Apple AirTags release date, price and how it’ll compare to Tile

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We’ve heard rumor after rumor that Apple will be launching a Tile-rivalling tracker for a couple of years now. While we don’t know when it will be released, it’s a promising accessory, leveraging the power of its iOS network to find anything you attached an AirTag to, as they’re being called by leakers.

So what are AirTags? The pitch is that you clip one of these things to an item you don’t want to lose, and you’ll then be able to track it from an Apple device. While the rumors we’ve heard only say that they’ll work through iPhones, we’d be surprised if they didn’t work with every device in Apple’s ecosystem.  

We still don’t know much about the accessory, and Apple hasn’t officially acknowledged, or even hinted, that it’s coming. All we have are leaks and rumors sourced from the usual tech breadcrumbs, including code snippets from iOS 13 and iOS 14, that suggest a new device is coming. 

Sadly, we didn’t hear anything about the Apple AirTags at WWDC 2020, the Apple Watch 6 launch or, again, at the iPhone 12 unveiling… despite multiple leaks in the build up to each confirming they were on the way. Heck, a separate leak suggested we’d even get a dedicated AirTags app as part of iOS 14, but we haven’t heard anything, despite there having been several public betas of the new iPhone operating system. 

There’s one last hope that the AirTags will arrive in 2020 – or specifically, One More Thing, a final reveal event that Apple just teased that’ll happen on November 10. We’ve already seen most of this year’s expected new products, so if the AirTags are coming, they might arrive with this group of products.

Until we find out more, then, here’s what we do know about the Apple AirTags.

Update: They didn’t launch at the most recent Apple Watch, but a recent leak reveals the possible design of Apple AirTags, along with details about how they might work.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Location trackers to help you keep track of personal items
  • When is it out? Current leaks point to 2021
  • How much will it cost? Unclear at the moment

Having not seen them at Apple’s September event, we expected them to launch in October, alongside the new iPhone 12. However, that didn’t happen, so we’re looking to next year as it stands.

Macotakara (an Apple-focused Japanese website), claimed that the AirTags would be announced alongside the iPhone 12 in the second half of October – although it did also say the Apple Watch 6 will land then, which was earlier in the year.

It’s worth noting that Prosser had previously said that we’d be getting news about AirTags at WWDC 2020; however, it turns out he wasn’t right on this one. That said, this may originally have been Apple’s plan, as it seems the AirTags might have been delayed, with Macotakara claiming that a launch alongside the iPhone SE (2020) was the original goal.

Leaker Prosser has since claimed that the AirTags were meant for the iPhone 12 launch, but were delayed (mysteriously) again, and will now be in the first half of 2021 – at this rate, humans may have evolved to sense radio signals with their minds and we won’t need additional tags.

As for the Apple AirTags price, that’s completely unknown. Given their similarity to Tile, we could compare those prices: the standard Tile Mate costs $25 / £20 / AU$40, although we’d expect the Apple version to cost a bit more, as usual for the brand’s products.  

There are other Tile products of different sizes, so we could see smaller or more sophisticated (and thus pricier) Apple Tags, too. Lastly, Tile has a Premium subscription service that offers enhanced tracking features and yearly battery replacement, which is another thing Apple could imitate.

We’ve also heard that Apple might sell a pouch for AirTags separately – and that this would be required to attach them to things.

Apple still hasn’t said anything official about Apple AirTags, so all we have to go on are rumors.

The vague functionality we’ve heard in these rumors has been so heavily compared to Tile trackers that the AirTags could simply do the same thing: physically clip or secure them to an item, and you’ll be back to track them on your Apple device through an app. 

Of course, since Apple’s devices have Find My functionality to monitor locations of iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPods, it’s no surprise that code snippets indicated that AirTags will be tracked through that existing service. Walk too far away from an AirTagged item and your device running Find My will start beeping, unless you’re within a designated ‘safe location’ like home or the office.

An example of recent Tile products (Image credit: Tile)

But you may also be able to track through AR: one rumor suggests you’ll be able to hold your phone up and a balloon icon will hover over the missing device’s location. Assuming it’s in range of your device network, of course.

But what if it’s not? There are hints of a ‘Lost Mode’ which uses other iPhones not in your network to find your AirTagged item. It’s a lot like Tile’s existing community-locating feature, though that only includes other phones with the Tile app. There might be more iPhones in the wild than Tile app users, but it likely varies by region.

According to Jon Prosser (a leaker with a mixed track record) AirTags will also work using ultra-wideband (UWB) – a tech that should allow for extremely precise positioning.

Prosser has also leaked renders showing the supposed design of AirTags. These aren’t official renders, but are apparently based on videos of the real device that he’s seen.

As you can see above, they’re a white disc with a metal plate on one side, and apparently they’re slightly larger than a bottle cap.

Which devices will AirTags be compatible with? One of the earliest rumors cited functionality in iOS 13 beta back in June 2019, suggesting that iPhones running that version of the operating system may be able to run it (up to the iPhone 6S). We don’t know what minimum versions of iPadOS or macOS will be required for compatibility.

What we’d like to see

Sure, the above features are neat, but until we know exactly what AirTags are capable of, here’s what we’d like to see. 

1. Multiple AirTag types

Yes, one AirTag is nice – but given Tile’s range of tracker types, we’d love to see multiple options from Apple. Tile’s standard Mate has a claimed range of 150 feet, while the Pro extends out to 300 feet. The Tile Slim is barely thicker than a credit card, while the Sticker is small enough to stick on remotes. 

We’d love some variety from Apple’s offerings, especially if they introduce a radically different tracker format. Perhaps a thinner, smaller format to fit on iPhones and Apple Watches?

2. Tracking through all Apple devices

We’re pretty sure this is going to be the case anyway, but we’d love if every major device in Apple’s ecosystem could use Find My to track the AirTags. We’ve already heard about iPhone, iPad, and macOS compatibility, but what about Apple Watch? Given the compass in the Apple Watch 5, along with its other sensors, we’d like full-spectrum monitoring capability. 

3. Software insights

Okay, this one’s a bit more abstract, but we’re curious if Apple’s emphasis on health can be put to interesting use with AirTags. Can you label certain AirTagged items as high-priority items that always need to be in reach – like inhalers, insulin kit bags, Life Alerts, or medicine bottles? Can they be linked up to Siri, who can not only remind you to grab certain things before you leave but tell you where they are?

4. Package deals

We’re always suckers for good deals, and we’d love if the AirTags came in enough packs for us to pick up a half-dozen and place them on our important things. Especially if we have smart homes, where everything might be linked up but scattered about the house. 

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