What am I missing about Air Tags?

DaveWT

Well-Known Member
Have I missed how these work? Other than misplacing them in your house and using your iPhone to direct you to the cushion they slipped under, (via short range bluetooth capability) as far as I can tell you can't really track them if you left an object with one of these attached in a restaurant, say. (If you could visit such a place these days.) My understanding is that it then depends on someone with another iPhone detecting them and notifying you that they found it. And then that leads to the issue of someone slipping one into your backpack and tracking you without you knowing it. As admirable as it was for Apple to build in safeguards to prevent that (sounds to alert you that you are attached to an Air Tag that isn't yours) I don't see why that was even necessary. If a stranger slips one into your backpack, as far as I can tell they can't really tell where you are once you leave their location far enough that bluetooth won't reach. Do I need to watch the keynote all over again to see what I missed?
 

chas_m

Well-Known Member
Yes, I think you may have misunderstood them.

The way these work is that any passing device with Bluetooth that has internet connectivity will pick up the signal from the Airtag and report it to the Find My network, completely without the passing device’s owner knowing or having to do anything. So yes, you can track devices worldwide. Android owners can also help locate AirTags.

This is similar to the way Tile works, except that the detecting devices have to have the Tile app on them, so not every passing device can help locate a lost item; only other Tile owners.

The near-form location feature you reference can play a sound as well as guide you to its exact location, if the device you are using to locate it has the U1 chip in it (iPhones 11 and 12).
Here’s a good, brief explainer video:
 

DaveWT

Well-Known Member
Thanks Chas, I believe a person that finds a device with an Air Tag can see a message that the losing person has put up to enable them to contact the losing person. I probably overlooked the action you described above with passing device reporting to the Find My network in the background.

Still it does require another device to come by, unlike when you lose an iPhone and can track its location directly without needing a 3rd party.
 

chas_m

Well-Known Member
Thanks Chas, I believe a person that finds a device with an Air Tag can see a message that the losing person has put up to enable them to contact the losing person. I probably overlooked the action you described above with passing device reporting to the Find My network in the background.

Still it does require another device to come by, unlike when you lose an iPhone and can track its location directly without needing a 3rd party.
1. The “this item is lost” message is optional and customisable.

2. Not quite. If you lose an iPhone nearby AND the device you’re using to find it again has a U1 chip in it (iPhones 11 and 12) then it will lead you to the lost item very precisely as described in the keynote. If you're using an older device, you’ll just get the options you have right now: make a sound, put up a message, a map view of where it last reported. And of course the option to erase if all hope of recovery is lost.

if you left an item somewhere where people are, the odds are incredibly high that a passing Bluetooth device will pick up the signal and report the location. This is the way ”Find My” has always worked, provided the device is just asleep and not turned completely off. Find My has also always used open Wi-FI and cell tower triangulation to update the location, and still does.

Maybe this page will help with understanding: https://www.apple.com/icloud/find-my/
 

DaveWT

Well-Known Member
Thanks Chas, and thanks for the link. Fortunately this is all academic (at the moment at least) as I haven't lost anything (yet).
 
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