Apple wants to kill Tile, the popular tracker that attaches to items in order to track their physical location over Bluetooth or via crowdsourcing.

With the upcoming iOS 13 and MacOS Catalina software updates for iPhone and Mac, respectively, Apple is introducing an all-new Find My app that merges its Find My iPhone with Find My Friends services into one single package. But before the company first previewed these changes last spring, reports emerged about it also developing a Tile-like personal item tracker, possible called Apple Tag, which would integrate with the Find My app.

Here's everything we know about that device.

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Apple tracker: Design

In June 2019, 9to5Mac spotted assets in iOS 13's beta pertaining to a “Tag1,1" product that pairs to other devices by proximity. Another asset in the beta hinted at the design. As you can see in the image above, it’s a circular device with an Apple logo in the center. Keep in mind Tile's trackers are square-shaped, so Apple would certainly differentiate itself from Tile if it launched circular trackers.

These beta assets complemented other reporting about the device, so speculation about a new tracker Apple is at an all-time high.

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Apple tracker: Features

Find My app

Apple’s tracker will likely be integrated with iOS and that you will be able to access and control it via the new Find My app your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Once the tracker launches, there should be a new “Items” tab in the Find My app so you can track its location, according to MacRumors.

Screenshots, courtesy of MacRumors, show the “Items” tab tells users to ”keep track of your everyday items". It adds: “Tag your everyday items with B389 and never lose them again.” B389 is apparently the internal Apple codename for Apple Tags, 9to5Mac said.

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Item tracking

The tracker likely attaches to belongings in some way, whether that be a purse or keys or stuffed animal. And it pairs to your iCloud account by proximity to an iPhone - just like AirPods do. The idea is, reportedly, you can receive a notification whenever your iPhone gets too far away from the tracker. So, if the tracker is attached to your keys and you walk away from them, you will receive an alert on your phone.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (in a research note with TF International Securities today obtained by MacRumors) has said he expects Apple's new trackers to feature ultra-wideband or "UWB" technology, which all three iPhone 11 models have, thanks to the U1 chip.

The “U” in U1 stands for “ultra-wideband”. Related to Bluetooth Low Energy, ultra-wideband is a low-energy, short-range radio technology primarily used for wireless data transmission. The distance between two ultra-wideband-equipped devices can be measured much more precisely by calculating the time that it takes for a radio wave to pass between the two devices.

Even when not connected to the internet, a UWB-equipped Apple Tag will constantly send out signals. These signals will be noticed by any passing iOS device, and the device’s location is forwarded - anonymous and encrypted - to Apple. In other words, the Find My app will use crowdsourcing to find your Apple Tag, leveraging hundreds of millions of iPhones as a massive locator network. 

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Lost mode

9to5Mac said you’ll also be able to put Apple’s item tracker in a Lost Mode so that your contact information stored on the device can be made available to other Apple users. If and when that happens, you'll be alerted, so that you know the tracker (and your item) has been found.

Augmented reality

Apple's new Find My app will leverage Apple's ARKit platform. An internal build of iOS 13 includes an asset for a 3D red balloon, which MacRumors said could help a user locate a lost item after scanning a room with their iPhone. There's also an image of a 2D orange balloon, and Apple tells users to "walk around several feet and move your iPhone up and down until a balloon comes into view".

Removable battery

MacRumors also spotted code in an internal build of iOS 13 that suggested Apple's device trackers would feature a removable battery and may use the small batteries used in Tile trackers. "Unscrew the back of the item and remove the battery," one string in the Find My app, specifically, said. A low battery warning would also force the tracker to send a final location before it dies, apparently.

Apple tracker: Name

No reporting has settled on a name for Apple's item trackers so far, but we at Pocket-lint are putting our money on Apple Tag. 

Apple tracker: Price

There's been no word so far on a price. Most Tile trackers can bought for around $30/£30, so we think anything under $50/£50 seems likely.

Apple tracker: Release date

It's unclear when Apple will announce its tracking device, but given that it's been spotted in the iOS 13, which is expected to launch in September, we're thinking a debut is imminent. Perhaps we will learn more at an October event?