References to Apple ‘tag’ item trackers spotted in iOS 13

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bluetooth tracker
Apple wants to take on Tile.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

References in iOS 13 all but corroborate earlier reports that Apple is working on its own item-tracking accessories.

It is thought Apple plans to compete with Tile by offering “tags” that can be attached to bags, keys, and other valuables. You will then be able to track them using the new Find My app coming this fall.

We first heard back in April that Apple was developing its own Tile-like item trackers. However, the sources familiar with those plans initially claimed they would be announced at WWDC alongside iOS 13.

That obviously didn’t happen, but now there’s hard evidence that the whispers were right on the money.

Apple paves the way for item trackers

The first iOS 13 beta, made available to registered developers on Monday, includes a number of references to a device named “Tag1,1.”

This includes a package that is used to pair the mysterious device by proximity in the same way you would pair AirPods or HomePod with another Apple gadget. Another asset — the image embedded below — shows what tracking a tag in the Find My app might look like.

Apple’s placeholder UI for tag tracking.
Apple’s placeholder UI for tag tracking.
Photo: 9to5Mac

It’s thought the image is just a mockup used as a placeholder for internal testing. “But it matches descriptions of the device given by people involved in its development,” 9to5Mac reports.

How will Apple tags work?

It is claimed the Apple tag will work a lot like a Tile in that you’ll be able to attach it to almost anything and get notifications when it’s out of range. But Apple’s could be a lot more advanced.

Apple will revolutionize device tracking with its new Find My app, allowing your iPhone, iPad, and Mac to be located even when they’re offline for the first time. This is made possible by a unique approach to Bluetooth piggybacking.

Apple devices will automatically send location data to other Apple devices nearby. This will then be relayed to Apple’s servers so that the location of your lost or stolen devices is always up-to-date.

Apple’s revolutionary approach to tracking

The whole process is end-to-end encrypted to protect your privacy, and no one else will be able to see the location of your device. And when your iPhone or iPad is used to relay another’s location, that will be hidden, too. Apple promises it won’t impact battery life or data usage.

Unlike the Tile, then, Apple’s tracker won’t just be able to tell you when you leave something behind. By taking advantage of its new technology, it should also allow you to locate keys, purses, and other items that are well out of Bluetooth range of your own devices.

When will Apple tags arrive?

Of course, this is all speculation for now. It’s certainly looking more likely Apple is working on item-tracking tags, but there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see them — or that they will take advantage of the new Find My features (though it would be crazy if they didn’t).

It’s thought Apple tags will now appear during the company’s big iPhone event this September, so we should find out more then. In the meantime, we may just get more information from future iOS 13 betas.