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Apple vows to make AirTags less creepy, deliver Android app this year

Earlier this year, Apple finally got around to launching its long-awaited smart tracker known as AirTag. As with competitor products from Tile and Samsung, AirTags give you an easy way to track important items, such as car keys, purses, luggage, etc.

The big difference between AirTags and other trackers, though, is how they are tracked. AirTags use the power of one billion active iPhones globally. Without user interaction, AirTags ping nearby iPhones and help triangulate an exact location through Apple’s Find My network. Privacy advocates were quick to point out that the small size of AirTags as well as the hyper-accuracy of the Find My network could allow nefarious users to stalk people or commit other privacy-encroaching offenses.

Apple is now addressing these issues (via CNET). It is making a large change to the way AirTags work. It also will launch an AirTags Android app this year to help people who don’t own iPhones find out if there’s an AirTag tracking them.

A big change, but little info on AirTags Android app

The big change Apple is making now has to do with the amount of time before an AirTag sends out an alert that it is likely being used to track a person. Basically, Apple’s software has methods to determine the likelihood of “person tracking.” If it detects that an AirTag is being used to track a person, the AirTag itself will make a noise. This noise would then alert the tracked person of the AirTags presence.

At launch, the AirTag would wait three days before making that noise. After this new update, the AirTag will chirp at a random interval between eight and 24 hours after detection. Apple says this earlier alert window will make AirTags safer without harming usability.

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The AirTags Android app, though, is the big missing piece of the puzzle. If you own an Android phone, the only way you would know about an AirTag tracking you would be that noise. And, when you found that AirTag, you wouldn’t be able to use your phone to deactivate it or connect it with its owner. Theoretically, an Apple-made Android app would address these issues.

Although Apple committed to launching an Android app this year, it didn’t give any details on how it would work or what features would be onboard. It’s possible we’ll learn more about it at WWDC 2021, which starts next week.