“AirTag was designed to help people locate their belongings, not to track the people or property of others, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any misuse of our products,” the company said. .
These changes won’t show up until Apple releases updates for its iOS and iPadOS software, and the company won’t confirm exactly when those updates will be available. That said, the improvements Apple plans to make will arrive in more than one wave. Here’s how AirTags will change and a rough idea of when that will happen.
For starters, Apple plans to include more specific warnings about unwanted tracking when customers go through the process of setting up AirTags on their iPhones and iPads. These warnings will also make it clear that law enforcement officials may “request identifying information” about the owners of specific AirTags if they are handed over by someone who believes they have been tracked.
This same software update should also make the “Unknown Accessory Detected” alerts that some people have encountered less common. These are sometimes triggered when people are walking around with their AirPods or hanging out with someone else. If your iPhone or iPad can tell that the questionable device nearby is actually a pair of AirPods, Apple’s Find My app will identify them as such, not “unknown” accessories.
Apple also said it is “investigating” changes for future software updates to be released later this year, many of which will make it easier to locate AirTags for (some) people.
People with an iPhone 11 or newer, for example, will be able to use the Find My app’s Precision Search feature — a full-screen compass that directs you to nearby AirTags — to zero in on Apple trackers that do not belong to them. And while people who get unwanted tracking alerts can already make unknown AirTags easier to spot by forcing them to play an alert tone, those sounds will get louder after a future update.
Apple also said it would adjust the “logic” that defines when an AirTag secretly stowed in a person’s car, bag or coat pocket begins to make its presence known. Right now AirTags begin chirping and sending alerts to nearby phones after an eight to 24 hour window away from its owner. Apple says it plans to alert users “earlier,” although it didn’t say how soon.
Unsurprisingly, there’s one key word missing from Apple’s statement: Android. While some of these changes will make AirTags easier to find regardless of a person’s smartphone choice, Apple’s in-house Tracker Detect app for Android still requires people to manually search for nearby AirTags. For the millions of people in the United States who use Android phones and tablets, that means it can still be difficult to find AirTags reliably.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But I still hope that Apple and Google will work together to bring Android’s AirTag detection capabilities to parity with the iPhone. If you exist outside of the Apple ecosystem, your chances of noticing you’re being tracked with a AirTag are still significantly reduced compared to those of iPhone owners.