Apple is officially launching a Tile-like item tracker that will work with the company’s software and services. Dubbed AirTag, the small circular tag will allow you to track items within Apple’s “Find My” app on iOS. Much like Tile, Apple’s AirTags will be useful for tracking items like keys or wallets, and you’ll be provided with notifications when you’re separated from your item.
The AirTag itself is a small puck-like device that includes a built-in speaker, accelerometer, Bluetooth LE, and a user-replaceable battery. Apple says the tracker should last for a year of battery life, and you can use an NFC tap to activate a lost mode.
AirTag will be available for $29 on April 30th, or $99 for a four-pack of the devices. Preorders begin this Friday at 5AM PT / 8AM ET. Apple has also created leather loop and key ring accessories that the AirTag can slot into, and the company is also working with accessory makers to create luggage tag enclosures for the AirTag itself.
AirTags will show up in Apple’s Find My app, and the app will play a sound on the tracker when you attempt to locate an item. Each AirTag is also equipped with Apple’s U1 chip that uses Ultra Wideband technology, sound, and haptic feedback to guide people more precisely to where an item is located.
AirTags don’t store any location data or location history inside the physical device, and Apple says it’s using end-to-end encryption for the communications between an AirTag and the Find My network.
Details about AirTags first appeared in copies of the iOS 13 beta nearly two years ago, and the AirTags name was also spotted in iOS 13.2. Apple accidentally confirmed the AirTags name in a deleted support video last year, too. Following the rumors, it has taken Apple a considerable amount of time to make AirTags a reality.
Apple will clearly be competing with Tile with its AirTags, but the location-tracking company has been attempting to embed its technology directly into Bluetooth chips in recent years. Tile has previously teamed up with Qualcomm, Dialog Semiconductor, Silicon Labs, and Toshiba to include Tile compatibility as an option on devices. Tile has also embedded its location-tracking network into gadgets from Boosted and Bose and is prepping its own AirTags competitor that could let you find lost items through walls.
Apple will certainly face some competition from Tile’s broader reach here, but the deeper integration with iOS and iPhones will be a significant challenge for Tile and other competitors like Samsung’s $29.99 Galaxy SmartTags. Apple’s launch of AirTags comes nearly a year after Tile filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior. Tile argues that Apple’s iOS 13.5 update to Bluetooth settings has disadvantaged third-party tracking products in favor of Apple’s own Find My app that doesn’t include the same restrictions by default.
Apple has strenuously denied the allegations, and the company has even opened up its Find My app to third-party products recently. Devices will need to play by Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFi) accessory rules, so companies will need to apply to get certified and have their products tracked in the Find My app. Apple is also offering a chipset specification for third parties to integrate with the Ultra-Wideband found in Apple’s latest iPhones.