkers'.[18] Concerns included the built-in audible alarm taking three days to sound, and the fact that most Americans had Android devices that would not receive alerts about nearby AirTags that iPhone devices receive.[19] AirTags cannot have most of their components replaced correctly, but it has been found that AirTags with their speakers forcibly removed from the rest of the components were being used to track people. The AirTag cannot detect this change, making it harder for people to find out that an AirTag had been stalking them.[20] AirTags with their speakers removed have been found for sale on sites like eBay and Etsy.[21] In January 2022, BBC News spoke to six women who stated that they found unregistered AirTags inside things such as cars and bags. The AirTags were being used to stalk them.[22]

In late 2021, Apple released an app called Tracker Detect on the Google Play Store to help users of Android 9 or later to discover unknown AirTags near them in a "lost" state and potentially being used for malicious tracking purposes.[23][24] However, the app does not run in the background.[25]

In February 2022, Apple added a one-time warning for users setting up their AirTag, notifying them that using the device to track people is illegal and the device is only meant for tracking personal belongings.[26] It will take between 8-24 hours for an AirTag to chirp if it has been separated from its owner, it will not chirp if the speaker has been removed.[27]

Car theft[edit]

The National Post in Canada reported that AirTags were placed on vehicles at shopping malls and parking lots without the drivers' knowledge, in order to track them to their homes, where the vehicles would be stolen.[28] In response, Apple announced just before WWDC 2021 that it had begun rolling out updates that would allow anyone with an NFC-capable phone to tap an unwanted AirTag for instructions on how to disable it, and that they had decreased the delay time for the audible alert that sounds after the AirTag is separated from its owner from three days to a random time between 8 and 24 hours.[29]

Criticism[edit]

Trojan horse[edit]

Users who set their AirTags to lost mode are prompted to provide a contact phone number for finders to call. In September 2021, security researcher Brian Krebs noted that the phone number field will actually accept any type of input, including arbitrary computer code, opening up the potential use of AirTags as Trojan horse devices.[30]

Tile[edit]

Similar product manufacturer Tile criticized Apple for using similar technologies and designs to Tile's trackers.[12] Spokespeople for Tile made a testimony to the United States Congress saying that Apple was supporting "anti-competitive practices",[31] claiming that Apple had done this in the past and that they think it is "entirely appropriate for Congress to take a closer look at Apple's business practices".[32]

Loop[edit]

AirTags do not have holes or other mechanical features that would allow them to be positively attached or affixed to the item being tracked; solutions include adhesives (glue, tape) and purpose-built accessories. The polyurethane AirTag Loop is the least expensive solution sold by Apple; it costs the same as a single AirTag and has been criticized as an "accessory tax".[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Apple event: AirTag, iPad and iMac lead line-up". BBC News. April 20, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  2. ^ Chan, Christine (April 20, 2021). "Apple AirTags vs. Tile Mate: Which should you buy?". iMore. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  3. ^ Perez, Sarah; Heater, Brian (April 20, 2021). "Apple officially unveils its lost item finder, AirTag". TechCrunch.
  4. ^ Haslam, Oliver (February 19, 2020). "Apple To Ramp Up UWB Chip Production For AirTags in Q2-Q3 2020". Redmond Pie.
  5. ^ "Exclusive: AirTags confirmed in a new Apple Support Video!". Appleosophy. April 2, 2020. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  6. ^ "Apple accidentally confirms the existence of an unreleased product, AirTags". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Clover, Juli (June 3, 2021). "AirTags: Apple's New Trackers - Everything We Know". MacRumors. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  8. ^ Lumb, D.; Swider, M. (November 2, 2020), "Apple AirTags release date, price and how it'll compare to Tile", TechRadar, retrieved November 2, 2020
  9. ^ "Apple AirTags rumors: iOS 14.5 can track 'Items' in the Find My app", MacWorld, March 3, 2021
  10. ^ Gallagher, William (March 4, 2021), "Apple brings back 'AirTags' anti-stalking feature in latest iOS 14.5 beta", AppleInsider
  11. ^ a b Panzarino, Matthew (April 22, 2021). "First findings with Apple's new AirTag location devices". TechCrunch.
  12. ^ a b Haselton, Todd (April 27, 2021). "Here's how Apple's AirTag trackers compare to Tile, and why the company is so upset with Apple". CNBC. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  13. ^ Clark, Mitchell (June 3, 2021). "Apple is updating AirTags to make them less creepy". The Verge. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  14. ^ Gruber, John (April 20, 2021). "Three day audible alert when tag separated from owner". Daring Fireball. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  15. ^ Hollington, Jesse (June 20, 2021). "It Turns Out You Can Scan an Apple AirTag with an Old Windows Phone". iDrop News.
  16. ^ Hicks, Michael (May 3, 2021). "How to use AirTags with iOS 14.5". TechRadar. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Holland, Patrick (July 29, 2021). "Apple cautions that AirTag batteries with a bitter coating might not work". CNet. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  18. ^ "'I didn't want it anywhere near me': how the Apple AirTag became a gift to stalkers". the Guardian. September 5, 2022. Retrieved September 5, 2022.
  19. ^ Fowler, Geoffrey A (May 5, 2021). "Review - Apple's AirTag trackers made it frighteningly easy to 'stalk' me in a test". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  20. ^ "'Silent AirTags' With Speakers Removed Pop Up on Etsy, eBay". PCMAG. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  21. ^ "'Silent AirTags' With Speakers Off Are Sold Online To Stalk People: Here's How". India Times. February 4, 2022. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  22. ^ "Apple AirTags - 'A perfect tool for stalking'". BBC News. January 20, 2022. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  23. ^ "Apple launches Android app to address AirTags tracker fears". BBC News. December 14, 2021.
  24. ^ "Apple releases 'Tracker Detect' Android app to help users discover unknown nearby AirTags". TechCrunch. Retrieved February 4, 2022.
  25. ^ "New Apple Update Targets AirTag Tracking Concerns". Wall Street Journal. February 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Milmo, Dan (February 10, 2022). "Apple to start warning AirTag users not to use devices to track people". The Guardian. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  27. ^ Kelly, Samantha Murphy (February 10, 2022). "Apple plans AirTag updates to curb unwanted tracking". CNN News. p. 1. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  28. ^ Kulha, Shari (December 10, 2021). "Here's what to do if you find an AirTag placed in your vehicle by a car thief". The National Post. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  29. ^ Sherr, Ian (June 7, 2021). "Ahead of WWDC, Apple bolsters AirTags privacy measures, says it's developing Android detector app". CNET.
  30. ^ Krebs, Brian. "Apple AirTag Bug Enables 'Good Samaritan' Attack". Krebs on Security. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  31. ^ "Tile bemoans Apple AirTags launch, raises antitrust concerns". AppleInsider. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  32. ^ "Tile bashes Apple's new AirTag as unfair competition". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  33. ^ "Apple's AirTags don't have a built-in keychain loop, and we have some thoughts". The Verge. April 21, 2021.

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