Apple AirTag update aims to settle stalking fear plus Android app in works

Apple plans to update AirTags to speed up warnings for people who may not know they're being tracked, while an Android app is now in the works to bring improved alerts to non-iPhone users. Launched earlier this year, AirTags are Apple's long-rumored entry into the personal tracker market, intended to help find keys, bags, and other items. However concerns were voiced about the potential privacy implications.

The coin-shaped trackers are designed to be hunted down via the Find My app on iPhone and other Apple devices. With the most recent iPhone models, that includes a directional arrow to point in the correct direction, taking advantage of Ultra Wideband radio. Meanwhile by anonymously checking in with their location via other Apple devices in the wild, the Find My network in general helps locate missing items beyond Bluetooth range.

While reviews – ours included – generally praised AirTags for their ease of use and convenience, worries about how the trackers could be used nefariously also spread. As launched, AirTags will play noises after potentially being used to track someone else for three days. That way, if someone slips the tracker into your bag or pocket, you'd get an audible tone to bring it to your attention.

Three days, though, struck many as too long, and now Apple is tweaking that. The company plans to make the AirTag "ring" at a random time between 8 and 24 hours, Apple told CNET.

Meanwhile, there'll also be an Android app, which Apple says it plans to release later in the year. It'll bring features that at present are iPhone-exclusive, like pop-up notifications that an unregistered AirTag is nearby. Without that, Android users have to wait until the AirTag makes a noise before they may spot it.

It's unclear what other functionality the AirTag app for Android will have, and whether it'll only be designed to flag a rogue tracker. Currently, there's no way for Android users to pinpoint an AirTag as iPhone users can. However by tapping a found tracker against an NFC reader on a phone, a webpage showing contact details for the person it belongs to can be shown if the AirTag has been registered as lost.

Beyond that, the same security and privacy settings remain as before: the identifying codes for AirTags are rotated frequently, and even if your iPhone or other Apple device is used to help log an AirTag in the wild to the Find My network, you won't know it's happening. Similarly, those searching for their AirTag won't see if it's your device that was closest to it last, so that it could check in. Existing AirTags will begin getting the new software update from today, with the firmware being pushed out automatically when they're in range of an iPhone.