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Apple Introduces AirTag (apple.com)
947 points by davidbarker 6 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 922 comments



> AirTag is designed for over a year’s worth of battery life with everyday use. The CR2032 battery is user-replaceable and widely available. Replacement batteries are sold separately.

That's the piece of information I wanted to know first. Devices like this can be built, but those can't run on batteries for a reasonable time frame.

Apple made it practical.


As pointed out above, this is already the status quo (replacable battery, 1 year life, etc). Tile has had it for years.

I'm curious if it would've been technically feasible to have wireless charging on these instead of replaceable battery. Or would that greatly increase the price?


> Tile has had it for years.

I had a tile and it most assuredly did not have a replacable battery, I had to mill the thing open: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrhM5ujSU6w


I've had a Tile with a replaceable battery since 2018 (according to the app just now). It replaced the previous single-use model.


Yeah, I had to check their website... it looks like some of the their models have replaceable batteries now, but they certainly didn't start that way (and not all of their products have a replaceable battery today).


Never claimed it started this way, but they've had replaceable models for ~3 years now, if not longer.


Tile has products with replaceable and with non replaceable batteries.


Yes now they do. For years they had only non-user-replaceable ones but they were happy to charge a large fee for a swap.


Tile sends me free replaceable batteries.

Hopefully AirTag opens up their API so Tile can integrate. I’m just assuming AirTag would be slightly more integrated than Tile.


Here is Gruber's take (from Daring Fireball):

> Conspicuously absent from the list [of third-party products using the Find My network], of course, is Tile. Given their membership in Epic’s Coalition for App Fairness, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to promote Tile’s products. And it’s unclear to me whether Tile even wants to be in the Find My app — their spat with Apple is more about their own app competing with Find My, and their accusations that Apple unfairly advantages Find My by not holding it to the same rules as third-party apps that ask for always-on location access. Apple’s solution is this third-party accessory program; Tile’s preferred solution would be Apple allowing Tile’s own app to do everything Find My can do.

https://daringfireball.net/linked/2021/04/07/find-my-third-p...


The “find my” app is open to third party devices, but they have to get certified.


That's a funny way of saying they have to pay for the license.


They do? They charge me an annual subscription for that.


Free? How did you swing that without the subscription payment?


"Now" like in the last 3+ years.


Tile didn't start with replaceable batteries--they still don't use them in all their products. I don't know how AirTags will be in practice, but user-replaceable batteries haven't been great. I don't know if it's a technical restriction or not, but "low-battery" seems to be a time based warning and not based on battery charge. So I either get an alert when 1 year has passed on all of my devices at the same time, or they just suddenly die without warning. I could see why Apple might avoid this user experience. Hopefully, their implementation is better.


> I don't know if it's a technical restriction or not

More likely because CR batteries don't drop voltage significantly as it discharges. And at full discharge it suddenly drops dead. Which is why it's harder to measure "remaining charge", as that's generally calculated on battery voltage.


It's equally hard to get any useful information about Li-On or Li-Po based just on battery voltage which is why any actually useful battery indicator involves a charge counter (informally known as a 'gas gauge'). The actual coulombs of charge are counted in and out and that gives a much better estimate.


Lithium batteries are high output until they're not. Like the CR2032 battery in my car keyfob it's working until it's not. The drop from 3V to 1V is precipitously fast. Also, 1 year is extremely conservative. I normally get 3 years out of these batteries. An Airtag that's constantly being interrogated may run out faster than say a keyfob used 5x a day


Yeah, I'd expect these to last notably longer than a year for most people. The AirTags marketing page gives the measurement spec:

> Battery life based on an everyday use of four play sound events and one Precision Finding event per day.

That seems like exceptionally heavy usage to me.


If the airtag dies without warning, wouldn’t it alert the user that the tag is out of range, and so then they could replace the battery? (Presumably Apple has a UI flow for this.)


Your choice is a reasonable timer or extra circuitry and logic for monitoring battery power that cuts the battery life.


low-cost, low-power battery monitoring is like pretty much the most solved problem ever.


you forgot something, low-cost, low-power, low-accuracy battery monitoring is like pretty much the most solved problem ever.

low-cost & low-power & high accuracy, not so much


What do you mean? It's literally just a 2-axis lookup table with voltage on one axis and SOC on the other.


Except it isn’t, not with modern lithium based batteries.

Now most devices use direct voltage, coloumb counting and battery impedance to keep track, and that’s with known batteries.


Even for lithium ion batteries, notoriously hard to track, that's only true for the middle 70-80% of the charging range. It's very easy to check it a lithium ion battery is almost empty, just wait for the voltage to drop below 3.6 or 3.5 and maybe adjust for temperature.

For a CR2032 specifically, you get a nice smooth drop over at least the last third to quarter of its charge. There's no difficulty in detecting that.


It sometimes looks like that in the lab, but in real life it doesn't work. Here are two of the MANY situations that result in incredibly misleading voltage readouts:

My battery is 80% charged, and then I go outside where it is 10 degC colder. Suddenly my battery voltage drops by 200mV and my battery looks 20% charged

My battery is 80% charged and then I start playing a video. The increased load drops the battery voltage and suddenly my battery looks 20% charged.


The fact that the Nest motion sensors / path lights in my home have been functioning for almost 2 years (their stated lifespan) without me needing to replace their tiny batteries boggles my mind.


A CR2032 (disposable) has 2x-4x (200 mah under ideal conditions, compared to 40 mah) the capacity of the same sized LR2032 (rechargeable), and is more stable over a long period of time. In addition there is the necessity of additional charging circuitry, and I'm not sure how small they can physically make the charging antenna.

Lithium rechargeable would mean higher price, larger size for equivalent specs, with an added risk of fire!


Instead now we get millions of CR2032 batteries thrown into the garbage each day :/

Anything with non-chargeable batteries is a no go from sustainability perspective


That’s not true, it depends on the types of materials, how it is disposed, and what the alternatives are.

Recall that everything is made out of rearranged earth atoms. So long as you put them back properly, it can be sustainable.


Yeah but is that practically the case? Most people just chuck things in the trash. Most are too busy to even think about disposing of their waste properly.. This is the reality of our society


you could get them as a re-chargeable (though it would likely be more waste to buy a recharger) - but I mean even rechargeable batteries are also consumables


Rechargeable batteries in the 2032 (20mm wide, 3.2mm deep) package are generally lithium ion chemistry.

This means that, depending on the circuitry they are not always drop in compatible since the voltages and discharge curves differ


To be fair, replaceable batteries in laptops and phones also used to be the status quo and Apple successfully changed that. Just because it’s the status quo wouldn’t prevent Apple from “thinking different”.


> Apple successfully changed that

I feel like this gives far too much credit to Apple. Any one company can "think differently" but Apple shouldn't get the blame for all of the other companies following suit.

Remember the ads Samsung ran before axing the headphone jack a year later?


I do think it couldn't have happened without Apple doing it first from the big manufacturers.

Apple had (and still have) the status and prestige to do anything and make that a standard. If Huawei/Samsung/etc didn't include chargers, didn't use USB or USB C, changed from 3.5 to some proprietary audio jack first, they would have been ridiculed.

But once Apple changed these things (except luckily the USB), these companies could point out that "Apple does this, so it must be an acceptable idea".

The most annoying thing about this is that they are trying to spin these changes as innovation or something for the environment.


Apple has an ability to drive change that other computer manufacturers don’t.

The simple reason is that Apple is the only manufacturer in a specific market. The market for MacOS (or in the case of iDevices, iOS) users.

What that means is that Apple can introduce a pretty shitty change and not lose too many customers to other manufacturers because switching from Apple to another manufacturer is much harder than from Dell to HP.

So, for example, if Dell were to introduce those shitty butterfly keyboards, that were nearly unusable and got spoilt so easily, they would have to change back to their old keyboards within months, unlike Apple, which managed to stick to that design for years and generations of devices without suffering too much.

I use that example because it was an unambiguously worse option, so it nicely illustrates how Apple has a lock-in that others don’t. But Apple can use that lock in to then introduce what are potentially more useful changes (USB2) and/or changes that are not fully baked yet (USB-C), and not suffer the consequences other manufacturers would.


As a customer, my buy-in is built on the trust that the majority of the time the company is going to make the right call.

If they make the wrong call, they’ll handle it. Or they won’t and you’ll get burned a little bit.

When Apple makes an obvious error, like with the keyboard, or something external is holding back the quality of the product (recent pre-Apple silicon laptops) you do have to sort of pay attention and if possible steer around the problem.

As an example I largely sidelined the weak 2018 MacBook Air and instead invested in maxing out a Mac Mini. That turned out really well for me.

Sometimes, like with the butterfly keyboard, it feels like Apple does not take enough responsibility for screw ups and take greater measures to make customers whole.

This happened recently for me with the iPhone 12 Magsafe Silicon case, which is a good product but flawed in the context of the iPhone upgrade program.

In that way, I think Apple could and should be much more generous about returning value to its customers instead of to shareholders.

If there were any existential threat to Apple, I’d say it’s the need to reward shareholders instead of customers.


> it was an unambiguously worse option

Speak for yourself. The butterfly keyboard is the only laptop keyboard I have ever encountered which I can type on for a full day without flaring RSI. Despite having a fully-loaded 16" with the replacement keyboard, I still use the 4.5-year-old butterfly model for almost everything.


Yeah, I personally prefer the typing feel of the butterfly keyboard: I'm just a bit hesitant about its reliability.


> What that means is that Apple can introduce a pretty shitty change and not lose too many customers to other manufacturers because switching from Apple to another manufacturer is much harder than from Dell to HP.

I totally get this interpretation, but I genuinely cannot work out how to tell the difference between this explanation and the alternative explanation that this actually just is what the smartphone market prefers and when given the choice they will choose it.

That would also explain why essentially all competitors copy the change one product cycle after the first company makes the change. Unless you’re suggesting that Apple’s competitors are actually colluding with Apple to remove the headphone jack despite strong market opposition, I really don’t see how you can definitively say that Apple and its competitors aren’t simply making products that most people prefer.


As someone who has mostly had android phones (but not now), I watched the wireless charging thing unfold in a hilarious way.

A bunch of android phones had wireless charging years ago, including one of the nexus devices IIRC. Great! I'll buy a couple of wireless charging pucks and use them. No more flakey USB ports that give up before the phone does.

Apple didn't pick it up.

Android phones all dropped the feature.

Apple picked it up, hyped it, rolled it out.

Android phones started appearing with it again.

It's like Apple has to lead the way, and even useful features can't survive in the android ecosystem without Apple's blessing.


Afaik Samsung phones had wireless charging since 2016 and kept that, didn't they? I'm an iPhone guy, but my colleagues were using wireless chargers around that time.


Interesting ... looking up the specs the site I use tells me that was "market dependent", I wonder if that has impacted my experience.

The motorola Nexus 6 had Qi charging in 2014, then that manufacturer seemed to back away from it. Huawei only picked the feature up in 2019 AFAICT, my P20 pro didn't have it.

But yes, it does look like the galaxy phones have had it all along. I wonder why I discounted those?


It wasn’t status or prestige. It was developing battery conditioning software and integrating it in the OS so the batteries could last years before replacement.

And when Apple did this, they were able to pack more wattage on their MacBooks, making them last substantially longer on a charge than competitors. Competitors had to do same to eventually catch up.


> these companies could point out that "Apple does this, so it must be an acceptable idea".

Friends and jumping off bridges and all that.

I get that Apple has immense sway in these marketplaces but I've never gotten a good explanation for why it's Apple's fault when another company makes that same anti-consumer decision. Headphone jacks being the most prominent example.


I didn't blame anyone, I was just saying it couldn't have happened without Apple doing things first.

And not even all the things I listed really annoy me, I have listed examples for things where Apple had to be the first from the established manufacturers. For example the audio jack, I basically never used wired headphones in the last 6 (?) years (since the first time I bought Beats with Bluetooth), so I don't even care.


> I do think it couldn't have happened without Apple doing it first from the big manufacturers.

Well sure nothing “could have happened” without the first company doing it and then the rest of the companies also doing it. But you can’t blame just Apple for an industry wide change. Sure they where the first major company to push a single button mouse, but you can’t blame them for there being no two or three button mice on the market today. That’s not something they made happen, that was an entire industry adopting their practice, and the consumers backing that decision.


We can just blame all the companies for doing X, we don't have to be so selective. Apple and Samsung both removes user replaceable batteries? Well, screw both of them then.


Amen. I'm tired of HN discussions trying to find a single cause/blame when you can often spread the blame pretty well around.


Thankfully saner heads have prevailed at companies like Sony.

They solved the waterproof phone with a headphone jack many years ago, went with with the craziness of removing it for no reason reason like Samsung and apple, and have since put it back in all of their phones as there hasn't been any noticable improvement in phones that have removed it, but now you have to make sure your headphones are charged.


> Apple shouldn't get the blame for all of the other companies following suit

It's not about blame - Apple has repeatedly changed the landscape of computing for decades. Mac, modern laptops, iPhone. Downplay their influence if you will, but they have been the harbinger so often before...


Apple didn't actually invent the modern laptop; that's just Apple PR. The Xerox NoteTaker, Osbourne 1, Dulmont Magnum, Toshiba T1100 and Compaq SLT all get credit for the “first” in different ways – and all in the 80s, before Apple produced a single computer that could be called a “modern laptop”. (Except the NoteTaker, which was 70s.) I vote the Toshiba T1100 as the first modern laptop, btw.

Apple was the first to put a trackball in a laptop (though that laptop was, in the rest of its design, at least five years out of date – hardly modern), invented the laptop palm rest, and – much later – was the first to put an Ethernet port in.


Turns out all the people up in arms about the headphone jack didn’t really amount to much more than media fervor.

I really like the look of this over the tile products personally and it’s “rightly sized” to me. I definitely will see myself owning a few of these air tags


They are replaceable just not user replaceable though user's can change it if they buy $10 worth of tools. Just like my car's battery isn't user replaceable unless i buy tools to be able pull the battery out of the battery compartment.


Your car's battery isn't glued in place behind a cover held by screws with an intentionally obscure pattern. Not to mention, car manufacturers don't (yet?) use specialized batteries that only they can source legitimately nor use DRM to make the car reject a perfectly good battery just because it's not the original one that came with it.


I've never changed the battery in my IPhone but my MBPr 15 it took an OEM battery fine. I cut the glue with some spectra fishing line and wasn't that hard. Took me about 15 minutes to replace it. The IFixit OEM battery came with the tools to change out the battery.


Older iPhones are much the same; I've done several battery and screen replacements on my 1st gen SEs. A heat gun comes in handy, but beyond a couple cheap screwdrivers most of what you need is just decent eyesight and steady hands. (I only have one of those, but can still fake the other for a few years yet before I need one of those magnifier visors.)

Newer ones, I don't know. It does look like Apple is starting to move in truth toward the hostility to DIY repair they've always been claimed, in the past often falsely, to display.

It's a shame. I really like the idea of that purple 12 mini - it'd go so well with my fountain pen! But if I can't fix it myself when it needs fixing, that's a much knottier problem.


Let me just pop out and change the battery on my Tesla.


My next car’s battery will be glued in place, permanently affixed to the frame. When it dies after a million+ miles, I’m sure both battery and steel body will be quite ready for recycling.


Assuming it doesn't incinerate you first, of course...


Standard tools or specialty tools?

I suppose if you can't lift 80lbs out of an awkward spot, it's also not user replaceable? The line has to be drawn somewhere.


It wouldn't, but in this specific case they didn't. Did apple bring any actual innovation that I missed? That's why I was proposing wireless charging, that would've actually been a nice step forward.


> Did apple bring any actual innovation that I missed?

I guess it depends on what you think of as innovation. Their marketing pointed to "scalloped" batteries instead of square so they can take up more empty space (plus the space that would have been used by covering the battery and a fatter connector).

In my experience, their batteries went from 200 charge cycles, about ~4 of battery life, and often failing before reaching it's end of life to 1000 charge cycles, about 8-10hrs of battery life, and rarely getting "service" warnings suggesting replacement. At least last time I needed to swap batteries I just needed a small screwdriver.

I was very concerned when they ditched removable batteries because that was one part I constantly had problems with. Since those issues were address I'm very glad they went that way.


> Their marketing pointed to "scalloped" batteries instead of square so they can take up more empty space

I'm confused, are these standard CR2032 batteries or not? Do I have to buy some special Apple battery?


Parent comment is referring to MacBook batteries


However, none of this justifies intentionally making the batteries extremely difficult to replace. It wouldn't make any noticeable difference to their bottom line (when you consider the margins on their products) to hold batteries with a screwed-in bracket (or even by compression with some foam) instead of hard-to-remove adhesive.


Adhesive responds better to thermal expansion/contraction cycles than screws. Using foam to compress the battery to hold it in place can prevent safe thermal expansion and isn't necessarily going to hold everything in place with vibration or percussion.


Phone batteries stopped being user replaceable once smart phones started improving at such a rapid pace that even if you could replace the battery in your 2 year old device you won’t want to because the UI would be dog slow and the camera a blurry mess compared to current model.

Funnily, the time for replaceable batteries in phones seems to have arrived, but users are now trained not to expect it.

Sending your phone in for a manufacturer battery replacement after 2 years of use to get a further 2 is a good compromise in my view. My last replacement was about $50.


I did like having two batteries and an external charger. 30 seconds I’m out the door with a freshy


i guess with external battery packs being thrown at people every trade show there are alternatives now.

I have a small one on me always that can charge my phone twice over


Would you want it enough to pay 20% to 30% more and have the phone be ~5mm thicker?

Because the obvious issue is that most people won’t.


Why is that the requirement? The extra layers of plastic to enable removable batteries cost close to zero dollars and don't have to cost more than a millimeter.


There’s also connectors that wouldn’t be there normally, those connectors also have to be large enough to support the current. Then there’s the plastic lined battery well, as well as the plastic battery case. It’s not as simple as throwing plastic around a battery and calling it a day.


> There’s also connectors that wouldn’t be there normally, those connectors also have to be large enough to support the current.

Supporting 5-10 amps requires very small pins. It's a tiny percentage of the battery size.

> Then there’s the plastic lined battery well, as well as the plastic battery case. It’s not as simple as throwing plastic around a battery and calling it a day.

Yes, those are the layers of plastic I was talking about.

I didn't say you could slap something together in half an hour, I said it would cost close to zero dollars when talking about the per-phone price.


> Why is that the requirement? The extra layers of plastic to enable removable batteries cost close to zero dollars and don't have to cost more than a millimeter.

That very last phrase you said a millimeter. None of this will fit in one millimeter, which was my counter.


The connector won't affect thickness, it will go at one end of the battery.

For the layers of plastic, the battery already has a wrapping, and the phone already has a back. You just have to reinforce the wrapping on the battery. How much thickness do you think that needs? It's definitely not five millimeters.


“ The extra layers of plastic to enable removable batteries cost close to zero dollars and don't have to cost more than a millimeter.”

“It’s two lines of code, how hard can it be?”

More seriously, the cost of designing a battery pack goes way beyond that, just like in software there’s a world of difference between an internal and an external interface. Adding ESD protection for instance can be a headache.


There's an enormous amount of design cost in a phone no matter what. Doing it differently from the start does not substantially increase the cost, and I'm not asking for a retrofit.

It's absolutely bonkers to suggest a 20-30% increase in total cost that would be driven by design costs; that's more than doubling the entire design budget!


I'm not talking about NRE costs, I'm talking about very real manufacturing costs that you are ignoring. Modern battery packs are one of these things that if you haven't designed one you tend to think they're simple, but have a lot of hidden complexity.

Just as an example, modern batteries require keeping track of a lot of parameters and metrics, and require keeping control of things like cell balancing. Making a battery removable means having to move all this into the pack, which then implies having exposed critical interfaces.

As an example check this device by Texas Instruments: BQ40Z50-R2. This gives you a lot of the functionality to the point that Apple keeps variants of them in current laptops, even if they're not removable anymore.

To make a software equivalent, imagine building an enterprise product that connects to a database, and then being asked to have this link exposed through public APIs. Now you need to consider delightful things like authentication, or being vulnerable to DDoS.


Okay, that's an actual cost. But:

1. That just moves from phone to battery, doesn't it? That's not a cost increase for the bundle.

2. You don't need fancy things like cell balancing for a phone battery.

3. Even with this chip it's $4 BoM for small batches and significantly less in bulk. So that could be a 1% cost increase. So we have that, a thin plastic shell, and a tiny connector. How are we hitting 20-30% increases, hundreds of dollars?


1. Except now you need a new PCB, a new subassembly, new procedures...

2. You need a lot of fancy things, just not cell balancing. That “battery health indicator” all iphones have, guess where that’s from.

You can take it from someone who has built several devices with replaceable batteries, or we can just keep debating until I’ve fully explain to you how you actually build one of these.

The thing is, I don’t want to waste more time on this, you can do your research on your own, or just keep your preconceptions, whatever floats your boat.


> 1. Except now you need a new PCB, a new subassembly, new procedures...

Every phone needs new subassemblies and procedures. For the PCB, you end up with an extra one that's tiny true.

> 2. You need a lot of fancy things, just not cell balancing. That “battery health indicator” all iphones have, guess where that’s from.

Sure, okay.

> You can take it from someone who has built several devices with replaceable batteries, or we can just keep debating until I’ve fully explain to you how you actually build one of these.

> The thing is, I don’t want to waste more time on this, you can do your research on your own, or just keep your preconceptions, whatever floats your boat.

Where would I look?

I'm trying to follow your logic. But you mostly keep naming things phones already have. They already have all this engineering work. They already have the battery chip, it just changes location. And that chip is less than $3.

Could you please give me a couple sentence explanation of how you arrived at 20-30% for a phone that's designed from the start to have a removable battery? You keep nitpicking me for not understanding an argument that you never explained!

My understanding goes something like this: Posit a $600 phone of which $50 is the battery pouch. Remove battery pouch and chip from phone, replace with a connector, phone now costs $550? Add plastic shell and $3 chip and connector and tiny PCB onto the battery pouch. For the total price to rise 20%, doing that has to cost more than $100 and leave you with a battery that costs more than $150. How?

And phones didn't get massively cheaper when they stopped letting you remove batteries...


On the cusp of the transition, I attended a music festival with a couple of friends. They both had modern smartphones, I had something closer to an old-school feature phone. At some point on what was probably the first day, we all went to the phone charging tent. They stayed there for an hour or two with their phones plugged in. I walked in and walked back out again immediately, with a fresh battery for my phone handed over to me for free.

I do like having a thin phone, but the utility of a replaceable battery has been sorely downplayed over the years.


Hopefully MobileQubes [0] or similar competitors become more prevalent, there's a convention I go to where the hotel has had these kiosks since 2015. You pay ~$5 to rent a fully-charge external battery for 24 hours, with whatever connector your phone uses, after which you return it to the kiosk. If you fail to return it you're automatically charged the "buy" cost.

Yeah it's not free, but it's really nice if you underestimated your battery life since you're not tied to a single spot while charging it.

[0] https://mobilequbes.com/


Meanwhile modern smart phones charge to 80% in 15-30 mins. If they were in there for hours they wanted it at 100%


Well, this was a good few years ago now, but I sure they DID want 100% charge anyway!


Replaceable batteries were superseded by batteries of sufficient capacity for 99% of users. (And for the remaining 1% I'm sure the non-Apple marketplace has fantastic, no-compromise solutions.) Remember when it was impressive for a laptop to have three real hours of productive battery life? Back then, most laptop batteries were trivially hot-swappable. Now it's normal to get eight or more hours of productive use from a laptop battery.

I realise that capacity is theoretically orthogonal to swappability, but functionally it's relevant because battery casings, compartments, connectors and chassis strengthening elements all take up space that could otherwise go to a larger battery pack.


Tile has user replaceable batteries on some of their products. Granted, it seems to be on their best sellers, but I somehow ended up with the thin ones, and I found out those don't have replaceable batteries after they died.


There was definitely a time when they had no product that had replaceable batteries in their line.

I swore Tile off when I found out the hard way that the battery gives out a year from time of sale, not from when you activate it.


Do you have a source for that? My partner got a me some Tiles for my birthday 9 months ago and I still haven't gotten around to actually putting them on anything, would hate to find out they're only good for 3 more months


Well, this is buried in their FAQ, emphasis mine: https://tileteam.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/200550678-ReT...

> What if my battery dies early?

> We do not control the lifespan of your Tile; the battery is guaranteed to last a full year (or 3 years for Sticker and Slim) from your purchase date. Your Tiles are covered for 12 months by our worry-free warranty! If your Tile’s battery dies before a year has passed from the time of purchase, we’ll replace it free of charge. Our Customer Care team would be happy to help you!


The battery is slowly discharging and dying sitting in the box. I got one as some vendor swag a few years ago at an event. I stuck it in a drawer for a couple of years and forgot about it. When I went to move, I tried using it. It was dead.


You swore Tile off because because you don't like how batteries generally function?


They chose to set it up this way, and also that's not even close to the normal shelf life of an unused battery, so it must be actively draining it and not "how batteries generally function".


I’m still going strong off a pack of non rechargeable AAs that have been in the cupboard for years.


> Or would that greatly increase the price?

Not only price, but size/weight too. It seems that currently the thing is 99% battery/case/PCB and is designed around the battery. While technically wireless charging is off-the-shelf, incorporating that may have been seen as "too expensive" and/or "too large".


I've never been able to replace the battery in a Tile. Is there some model I don't know about?

I've been using them for at least the last 2 years.


Audio jacks were also the status quo...


and so was 66Mhz 486 processors and RAM measured in KB and MB. things change.


If you are forgetting where your object is, you are probably forgetting to charge it too.


I lose my phone all the time but somehow I manage to charge it


In Australia roughly 20 kids per week present to emergency having swallowed or inserted a button battery and in several cases many have tragically died.

It is an agonising death over a period of days/weeks for the child and horrible for the parents to witness. Many times both the parents and medical professionals don't realise what is actually happening to the child until it is too late. There is growing support for much tighter regulations of these batteries and limiting there use overall.

Apple is certainly not the only company who are using them, not by a long shot. But they are not some holy grail of replaceable batteries and it surprising Apple would decide to use them now.

If you are interested ABC in Australia did a rather big report into the increasing incidents of button battery related deaths and injuries, telling the story of families who's lives were turned upside down by them. It is incredibly difficult reading.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-15/button-batteries-land...


I wonder if (and I wish) battery producers could use the same "coating" as the Nintendo Switch cartridges. They taste disgusting and greatly reduce the risk of having a child swallowing them.


Why have you told me this, I now have an urge to go test this by licking a cartridge.


I don't have a cartridge. Please lick yours and report back.


I have regrets. It's really weird, super bitter.


It was less bitter than I expected. Closer to arugula than Fernet.


They don't taste much worse than pills-for-adults – unless you dislike bitter things, I suppose. The goal is to stop very small children from eating them, not determined 6-year-olds.


Don't worry, you're not alone - about 4 years ago it got reported on so everyone wanted to try it.


They already do on some. I bought a pack of 2032s (Duracell maybe?) a few weeks back that had the coating.


Just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I have three small children and had no idea of the dangers these batteries pose. We seem to be changing button batteries every couple of weeks or so, they are in a number of sound books and toys we have around the house. I will be sure to take extra care with them after reading that article. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare.


Parent of 2 young girls myself and I happened to find this information out by chance when shopping online for batteries. The stories from these parents shocked me. I'm really glad this info helped you, hopefully more and more parents spread the word.


Serious question: what is the risk, aside from any other "foreign object"? Does the battery leak?


According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Button_cell#Accidental_ingesti... the battery's anode creates an electric current with the digestive tract's fluids that produces caustic soda which can burn through the oesophagus in as little as 2 hours.


Wow, that's crazy unsafe! Can't believe I haven't heard about this until now.


Chemical reaction can burn a hole in your esophagus.


I’m sorry, you have a child and didn’t know button batteries (or batteries in general) were dangerous? Is there not a clear choking hazard and the knowledge it’s filled with toxic/hazardous chemicals? This should be common sense.


People might not even realise a toy or electronic device has a button battery in them. There are no warnings on packaging. Kids can swallow them without an immediate reaction like choking. An hour or 2 later the child becomes sick and the parent doesn't understand why. They don't know they swallowed a battery, they didn't even know it existed. Medical professionals just assume its a fever. You cant see the button unless X-rays are taken and by that time that the injuries can be severe.


It’s not about realizing if a toy has a battery or not, the choking hazard alone is enough. There’s also no electronic devices a child should swallow. Kids are swallowing these because parents like this aren’t thinking.


I see you do not have a child.

I hate the trite “oh, you'll know when you're a parent!” stuff as much as the next person, but… have you met a one-year-old? So curious, and so quick to eat new things: a bad combo if I've ever seen one.


Hmm, so I have no child and no experience huh? What happened to baby proofing houses? Keeping items they shouldn’t eat out of reach? As a parent it is your job to keep that child safe until they can do the same, and leaving dangerous items around is failing that one task. You don’t leave things around that hurts your child, be it guns or batteries.


You clearly don't have children, so stop pretending that being a parent is as easy as writing some sentences describing what needs to be done. It's like someone pretending to be a doctor explaining how easy it is to work in medicine to a group of actual trained professionals, it looks silly.

If you were a parent you would know that time is not available to you, that you cant sit and stare at the kids from morning to night. Rent/mortgages need to be paid, cleaning done, food prepared all the things that any person who is a parent is already well aware of. You do your best to protect them, but you are not innately gifted with the ability to see every perceived threat like some robot on the day a child is born.

The fact that it's a recurring problem should be clearly evident that it is not common knowledge, that the warnings are not there to inform parents. People on this thread who I can assume are reasonably smart and don't neglect their children didn't know the danger. So enough already, you're out of your depth on this topic.


> If you were a parent you would know that time is not available to you, that you cant sit and stare at the kids from morning to night.

So there are no such things as play pens in which you can create a secure and safe area while you are distracted with life?

And my point remains, if you need a warning that eating batteries is dangerous, perhaps wait a few years. The fact that this keeps reoccurring means people aren’t using their brain.


Playpens aren’t designed for 3 year olds. Now because you didn’t use your brain in this instance, it’s your fault the child dies because your a bad parent. You should have known that 3 years old are too old for playpens.

This is your logic. You already failed the test before becoming a parent. You would be a ‘bad parent’ in your own words.


Oh sure, an area keeping your child wrangled isn’t designed for 3 year olds. Again you’re not using your brain.


Just to be clear, this is your idea of ‘using your brain’. Instead of creating rules for companies to make household products safe for kids, we should allow them to continue as is. Instead kids should be confined in playpens to keep them safe until the time they are ready for school. Even though the parents don’t know the danger exists and could easily place a toy with a battery in the playpen unknowingly making the whole exercise pointless. Still it’s best to deprive a children of experiencing the world by confinement them well beyond the recommended years in the false believe that it will keep them safe.

We should adjust our behaves to accomodate companies unsafe products, that’s using your brain.


No ones ever thought of using a playpen before have they. It's obviously been used until the child grew well out of it when they are running and talking. You're using your brain to show everyone how little you know, well done.


When the item they shouldn't eat is in the “safe for children” toy you got sold, how're you meant to keep it out of reach? As soon as a child notices that you can pull the velcro and expose the battery compartment, nothing short of screws is going to stop them putting the batteries in their mouth, and it will only leave their mouth (heavily chewn) if it's too hard to swallow.

Source: me, aged nine. (I didn't have the “eat everything” instincts, but I still wanted to know what batteries taste like. Given how much time I spent with my tongue on a battery, I would probably have swallowed a button cell had I had access to one – and that's with warnings about “batteries will burn a hole through your insides” from my parents. Your average one-year-old doesn't stand a chance.)


Why was the remote in reach? Why did your parents not realize the batteries were easy to remove and let you have it anyways? You people are proving my “bad parents” theory.


‘Bad parent’ theory. Please, tell a mum who’s child died after being burnt through the inside because they left a remote on a table that she is a bad parent.

They don’t realise the danger because there are no warnings, they assume a device is safe as is. Have you not figured that out yet?


This is just too good... If you ever have children please remember this thread. Only then will you finally understand how ridiculous you look right now.


Having raised 3, what do you say now?


Nice way to shame someone brave enough to admit they were lacking in knowledge and announcing action to improve their live.


Notice how you’re not explaining why I look ridiculous? Please, tell me how an infant is smarter than you


I’m sorry...what are you on about? If your goal is to have heated discussions with strangers on the net, there are better platforms out there for that than HN. Your comment style makes you look really insecure. Be aware of that.

The fact is, kids face many dangers and as a parent you cannot be aware of all of them. So if you’re introduced to a new danger and your reaction is “I didn’t know this, but now that I do I’m immediately making changes to prevent impact of this danger on my kid” that deserves praise. Not cheeky low effort guilt tripping.


Yea it’s called being concerned for their kid.


Button batteries and neodymium magnets both are pretty horrifying when taken internally.

I would be curious to see how Apple protects the battery compartment of the AirTag, I'm sure they thought about this.

eg, my car key fob needs to be forcefully pulled apart into three pieces before it even hints there's a battery inside.


> neodymium magnets

This. I personally know a parent who lost a child this way. The worst scenario imaginable: the child swallowed a magnet, and then another one a day later. The magnets brought together two sections of their intestine. By the time the problem was serious enough to warrant a visit to the hospital, it was too late.

Be very, very careful with small magnets.


CR2032 is 2cm wide so you're probably referring to smaller batteries as these cannot be swallowed by a child.


That is simply not true.

Children can easily ingest objects 2cm in diameter, and batteries that size can be especially dangerous because of how they lodge in the esophagus.

Citing Eck, Langham says, "Clinical outcomes can be determined by assessing the diameter of the button battery, as 90% of all major or fatal outcomes are associated with lithium batteries of 20 to 25 mm in diameter"

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7536469/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32011339/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430915/


Interesting, I did not know that. What I also find interesting is that those that did swallow a battery between 20 - 25mm, there was no damage in more than 50% of the cases. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/6/1168/ta...


Those statistics are over a decade old, they also clearly summarise the danger of 20mm sized batteries.

'RESULTS: All 3 data sets signal worsening outcomes, with a 6.7-fold increase in the percentage of button battery ingestions with major or fatal outcomes from 1985 to 2009 (National Poison Data System). Ingestions of 20- to 25-mm-diameter cells increased from 1% to 18% of ingested button batteries (1990–2008), paralleling the rise in lithium-cell ingestions (1.3% to 24%). Outcomes were significantly worse for large-diameter lithium cells (≥20 mm) and children who were younger than 4 years. The 20-mm lithium cell was implicated in most severe outcomes.'


Last package of 2032s I bought had a foul-tasting coating on them that is supposed to make small children instantly spit them out. Is that not standard nowadays? Not sure how effective it is as I was not brave enough to lick them myself.


My understanding is that, tragically, this has not been effective enough.


Nintendo Switch cartridges (sd card sized) use the same kind of coating.


The rule of thumb used to be that if it fits in a 35mm film canister, it's too small to have around children younger than 3. Nowadays I suppose a lot of people don't know what a film 35 mm canister is...


In Sweden all infant parents are offered the "smådelscylinder" (literally "cylinder for small parts") [1] in which you can put things to determine if they're safe or not. Very handy.

[1]: https://www.homesafety.se/produkter/ovriga-produkter/smadels...


Another metric is a toilet paper tube.


I imagine smaller diameter batteries are a bigger issue but apparently the concerns are for this class of batteries in general. [1] That said, I don't see a call for banning them but just for being aware of the potential danger. (Although another link in this thread does seem to actively discourage using them.)

[1] https://www.kidsafevic.com.au/product-safety/button-batterie...


Yes there is, that ABC article is especially painful to read. The number of parents holding pictures of these kids most no older than 4 who have died from these batteries.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-15/button-batteries-land...

https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-welcomes-safety-a...


People are not going to stop using small replaceable batteries.


And kids will continue to die from them, if you want to be that absolute about the topic.


Yes and items that are choking hazards for children are taken off the shelves. Poisonous chemicals must by law be clearly labeled and have child safety caps on them. Button batteries are not regulated, are found in more and more toys and devices that don't have necessary safety measures, have no warnings, are easily swallowed, the body gives no immediate reaction unlike chocking, is misdiagnosed because of this, and is an incredibly painful and prolonged death.

That ABC article I linked describes a family watching their 14-month old daughter dying over 19 days as the battery literally burns her insides while doctors continue to misdiagnose the problem until its too late. This is not a tragic one off incident, it is occurring repeatedly and will continue to do so if things stay as they are.


With mortality figures as low as they are it’s hard to see that number decreasing considerably with increased regulation. In each example there appears to be morbidity secondary to unacceptably delayed medical diagnosis. It is incredibly easy to spot a battery on a plain film and an infant/toddler presenting with the symptoms described warrants immediate suspicion.


Number of deaths is not the only metric of concern. The batteries can cause life changing injuries within hours. The immediate symptoms can be easily mistaken for a flu. Doctors do not require an X-ray for the flu. Without an X-ray the button goes undetected.

Excluding the issue of misdiagnosis, if every case was found by medical practitioner at first sight, there are still major complications and possible surgical intervention required to remove the battery.

These numbers are from a country with a population of 25 million. Im sure the numbers of injuries and deaths are much higher in countries like the US.


The devices themselves are probably choking hazards for young kids. As are a thousand other things around the house to say nothing of poisons.


The other thousand of things aren't as small though right?


Think of the children!

Parents should be doing that.


It isn't a moral issue so the joke isn't relevant. The article I linked mentions that parents hid the real truth of their child's death for fear of judgement. Neither the parents nor the medical professionals were aware of the problem until it was too late, but I guess thats just the fault of bad parenting?


The link in my post shows the damage a CR2032 button does when swallowed.


Didn't expect user replaceable commodity batteries from Apple. That's nice.


It is ridiculous that something as basic as having a user replaceable battery is considered an unexpected nice feature.


Some Tile models don't have replaceable batteries either.

There's a tradeoff in form factor


actually not much in mine...

maybe in the tile slim ones though


The one on my keys is. The one in my wallet isn't. I suppose because there's not standard "Very thin" battery. Button batteries are the limit.


For something where extremely small size is an essential feature (unlike a laptop computer), battery replaceability is a direct trade off with that.


> For something where extremely small size is an essential feature (unlike a laptop computer)

Say that to someone traveling for work.


I traveled a lot for work and always carried a replaceable battery computer and two extra batteries. Battery life was lower back then though.


finally a smart comment. (I never see a company as a friend, companies do not perform acts of kindness, they only seek to grow their profits (except in very rare cases))

There is so much innovation in science that it never materializes because it is not commercially viable for companies.


Don't expect future models to have that feature, though.


Considering some of the tags cost $300+, I guess they had no choice.


Throwback to that AA battery charger Apple released in 2010 [1].

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Battery_Charger


Yeah their older keyboards / mice had replaceable AA batteries. I'm saying older but it's only been a few years? Getting to the batteries on the keyboard was a bit of a pain, weird screw cap you needed an insert for to open.


> weird screw cap you needed an insert for to open.

Almost any coin.


God damn it's like I'm back in 2010 where people praise Apple for doing things other people have already done.

Apple did not invent device trackers with replaceable batteries. Tile has been doing that since 2018 on some of their devices (Basically all except the smallest ones), and I imagine someone else did it before then.


> ...people praise Apple for doing things other people have already done.

As Drake once said: "it ain't about who did it first/ It's about who did it right."


And you know apple did it right? On a device nobody has their hands on?

There's nothing wrong with being a fanboy, but don't pretend like you're not fanboying.


Apple generally does it right. And especially since Tile harasses you to buy a subscription in which they use your phone to report others devices locations. So you think Tile did it right? I’m counting the days myself.


Oh yes the canadian philosopher man.


Trackers have existed for a while, but the privacy preserving ad-hoc device network approach is definitely an innovation.


Is it though? Tile seems to do the exact same thing according to https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/how-it-works (see "Notify When Found")

I don't have one so I can't conclusively say either way, but it seems like the only "innovation" Apple can probably claim over Tile is that every iPhone should support the network out of the box (I assume) rather than having to rely only on people who already have the app.


The fact that it works with any iPhone /is/ the innovation. I would imagine less than 0,5% of iPhone users has the Tile app installed. A worldwide network of connected iPhones will make this technology finally worth using.


Tile charges for that feature, and harasses you in app until you pay the sub. Tiles only works with phones, any apple device supporting the “find my” protocol can report the position of a tag.

Integration into the Apple ecosystem is another huge one that Tile refused.


The brilliant thing with apple is the privacy feature and the fact there are hundreds of millions of devices/people able to help find your lost item - that’s where a lot of the other trackers fell down.


Is like wireless head phones, Apple didn’t invent them, but they get praised because of of great they didn’t it.


“Where people praise App for things other people have already done.”

Did anyone say Apple was the first to do this? No, no they did not.

So are you saying that nobody is allowed to be praised if it’s been done before? Because that’s what it looks like to me, please correct me if I’m mistaken. Thanks.


GP said that "Apple made it practical" while quoting a part about having user-replaceable batteries, implying that Apple's use of replaceable batteries in a device tracker was Apple's innovation.


No it's implying that there was a worry that Apple wouldn't have user replaceable batteries. They at no point reference any competing product.


I disagree. The comment is drawing a contrast between what apple did and "devices like this".


If you’re not intimidated by NDAs, devices like this can be built for approx. $15/ea. or less (based on your volume) with a battery option. A CR2032 will yield approx. 6-7 years of life for the tag as long as it’s setup to emit once every 30-60s. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s cost is in $1-2 per device with the battery.


Home brew are fun and handy, and very useful if you tend to lose things in known locations like your own home. I have been using my own for years.

The disadvantage is that homebrew don’t get the network effects of a bunch of users who just happen to pass by when you dropped it in the park.

So the trade off is real and depends on how and when you tend to lose things.


I worked on the samsung version that also recently launched, the scale at which we could find things was staggering. Nothing in the world is really ever that far from a Samsung smartphone anymore.


You can buy complete bluetooth beacons including battery for under $7 in the EU.

They can easily be built for a few bucks. Good profits, and I expect many people will have 5-10 devices, because they're so cheap


I played with some BLE beacons a few years back. I honestly didn't find them very useful for finding things--though that was probably some older Bluetooth version.


The trick is of course the locating network, and UHF, but it's essentially the same hardware


Tile's been doing one-year battery life with a CR2032 for quite some time now.


Only in the Tile Mate and Pro since 2018 models. Their other tiles do not have user replaceable batteries.


only the $35 Tile Pro has user-replaceable 2032 battery.


That's incorrect. The lower-tier Tile Mate has a 1 year user-replaceable CR1632 battery. The Tile Mate is only $62 for a 4-pack compared to $89.99 for a 4-pack of Tile Pros or $99 for a 4-pack of AirTags. User-replaceable 1 year batteries have been the norm for a while as both the Mate and Pro were introduced 2.5 years ago.


I had a tile, battery died, won’t buy again.


Why can't they just have it recharge with a tiny solar cell or kinetic charging?

Any object moved around by normal use would generate more than enough energy to charge a CR2032's worth in an entire year.

That would make it truly practical by never needing a battery change.

Apple didn't make anything significantly better than the Tile IMO, which also needs batteries to be replaced every year.


The Apple one wins in one simple way - they already have a billion iPhones to find lost tags. The Tile network is nowhere near as big.


Maybe a good opportunity for Google to let the entire Android ecosystem help Tile and beat Apple.


Maybe a time to use a technology that is open and not bound to an ecosystem.


I'm happy that it's user-replaceable ...

$100 for 4 of them sets you back a good amount... especially if you would have otherwise had to toss them after their internal batteries died


Given that the target market is "Apple customers", I don't think $25/year/device is much of a burden.

Regardless, though, I don't like the idea of a device that's designed to be landfilled every year; replaceable batteries are the right way to go here.


$100/4 isn't going to be a burden for most apple customers if they're just putting them on their keys, wallets, handbags, etc. But the endgame for these sorts of devices is longer lifetimes and slapping them on everything you might conceivable care about losing, which will only become practical once they hit prices below $1. Maybe something based on semi-passive RFID?


For something that I hopefully won't really need on a regular basis, I'd hesitate to buy something that was essentially a $25 annual subscription.


I'm super surprised and pleased by this. I would have expected these to have recharge lithium ion batteries that weren't replaceable.


They probably caught enough flak with how incredibly unserviceable AirPods were and decided not to repeat the same mistake, especially here where it wouldn't give any benefit at all. Kind of a no-brainer, but you never know with Apple...


Lol, what flak? AirPods are to a close approximation loved by all reviewers and by all evidence they are a smash hit among consumers.


I got knock off ones. Yeah, they nice. I lost them in about 3 weeks. First one bud, then the other. Shame but I'm 5 years into my Bose over ears and I don't think I'll lose them.


I mean, yeah they're kinda small. But you losing them is nobody else's fault. I've been using AirPods since 2016 and have never lost one. All because I make sure to always follow the rule that they are not to be placed anywhere but in their case. Ever. Not for a minute.


Over ears are pretty much a non-starter for a lot of people who travel.


Many of the people I know who travel a lot will only use over-ear headphones, as even the best in-ear and earbud headphones can get pretty uncomfortable with the pressure changes that happen on an airplane.

I have a fairly good set of in-ear 'phones that I can wear pretty much indefinitely on the ground, but I usually can't get keep them in for more than a couple hours while I'm on a plane. I've tried using different tips for them while on a plane, but nothing works.


How come? I've been traveling extensively with over-ears, what makes them a non-starter?


I’m an extremely light packer. Bose over the ears are a complete no go. I’d do without noise canceling before I’d carry.


I don't think it's reasonable to expect user replaceable batteries in airpods themselves - case, perhaps. That's one form factor where it's not only small, but every gram lighter matters.


Having a replaceable battery kind of undermines its potential as an anti-theft device, so it's not true that there wouldn't be any be benefit at all to having a non-replaceable battery.


You don't think a smart thief that is going to remove the battery would also not just remove the whole tag?


That's comparable to existing products. I was hoping to read that Apple made the device sealed and rechargeable via a mat or the like.

This device will be used like find my phone - a removable battery will make it trivial for thieves to disable the tracking.


The use case is very much not theft tracking, and they will not work for that.

"An AirTag that has been separated from its owner for a long period of time will make an audible noise when it’s moved, as part of a privacy feature to let you know there’s a tag present."

https://daringfireball.net/linked/2021/04/20/moren-fine-prin...


They will work if you leave one in a car that you drive often enough, however…


Even easier than removing the tag: thieves could just remove the tag from the object.


I think the main use case would be for misplaced items more so than stolen ones.


I'm actually rather disappointed that it isn't using a passive RFID chip and multiple base stations to triangulate item location - that would probably bring the price for the actual tags down to something stupidly cheap.


Is this actually doable? I always thought RFID is unusable at those distances.


RFID does work with base stations - I believe some toll roads use them. It's however impossible to deploy these at the scale necessary to make these tags work - the range is so short you'd need them every few meters.


No. I looked into this pretty extensively a few years ago. Ideally you could use semi-passive RFID, which only broadcasts a signal when its identifying signal is detected. But these still need a power source, and batteries are not cheap, only get so small, and don't hold a charge forever, so I don't think you can get the cost per tag for comsumers in such a system much below $10.

At that point, I think making them $25 and having them broadcast every 30 seconds so that they can be found anywhere in the world if someone walks by them with an iPhone is an obviously better solution.

Of course there are wacky solutions, such as using autonomous drones as mobile base stations to find fully passive RFID tags as a home inventory solution. But that introduces a whole host of issues.


So if the battery is replaceable I can simply remove the battery to disable the AirTag once I steal the item it is "tracking" ?


Yes, but it's not a security / theft protection device so idk what the chortling is about.


You could also remove the whole AirTag?


> Apple made it practical.

Ofcourse. User replaceable battery sold seperately made practical by Apple Inc.


This is what turned me against Tile as a consumer. For the longest time they refused to provide any way for the end user to replace a battery, choosing instead to charge for something like a “recycling fee” which essentially matched the new normally discounted purchase price.

Yes the batteries are replaceable now, for some models, but I even declined to interview there a couple times based on the obtuseness of this product decision. And partnering with HP... not my idea of cool.


I thought one of the big use cases for this was to track stolen items, like a backpack or maybe even a bicycle.

But the "anti-stalking" feature will notify someone if an AirTag they don't own appears to be traveling with them.

Does this render it useless for anti-theft, then? Since it will just notify a thief that the bike they just stole is being tracked, and they can look for the AirTag and throw it in the nearest trash can?

Not criticizing Apple here -- anti-stalking is super-important -- but just looking for clarification if this will help you find lost items, but not stolen ones.


I too, found the anti-stalking features might hinder the use of AirTags for locating intentionally stolen items: (1) it has a removable battery, and also (2) "someone can tap [the tag] with their iPhone or NFC-capable device and instructions will guide them to disable the unknown AirTag".

The anti-stalking feature also seems to contradict its privacy features:

> Bluetooth signal identifiers transmitted by AirTag rotate frequently to prevent unwanted location tracking.

But also, in the next sentence:

> iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time.

If an AirTag is supposed to be "anonymous", then how can a user be informed that this tag has been seen with them over an extended period? This would mean that there is a way to identify a particular AirTag in the first place.


Here’s a detailed protocol reverse engineering paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2103.02282.pdf

My guess would be that you, as the tag owner, locally store the master beacon key and can use it to derive key required to decrypt received beacon payloads for your own tags. You can then filter out your own and approximate how many others (which you cannot link over time) you permanently see. If it is more than one most of the time, you’re probably tagged without your consent.


This seems like a problematic situation. In a vacuum I can see how they want to mitigate the stalking risks, but as of right now, unless you have a recently updated Apple device then, then you're completely ignored by the stalking mitigations. There's nothing official from Apple on the Google Play store that would mitigate that situation as well. This just seems like a low barrier to entry stalking tool on the extreme side of use cases for people Apple doesn't have business interests with.


I thought I read that the tag itself will start beeping if it's not near its owner for too long, and the tag has been moving around? Not sure what "too long" means, but if it's short enough, that should foil stalking attempts if the potential stalkee doesn't have an iDevice.

Edit: looks like it doesn't start beeping for three days (though Apple can change this server-side if they decide three days was a bad choice), which seems like way too long. A stalker could probably make good use of this in just a few hours, let alone three days.


I presume the location info is only collected if its marked as "lost" - at which point if the tag connects to apples network via someones phone, it'll prompt them. If its marked "lost" and sending location with no iphone nearby and is moved it beeps.

The stalking potential is greatly reduced if the victim has an android as the location will only be sent when its detected by an iphone.


The location information is updated whenever it is seen by an iDevice. The iDevice participates in this without its user's explicit permission or knowledge.

If the stalkee has an android they will never know. Their position will be snitched by every iDevice they come near.


From the Heinrich et al.paper:

"Lost devices. Devices that determine to be in a lost state start sending out BLE advertisements with a public key to be discovered by finder devices. Devices are considered to be lost when they lose Internet connectivity.

Third-party accessories [6] are small battery-powered devices that can be attached to a personal item and are set up through an owner device.

Accessories are determined to be lost when they lose their BLE connection to the owner device. Finder devices.

Finder devices form the core of the OF network. As of 2020, only iPhones and iPads with a GPS module are offering finder capabilities. Finder devices can discover lost devices and accessories by scanning for BLE advertisements. Upon receiving an OF advertisement, a finder creates an end-to-end encrypted location report that includes its current location and sends it to Apple’s servers."

Elsewhere, it is clear that this operates even when flight mode is enabled.

If you can't stand criticism of Apple, please fuck off back to reddit and fanboi there.


But you don't permanently see them, because the ID rolls over quite often to prevent tracking the beacon.

Conceivably the beacons co-operate in preventing tracking by conversing with iPhones nearby to store a random code supplied by the phone for a period of time, and allowing any iDevice to ask for the list. If your iDevice sees the same random code it transmitted to a stranger beacon appear in multiple time periods it knows it is colocated.

I would guess that the colocation feature would allow you to track devices actively (tailing someone).

Spies will have to be alert the potential for both exposure and tracking. Hopefully Apple commissions Spy Vs Spy ad campaigns!


My guess was simpler. If the phone sees a random tag for 30 minutes, then coincidentally that tag disappears but a new one shows up--for 30 minutes--and this keeps happening, then it's probably the same tag that's following you around. Especially if it's always about X meters away, or whatever.

Random tags passing by wouldn't maintain the same distance or RSSI, and they wouldn't be spaced perfectly apart in time either.

Of course I'm making assumptions here about the key rotation frequency, or even if it's a regular intervals. I guess if you're spending a lot of time in crowds, the rotating beacon that's with you would be hard to pick out of the myriad other beacons coming within range all the time. ("Was that a key rotation, or another person?")


I can see how that might work, but signal reception is always noisy. I doubt RSSI would be a reliable measure. You could partially wrap the AirTag in a scrunch of alfoil and it would mean every movement of the phone would massively change the reception, it would look like a variable distance.

Also, I wonder if it is a fixed time with no overlap? Because you could certainly track someone, eg through a shopping centre, by seeing when a beacon turns off and then listening to new beacons. Correlation would be trivial. And if the e.g. 30m clock is accurate then you could reidentify hours later by just listening to the rollover time, so they would have to vary the rollover at least.

I wonder about false alarms, because you can easily sit on commuter train for an hour and have someone next to you, even more so for long distance travel.


A local device like an iPhone has to know what AirTags are yours, since they have to guide to back to the beacon. If your iPhone notices beacons that appear at multiple locations, that aren't yours, it can detect that.


It isn't yet clear how that detection occurs.


Apple knows who you are. Apple knows which airtag you're near. You don't know which airtag you're near. It seems pretty clear that apple can use this information to tell if an airtag was placed in your car unbeknownst to you. Not sure what the mystery is.


When the ID changes on the tag, a nearby device can link the two id's together since they're in the same 'position' (i.e. id x was at y position and now id z is there, so id x = id y). However, someone who is not there wouldn't be able to link those ID's together. This gets you the privacy feature and the anti-stalking feature. (The anti-stalking feature likely wouldn't need a perfect series of matches; if you have a good chain of them, you'd have good confidence.)


tags rotate identifiers, but only every hour or so.


Its private from 3rd parties, but not private from apple and whoever subpoenas them.

Apply this principle to everything apple does and says about privacy and you see it everywhere in their products.

Even more cynically, you can say it's private from their competitors.


"AirTag is designed from the ground up to keep location data private and secure. No location data or location history is physically stored inside AirTag. Communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted so that only the owner of a device has access to its location data, and no one, including Apple, knows the identity or location of any device that helped find it."


That is not true. All locations are encrypted with a public key before being uploaded to Apple's servers, and only the user's devices (which contain the private key) can decrypt the location.


> Even more cynically, you can say it's private from their competitors.

I've heard this from a few people recently, but I don't understand the implied criticism. What should Apple do here? Keep my data mostly private but also slip a copy of it to Google and Microsoft?

Obviously not. Through the high purchase price of their products, I'm paying (and trusting) Apple to manage my privacy and keep it private from everyone else. The fact that "everyone" necessarily includes all of Apple's competitors isn't just irrelevant, it's a red herring.


The implied criticism is they should also keep it private it from themselves


Wherever possible, they've done exactly that—so how is that a criticism? Case in point is the end-to-end encryption of iMessage. Or the at-rest encryption of iOS devices.

In other instances where Apple does have access to your data, there is a plausible justification for that access and no evidence shown where Apple has ever abused that access for commercial gain.


iCloud backup is on by default, which includes the contents of your iMessage conversations, even if you do turn off this default, your conversations with most other normal people are uploaded in a form where apple has the keys. Apple had plans to make all of iCloud backups E2E encrypted but backed out after pressure from the FBI. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/01/21/appl...

That is one example of many where apple could do it, but doesn't. To do many things on your apple device requires an apple id, which requires a phone number which is linked to identity. Location services uploads your location to apple constantly via close by wifi APs + GPS location, there is no option to do GPS only location w/ no network activity. All of this info is one secret supoena away to be uploaded to violent people with guns. YOU may trust your nice government, but many do not have the luxury of living in such a nice place.

Over and over again, you see the pattern of apple doing of 'private from everyone, except us'. And not mentioning the 'but us' part.


They say in the AirTag video that "Everyone can participate without sharing their location with anyone, even Apple"

https://youtu.be/JdBYVNuky1M?t=570


So there's a way to track everyone's expensive kit and it doesn't require revealing one's identity. Ace.


I think it's a pretty reasonable response given malls and other places were scooping up bluetooth and wifi Mac addresses and using them to identify patrons. Sure, only Apple knows so it might possibly have some benefit to Apple and even less possibly a detriment to competitors, but it definitely increases privacy and I find that very compelling. Your iPhone/Android already knows where you are with location services enabled. I'd rather Apple keep everything as private as possible and it's not like their getting a huge data gain.


Yep, Apple hasn't exactly hidden that's how they do privacy. They give you an identifier that makes sense to their systems, but won't make sense to other observers. They still track you, they just don't tie it to PII (I'm assuming there are ways to associate your "anonymous" ID to you though, since it's probably wrapped up with iCloud stuff somewhere - it would just take an arcane query of some sort).


AirTags are anonymous to other end users.

Obviously Apple is internally maintaining an association between the AirTag's permanent identifier, and its current temporary signal identifier.

This isn't E2EE or anything.


"Your AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in the Find My network. These devices send the location of your AirTag to iCloud — then you can go to the Find My app and see it on a map. The whole process is anonymous and encrypted to protect your privacy. And itʼs efficient, so thereʼs no need to worry about battery life or data usage."

"Only you can see where your AirTag is. Your location data and history are never stored on the AirTag itself. Devices that relay the location of your AirTag also stay anonymous, and that location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it."

So no, Apple actively doesn't want to know anything. I'd wager a guess that the airtag query system is using the same kind of method as the COVID tracker API.


This would also reduce the amount of received legal process from LE agencies, since data is not accessible by Apple.


Huh? It certainly is E2EE.

"Whether attached to a handbag, keys, backpack, or other items, AirTag taps into the vast, global Find My network1 and can help locate a lost item, all while keeping location data private and anonymous with end-to-end encryption."


Even with E2EE it makes sense that it is still possible to differentiate "registered, known" tags from "unknown" tags. Unknown tags won't reveal any information about who owns them, but they will still transmit on the same frequencies and with the same protocol as your air tags.


Is the E2EE applying to the Bluetooth ID's?

I think it's referring to other aspects of the system -- this sentence is specifically referring to location data, not Bluetooth ID's.

In any case, my point remains that obviously Apple has to be internally associating the Bluetooth ID's with owner ID's.


They aren't. The tag generates and broadcasts a public key that is rotated every 15 minutes. A nearby "finder" device receives a broadcast, encrypts its location with the received key and sends it with a hash of the public key to Apple's anonymous location directory. The owner (who keeps the same key pair rotation algorithm running from the same seed key) can look up a bunch of key hashes for a range of 15-minute intervals and then fetch and decrypt location payloads. No device or account IDs are transmitted in the process.


Ah ha, got it, thanks -- I was definitely incorrect then. Wish I could edit my original comment to say "never mind" but the edit window passed.


Vanmoof seems to have adopted the Find My spec and integrated it into their bike hardware itself. AirTag is for lost items. Hardware manufacturers can build Find My support into their product to defend against stolen items. I’d guess that’s the strategy.


I still think Tile lost out on a gigantic market by not making it easier for hardware manufacturers to integrate into their ecosystem.

They should have been practically begging oems to embed it.


Yes, and they refuse (apparently) to join Apple's Find My, and instead want users to install their Tile app (and their tags are then only findable by users that have the Tile app installed). They want to own the entire relationship, but I think here they'll lose out.


They might still capture the (worldwide way larger) Android market.


They've had 5(?) years to do that already but they gained initial success and then sat on their laurels while off-brand competitors tried and failed to break into the market.

I tried a couple of cheap Tile competitors but they all wanted you to use their apps and thus weren't very valuable. I almost bought some Tile products around the last Apple event in Fall 2020 but waited because I thought AirTags were going to be released then.

I'm still tracker-less so I'll be picking up a 4 pack of these and I am excited to use them. Here in the US at least, Apple has great marketshare to support a service like this and a proven track record with Find My already. I'm planning a cross country road trip that starts in about 2 months, and I'll feel a lot better about not accidentally leaving my wallet behind at campsite or hotel while I'm in a rush to get back on the road. Then, even if I did, all it takes to hopefully get my stuff back is for someone with an iPhone to walk by it to update it's location.

Unless Apple royally screws up this rollout, I don't see how Tile can continue to dominate marketshare for this sector.


It’s going to be real funny if non Apple users are basically fair game for AirTags tracking and you have to get an iPhone to protect yourself from AirStalking


Apparently they can be disabled with any NFC enabled device: https://apple.com/newsroom/2021/04/apple-introduces-airtag/

>[...] And even if users don’t have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it. If a user detects an unknown AirTag, they can tap it with their iPhone or NFC-capable device and instructions will guide them to disable the unknown AirTag.

It is better supported on iPhones, but that's acceptable:

>iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time.

I'd like this detection to come in stock Android, similar to how the Contact Tracing thing was shared b/w Apple/Google.


> I'd like this detection to come in stock Android, similar to how the Contact Tracing thing was shared b/w Apple/Google.

This would be an ideal scenario, even if it took longer to roll out for Android phones thanks to the OS fragmentation

Even if that's not happening, I think its not entirely unreasonable for some reliable third party app to pop up an make disabling the AirTags with an Android device almost as easy as an iPhone.


... and if all else fails, you can always whack it with a hammer a few times. Or just take its battery out.


I’m assuming that instructions to disable the AirTag are basically instructions for how to take off the battery.


You can already purchase a huge range of items that do exactly what an airtag does. Everyone is already fair game for this type of stalking, it is silly to try and paint apple in a bad light here.


How many of these third party devices can use every iPhone, iPad and more in the world as a beacon?


Tile uses everyone with the tile app installed. It's not the same by sheer numbers, but it's more than enough that if someone slips a tile tracker on you they will know where you're at. Or, if someone wants to spend a bit more money, not even much more, they can buy a full GPS tracker that doesn't need anything to report on it. Apple isn't coming out with some groundbreaking spy tech here, this is very routine stuff thats been in a small format forever. And guess what, none of the existing ones do anything to alert anyone of stalking, unlike Apple. I don't even like Apple but this is silly.


    Tile uses everyone with the tile app installed. 
    It's not the same by sheer numbers
It's not Apple's "fault" they're more popular but the end result is that these AirTags are orders of magnitude more potentially dangerous thanks the fact that there are orders of magnitude more iDevice users than Tile app users.

Imagine I'm some kind of creep looking for victims in a club or whatever. I'm planning to accomplish this by dropping Tiles into their bags.

Statistically, how many Tiles would I need to buy and sneak onto persons in order to have a reasonable chance of snaring a victim who just happens to have the Tile app installed? 50? 100? 1000? Not impossible, but not particularly feasible.

How many AirTags would I need to sneak onto victims? Perhaps only one, if they happen to use their phone in public and I see it's from Apple -- that's something I can tell at a glance, unlike wondering if they have the Tile app installed.


not to mention tile does it without notifying iphones of airtags or the beep when moved.


They don't need to? GSM radios have gotten tiny. Think literally any innocuous item and it can be fitted with a tracker.

Even a hairbrush: http://www.mccalltech.net/images/0TrackBrush.jpg


The limitation of any tracker is battery lifetime. The AirTag circumvents this by only using low power transmission and the network of all iPhones and iPads in the world, which then relay via their own wifi/4G.

What is certain is that we'll see sophisticated modifications to AirTags that (1) disable the beep, (2) disable anti-stalking.

Theoretically remote attestation and self-disabling anti-tamper could be used, but the potential wins for bypassing the Apple protocol are enormous, the Holy Grail of surveillance espionage.


"Holy Grail of surveillance espionage"... maybe the holy grail alarmist statements.

Why are firmware modifications for this "certain" first off?

And what modifications allow this to work as designed without setting off anti-stalking? If you somehow change the ID it's reporting which afaik is a signed value anyways, how are you going to get access to it's location?

If you don't disable anti-stalking then this is no better than run of the mill GPS trackers which can already run for days to weeks


Nation state attacks are certain because of the massive payoff if they are successful. Were you asleep when the Snowdon NSA leaks happened? [1]

If you can change the ID you can cycle through a list of valid IDs. You can even use it for bit rate comms, ~16 bits an hour or something, which is enough to signal events like "number of iDevices in vicinity", or, if other hardware is used, step count/hour, which works even in GPS denied environments.

The beacon location reported by Find My is generated by the reporting phones' GPS/cellular/wifi location system.

Regular GPS trackers have no means to exfil their data. They don't work in GPS denied environments (poor inside buildings, underground, anywhere a $20 jammer is enabled). OCGs routinely use low power GPS jammers now. Using GPS or 3G requires much more energy, and 3G is easily detected by motivated groups.

So while it might not be great for stalking your partner/ex, it is very tempting for professionals.

[1] https://nsa.gov1.info/dni/nsa-ant-catalog/


"Were you asleep when the Edward Snowden leak happened"

... yeah I'm not going to play this game.

Nation states are certainly doing better than AirTags if that's what you're worried about Secret Agent.

Passive trackers will let you pinpoint someone indefinitely.

And someone motivated is going to catch your spurious 3G emissions but miss an AirTag literally designed to be noticable?

Puhlease. If a nation state is chasing you and this is what turns the tides I strongly suggest turning yourself into their embassy now, save yourself the trouble.


You claimed that no one would go to the effort. It is clear that they will.

Nation states don't have a global network of iPhones.

> Passive trackers will let you pinpoint someone indefinitely.

How?

> Puhlease. If a nation state is chasing you and this is what turns the tides I strongly suggest turning yourself into their embassy now, save yourself the trouble.

"Puhlease" enjoy pretending that nation states are all IDF 8200 elite cyber hackers. The future ubiquity and deniability of these devices will see them feature widely. And some people do need to defend against skilled attackers who can buy custom gear from Shenzhen, and telling them to give up is stupid.


>How?

If an actual nation state is out to get you what's so difficult about tracking you from half a mile away? Surely they're not chasing someone who's actively evading them since you think this person won't find an... AirTag. Something that's actively transmitting at regular intervals and has NFC capabilities.

https://marshallradio.com/ww/product/field-marshall-digital-...

> Adding a Field Marshall UHF to your GPS system allows you to precisely locate the transmitter inside GPS denied environments (inside a building, or locate the signals when GPS satellites are blocked), or when the transmitter is in thick cover.

Or attaching a GPS tracker that logs to it's internal storage that they then recover?

> enjoy pretending that nation states are all IDF 8200 elite cyber hackers

You can't even stay internally consistent to your own fantasy. First you're saying these people will crack Apple's state-of-the-art firmware systems on a brand new platform and signing arrangements to boot, now suddenly they're script kiddies?

And honestly it's disgusting how shameless you are about shoving words in my mouth "telling them to give up" where the fuck did I say that?

Go find something useful to do kid.


I personally don't think anyone is fair game for stalking and this device lowering the barrier to entry should be discussed, and discussing it shouldn't get the kneejerk reaction that they're being painted in a bad light. There are plenty of questions here like:

- How does the anti stalking alert in apartment buildings or people frequently in close proximity for long periods of time?

- Since they considered that this is a risk in the first place then are non Apple users are risk here too? Did they provide appropriate mitigations for them as well?

- What's the future for the Find My network? It would be interesting to standardize and allow for more interoperability in the Find My network.


How is this lowering the barrier? I bought a orbit for my keys that does exactly what this does, for cheaper, like 3 years ago. I would actually say nothing apple does about using this for stalking is useful in the least, because if someone wants to stalk you they can get one of a dozen devices, for cheaper, that would be better because they're not a obvious white and silver apple branded monogrammed thing. Noones at risk, because everyone already was, apple users included. As for the future of it, I think there's already a bike company building the find my system into their bikes, so probably anything high theft could make its way onto a network like this.


Orbit only works with bluetooth on your phone, not the entire Find My network. Additionally, I think it's a fallacy to say that it's fine for Apple to not consider the risks because some other products didn't consider the risks.


It would make sense to do the anti stalking notification after say 4 days. This would make stalking labor intensive since the stalker has to swap tags frequently. So if you leave one in someone's car or drop it in a bag, you'd have to steal it back and replace it. Also if the stalker is unable to track it down, the victim gets notified automatically which makes stalking with these much more dangerous for the stalker.

For a stolen item you'd have that much time to track it down.

They could even track if different non-owned tags track the same person to stop stalkers diligent enough to swap these frequently.

It's an impressively good balancing of usefulness and avoiding bad spillover effects.


Confirmed by John Gruber

> I talked to folks from Apple today about some of this. The timeout period for when an AirTag will play a sound if separated from its owner is currently three days — but that’s not baked into the AirTags themselves. It’s a server-side setting in the Find My network, so Apple can adjust it if real-world use suggests that three days is too long or too short.

> The “NFC-capable device” thing means Android phones.

https://daringfireball.net/linked/2021/04/20/moren-fine-prin...


    It would make sense to do the anti stalking 
    notification after say 4 days
"Your privacy and safety are important to Apple. We won't let anybody use these devices to stalk you for more than 96 hours."

You haven't thought this through! Seriously, the use cases for 96 hours of tracking are frightening.

1. Meet victim in club/bus/supermarket/wherever

2. Drop AirTag in their bag/pocket/whatever.

3. Now you know where they live and/or work assuming they go to one of those places in the next 96 hours.


Seriously, the use cases for 96 hours of tracking are frightening.

Meet victim in club/bus/supermarket/wherever

I'm not an expert, but I don't think this is how stalking works in practice. People don't stalk random strangers they meet in the supermarket. They stalk former partners, and (more rarely) people they've developed an obsession about. That means the stalker has to worry about being recognized by the victim, and consequently will have fewer opportunities to plant a device and retrieve a device than you imagine.

Furthermore, while being tracked for up to 96 hours indeed is a frightening thought, the typical stalker's goal is to track their victim at all times. Having to plant and retrieve a device at least every four days, without being detected by the victim, makes for a very impractical way to achieve that goal.


    I'm not an expert, but I don't think this is how
    stalking works in practice. People don't stalk random 
    strangers they meet in the supermarket. They stalk
    former partners, and (more rarely) people they've
    developed an obsession about.
Well, yeah -- I agree 100% that this is existing predator behavior, and most crimes will continue to be committed by a person known to the victim.

However, if not properly safeguarded, this sort of tech clearly can enable some new types of bad behavior.

Ultimately I'm a technology optimist and we shouldn't reject new tech simply because it might be misused. However it's also true that even the most cursory glance at history shows us that just about any new technology is also used for nefarious purposes.


This I agree with. My contention was with what you first wrote, which made it seem like the 4 day limit was not meaningful. I think it makes all the difference for the reasons I laid out.


Seeing as you can literally give someone a USB cable that tracks them, I don't think AirTags are enabling anything particularly new: https://www.walmart.com/ip/OURLEEME-Car-GPS-Tracker-Vehicle-...


That USB cable doesn't work unless it's plugged into something that has power.


Yes? Offer someone a USB cable and you've given them a GPS tracker that will show their home location

But of course as I linked in another comment, trackers have been fit into anything and everything now. Hairbrushes, random trinkets like clocks, even a phone charging brick itself


Maybe so, but consider the optics...


Won't be long before magazines start offering tips on how to best avoid getting AirTagged.


that sounds like one of those issues everyone worries about but never happens.


I thought it was intended for lost items rather than stolen items. I've had my phone stolen multiple times and thieves know exactly what to do to prevent 'find my' activating. I'm sure it wouldn't take them long to find/disable AirTags either.


Yes but you know a phone can be tracked.

If it's someone's backpack or leather jacket, it won't be obvious in any way if there's an AirTag slid deep into some pocket.

Sure a professional thief might check, but plenty of things are stolen casually by people who simply see something lying around.


>I've had my phone stolen multiple times and thieves know exactly what to do to prevent 'find my' activating. I'm sure it wouldn't take them long to find/disable AirTags either.

...putting it in a faraday bag? Since tags are cheap, they can even smash it.


This isn't really complicated, just remove the battery.


On the upside as long as you have Find My iPhone activated when you did have the phone it doesn't have a huge amount of value to the thief, particularly on newer models where individual components can't even be swapped without issues.


It’s for both.


This is a good question. I wonder what the period of time is required before it notifies you about potential stalking. If it is more time than would typically take for someone to realize that the item is stolen, then perhaps it’s not such a big deal. But if it’s only 30 minutes or so, a thief could be notified that they’ve stolen a bicycle that’s being tracked before you come out of the grocery store, movie theater, etc.

A related question: can you geofence an airtag so that you are notified if an item leaves an area without you? This could be especially helpful for things like bikes that you would park for long periods of time and would want to know if they’re being moved by someone other than you.


30 minutes seems totally infeasible. People hang out for 30 minutes all the time.


The anti-stalking warning is only triggered if the airtag isn’t near the owner.


I wonder how this works in practice? My main use for an AirTag would be to put on my cat’s collar. But if it starts beeping randomly that’s going to be a problem.


Apple's response would be that AirTag isn't designed for that use case, and that you should purchase a "Find My network enabled" collar for your cat from a third party (it's only a matter of time...)


I actually kinda doubt this situation would happen because it would be a little silly if you could bypass the anti-stalking protection just by buying a 3rd party device.


Please, if possible, do not put collars on cats :(

If they're outside they can get gravely injured as they pass through the smallest holes and cracks. There are very NSFL images of resulting injuries. The collars often lead to suffocation or very bloody scenes - no matter how well they seem to fit.

https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-afte...


Breakaway collars are standard at the pet shops near me. Having a bell on a collar seriously hinders a cat’s ability to hunt birds and other wildlife, which is a huge problem in some places.


And a solution in places like New Zealand, where cats are harming the native bird populations.


It would only start beeping if the cat stays away from your iPhone's BLE range for 3 days. I've also thought of doing this, but my cats absolutely hate collars.


desolder the speaker or piezo.


please, just keep your cat at home


So if a friend lends me some keys with one of these attached and I don't have the right kind of phone on me, the keys will start beeping incessantly? That seems pretty darn annoying.


So maybe ask your friend to take off the AirTag if you have to borrow their keys for more than a few days?


Just tape over the air holes it needs to transmit the sound waves.


Apparently any phone with NFC capability can disable any Apple Airtag.


i think only if they are marked lost?


No, it's an anti-stalking feature, so it's triggered when it's been away from the owner for some unspecified period of time, and only when the tag is moved. If someone is using AirTags to stalk someone, they would never mark as lost, which is why beeping isn't tied to this status.


The future is having most items with built in tags. So yeah, your iphone tells you the bike you stole is tracking you but its not realistic to remove the tracker from it so you have to dump the bike.


The future is here [1]:

> Available from today (April 7, 2021), the latest VanMoof S3 & X3 bikes will work with Apple’s Find My app, which means you can track your ride securely using the vast and global Find My network, made up of hundreds of millions of Apple devices. With the new Items tab in the Find My app, you can locate your bike on a map from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

1: https://www.vanmoof.com/blog/en/find-my-bike


Sounds like a strong degauss tool would render that useless.


Several factors play into it - how much is it used for 'lost' vs 'stolen(?)' as well as 'if stolen, by someone savvy enough to be checking for tags?' and 'if stolen how long before anti-stalking alerts? Does it alert during daily commutes on the same train? Only after 2+ hours? 3+?'


Does anti-stalking only work for Apple users? I assume it won't notify someone who doesn't have an Apple phone, making it kinda useless for half the population.


>And even if users don’t have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it.


So, this prevents some legitimate use cases, for example putting a tag in a suitcase for the flight, because it'll start beeping at some point?

A shame. It would've been cool standing at that conveyor belt at the airport and rather than staring at the luggage as it comes, being able to sense one's own stuff.

Also, seems that it's not suitable for putting on a cat or dog's collar for the same reason.


Presumably "extended period of time" is several days, not several hours.


Probably needs to be more like minutes.

Think about a stalker dropping a tracker into the pocket/bag/etc of their victim.

They slip a tracker in their co-worker's bag at the end of the day. Coworker goes home. Attacker knows where they live now.

Or, maybe it's a stranger on the bus. Or in a club.

The victim is likely going to be home in less than a few hours. Perhaps less than an hour.


That would defeat the purpose of this anti-tracking [counter]measure. One would be able to sneak a tag into someone's bag (or clothes, or car) and track their movement for the whole day. Then get back into tag's proximity to reset the timer.


If your threat model is 1 day, it's pretty hard to use that for any sort of "find lost things" product. If I forgot my keychain at work, is it going to beep the entire night? What if I'm out sick the next day? Is it going to annoy all my coworkers for the entire day?


> If I forgot my keychain at work, is it going to beep the entire night?

No, I don't think so.

As I understand it, the idea is that AirTags would only beep if they detect being moved (probably, accelerometer/motion based, as everything else is probably energy cost-prohibitive). So, no, a forgotten keychain left on a table shouldn't beep on its own, unless someone takes it and carries with themselves for some time. It shouldn't even beep if your coworker notices your keys and moves them to another room for safekeeping.

The idea is that it should eventually alert if you put a tag in someone's back pocket and you or they walk away.


It doesn't say, but I have to assume that it detects it's moving, but moving together with an unrecognized cell phone or something -- e.g. picking up a single unchanging WiFi signal while most other signals come and go.

Of course, if the person being stalked wasn't carrying a cell phone, then this raises the possibility the anti-stalking wouldn't be activated.


Also rental gear.

I could see businesses being a lot more willing to loan equipment for a trial period if they could put a tag on it.


IDK if they've addressed this feature sufficiently well, but I assume phones could ignore airtags when set to airplane mode.


> standing at that conveyor belt at the airport

you're not supposed to put batteries in your luggage


What harm could such a small battery do?


What about to cut wire to speaker?


Just desolder the speaker.


The article isn't entirely clear, but suggests that it will use the network of iOS devices around it and that the AirTag will start beeping as well.

Seems like it should be able to detect that it's always traveling together with a single Android phone's WiFi signal, for example.


I wonder how hard would it be to disable beeping. There is probably a speaker that can be drilled through.


The plastik part seems to be the resonator replacing it with a soft material that absorbs sound would be the easiest step.

However it might be better to disconect the speaker which should save lots of energy the peeper would consume otherwise.

I don't think apple checks for the speeker to be connected if the speaker breaks for example it would make the tag unusable resulting in more warrenty complains.


That kinda kills the whole purpose of the tag, which is to beep when you lose it. I guess you can still kinda find it with the UWB chip on your iPhone, but that's much harder than by sound.


Not if you want to use the tag to stalk someone.


Then just just a Tile or some other tracker.


>Does this render it useless for anti-theft, then?

It's hard to make tracking devices hidden. They need to phone home, so that means they emit a signal. Someone can sniff that out using a RF detector. that's why tracking devices tend to be integrated into the product itself (eg. into the ECU for cars, or part of the CPU/motherboard for computers).


A bike thief isn’t going to go rf sniffing


not yet. If a significant portion of otherwise theft-friendly bikes have trackers, I don't see why they wouldn't learn to, someone would probably even commoditize the sniffing tech to sell to other thiefs.


> not yet. If a significant portion of otherwise theft-friendly bikes have trackers, I don't see why they wouldn't learn to, someone would probably even commoditize the sniffing tech to sell to other thiefs.

They wouldn't because we already have TONS of historical data that thieves don't do that.

I am a motorcycle lover and like every owner of a nice bike I know that apart from properly chaining your bike down the single most effective way of retrieving your bike back is by having a tracker on it. In fact some insurance companies give a big discount if you have a professionally mounted tracker on your bike.

History has shown that despite motorcycles being worth 10-20k thieves still don't go through the effort of locating and removing a GPS tracker. What they do is the following... they steal your bike and only move it like 10 streets further away from its original location into some hidden dark dead end alley where no person would normally go and where the owner wouldn't find it by accident. Then they leave it there standing for like 2 weeks and if nobody comes to pick it up within those 2 weeks then they know there is no GPS tracker at which point they can safely take it back to their garage where it gets dismantled into and rebuild. Otherwise they risk of having their garage being exposed.

Now you might ask why only take it 10 streets further away? Because the easiest way is to cut a chain or some poor security and then wheel it down the road for 5 minutes. Only two weeks later they come with a proper vehicle to transport it away.

So if professional thieves can't be bothered (or is just practically too difficult) to locate a tracker then I'm sure normal opportunistic thieves won't be able either.


I guess bicycles thieves are either savvier or have an easier job.

Their modus operandi is to throw a bicycle into a truck or van, move them in lots of fifty across state lines, and tear them down to components.

Any trackers will be quickly rendered useless once they're in the van, and immediately found and discarded.

I'm definitely planning on getting Airtags for my bikes, but mostly for amusement and occasionally forgetting where I parked, I don't have much faith in them as an anti-theft device.


> Any trackers will be quickly rendered useless once they're in the van

You can build a custom LoRa based tracker with 100+km range (line of sight), a van won't disable that. You'll have to use signal triangulation, though, because GPS reception in a van won't be great.


You need elevation to get line of sight at 100km+. On flat ground, the curvature of the earth will block your signal.


Any recommended further reading on the LoRa solution?


The easiest way to implement that would be using a Crossfire Diversity Nano receiver [1] with a backup battery. It supports GPS out of the box, directly connectable to the receiver.

For a custom solution, ExpressLRS [2] is an open source system that can be flashed to FrSky R9mm receivers that you can hack on to add features you want. Or buy Semtech [3] and ESP32 modules and build your own hardware to maximize transmit power (standard hobby receivers only have 25-40mW telemetry)

PS. TTGO LORA32 modules [4] already have ESP32 and Semtech module assembled, only need flashing (again, lower power than a dedicated 30dbm module)

[1] https://www.team-blacksheep.com/products/prod:xf_nano_div_rx

[2] https://github.com/ExpressLRS/ExpressLRS

[3] https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002116232826.html

[4] https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000010599226.html


Thankyou! I've been having fun with ToWL[1] but this might be the next step.

[1] http://www.phreakmonkey.com/2016/08/towl-telemetry-over-oppo...


>I guess bicycles thieves are either savvier or have an easier job.

They do have an easier job, I think, given that bicycles don't usually weigh between 400lb (sports motorcycles) and 900lb (cruisers).


Hint: tight up under the Brooks saddle with hot glue.


Heck, my B17 is worth more than one of my bikes.


yeah, I'm gonna do that short term, and looking into a 3D-printed mount that clamps onto the rails for the long term

still kind of silly since a saddle is an easily stolen part


In the reverse case, I recall seeing some articles that thieves will use bluetooth sniffers to identify valuables (e.g. cellphones without the BT turned off) in cars, to steal.

Seems feasible that having a sniffer for fancy apple trackers could locate some potentially valuable things to steal.


What they do makes sense from a risk point of view. Trackers are various shapes, sizes and can be mounted different ways, if they miss one they blow their operation. Easier to delay payoff by 2 weeks.

The difference between the GPS and these tags is they actively respond to bluetooth. If you can sniff the bluetooth traffic then you would be able to detect them easily?


It's much easier to have a phone that will easily tell you if there is AirTag around you than having an RF detector.


A RF detector costs $15-$25 shipped from china. If RF anti-theft devices become common (either the GSM or the bluetooth variety), I'm sure it'll be part of a thief's toolkit.


The majority of bike thieves in Portland are not going to buy a $15-$20 RF detector because that would have to come out of their meth budget. They are not a tech-savvy lot.


I suspect some posters are imagining bike thieves as part of some kind of international black market for high end bikes...maybe that exists but 99% of bike thefts are done by the local crackhead who either wants a ride or wants to trade it for $20 for some crack or meth.


> Does this render it useless for anti-theft, then?

The other question is: when presented with evidence of stolen property, will the local PD enforce the law and assist with the retrieval of said property?


That's already been answered. Stories abound about "Find My Doohickie said it was at this address. I even knocked on the door, and the person that answered said, 'yup, have your phone, whatta ya gonna do about it?'. Cops said file it with insurance." Cops don't care about a $1000 phone, they're not going to care about your bicycle, either (which has also been proven on multiple occasions).


Cops cared about my stolen bicycle. They took my report, were very happy I brought a copy of the original invoice and a few weeks later I had mail informing me they had retrieved my bicycle and that I could pick it up. This was in Germany, mind you.


I wish it worked like this in the UK. If memory serves in London a motorbike has a 1 in 12 chance of being stolen in any given year, and I suspect it's a lot higher for bicycles.

To be fair when my bicycle was stolen the police did care, but they were quite frank with me about the odds of recovery being virtually zero despite having CCTV of the incident and the getaway vehicle.


Haha, Europe vs. America changes everything.


The do care about stolen vehicles tho. Motorcycle theft is a big problem.


AirTags would probably be the cheapest option for relatively reliable motorcycle tracking. However, there are already devices that can be connected to the bikes battery, hence basically run for ages, that also connect to GPS and GSM.

Tracking with AirTags assumes the thief (or someone closeby) uses an iPhone AND has the 'Fine my' feature activated, which is, given how motorcycle thieves operate in some areas of the world, is relatively unlikely. So you're probably still better off using a GPS+GSM tracker


That depends on the state you are in. That is how it will play out in CA, not at all how it will play out in TX.


States can be pretty large and diverse - the town I live in in California would have a couple of officers at my door in short order if this situation were called in...


Maybe this changes when you turn on stolen mode for the tagged item.


So if you want to stalk someone you put your airtag into stolen mode first? Kinda defeats the purpose of the anti-stalking feature.


I don't think it ever claimed to be anti-theft. It is more focused on "finding something you misplaced" than being a security tracking device.


Not all thieves are smart.

In fact I would hazard to say most are not.


They don't all have to be smart.

A few smart thieves will share the tricks. Probably many smart peoples are even going to try building detector devices.


I could see a smaller version of this, without the speaker, having some real potential for preventing musical instrument theft (especially electric guitars), or at least speeding recovery. The AirTag could conceivably be placed in the electronics control cavity of the guitar.


"Jealous 15 year old uses Apple AirTag to stalk friends"

Vs.

"AirTag notifies bike thief about itself"

For Apple this is a no-brainer.


Seems like the anti-stalking thing could take at least a couple days? In that case, I'd still love to hide one of these things on my bike. If my bike gets stolen, I'll know about it very quickly.


It has to be this way. Imagine if I stick AirTag over someone’s backpack and then track that person all day. You cannot have it both ways.


That's super-important, and also will dramatically raise sales of iPhones among petty thieves.


Might be possible to destroy the beeper.


The anti-stalking feature seems to be... preventing someone from tracking your movements with an AirTag? I don’t get it.


> But the "anti-stalking" feature will notify someone if an AirTag they don't own appears to be traveling with them.

Another case of your device working against your interests.

I don't care if you have something to hide or not. This just sucks at a fundamental level.


I'm not sure it's really Apple's fault. You could do the same thing with a Tile or other beacon. That's the entire purpose of the device.

Apple's trying to prevent misuse of their device. They want you to use it to find your keys, not your ex. If you consider that an invalid limitation of your device (by notifying your ex that they seem to be carrying an unknown tracker)... well, let's just say I disagree.


By attempting to prevent misuse they also prevent some legitimate and morally unquestionable uses. Like - the most obvious examples already mentioned in the comments - finding your cat or tracking your checked baggage. There are probably more less obvious use cases where something temporarily leaves owner's proximity, does not remain stationery, but tracking that object's location is perfectly legal and not questionable.

And this can be perceived as - arguably - restrictive and user-hostile by some.


All of those usages are permitted and ordinary uses of the device. Nothing prevents you from doing that.

As far as I can tell from reading the article, all it does is say, "Hey, did you know you've been carrying around a tracker that's not yours?" Your cat or your luggage don't care if you attach a tracker to them. Your ex does.


I'll be blunt: Neither of those use cases are very important in comparison, and neither come remotely close to justifying AirTags as unlimited tracking devices with zero restrictions.

Just go buy some other tracker for your cat or whatever.


I care a fuck-ton more about finding my dog if lost than my bag. A bag can be replaced with an identical one. A dog cannot.

Current GPS collars are absolutely trash (3 day battery life, bulky, etc), this would be about 10,000 times better if effective. But if it starts beeping randomly unprompted and scares the dog, it's a problem.


A GPS collar and this are two very very different things. An AirTag only works if an iPhone is nearby - if your dog is lost in the woods so to speak, an AirTag will not help you - a GPS collar will.


Sure but this is good enough to be useful in many situations, whereas a GPS collar is impractical enough that it's unlikely to be regularly used. I just wanna throw a chip on the 3 dogs collars and forget about it except to swap batteries once a year. I don't want to be bothered charging active GPS collars every few days and putting a heavy device for the dogs to carry.


I'm sure it's possible to get the best of both worlds, it's just that no one have made it yet. An active GPS tracker does not have to be larger than a keyfob to your car nor does it need to be online all the time. A combination where the GPS is only activated once the tag has not seen a known device for 1 hour. That should give you a battery life measured in years with meter precision when it matters.


Great idea.


I’ll be blunt: a stalker is going to find tools to do stalking without apples help. Far more people just lost out on a super easy pet tracker because of a glorified “think of the children argument”.


I don't argue, I'm trying to explain how others may see it.

Everyone has their own needs, requirements and ideas what's essential and what's not. Importance and justifications are subjective matters.

Only thing everyone can certainly agree on that those use cases were not deemed important (or even considered) by Apple, as they would've designed it differently otherwise.


If the "interest" that you're worried about AirTags "working against" is being able to stalk people by attaching trackers to them or their belongings -- sincerely, fuck you. It is entirely appropriate for Apple to build functionality into their products to mitigate this sort of abuse.


....It’s alerting thieves that the device they stole is being tracked.

That’s anti-user. The user is the one trying to do the tracking.


And not the user of the phone that is reporting the location of those tags to a stalker? Their interests are important too.

Anyways, I don't think there was ever any intent for AirTags to function as an anti-theft tracking device. Anti-theft is much harder to do well than anti-loss (which is what Apple is targeting), and is very difficult to distinguish from stalkerware for a mass-market product.


> stalkerware for a mass-market product

which is specifically a problem Apple has had with "Find My", so it's nice to see them taking it seriously here.


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