With the opening of the “Where is” network, the question arises, why are you waiting for Apple’s Airtags?
While we wait and wait for Apple to finally reveal its long-rumored Bluetooth trackers this year, there was actually some Airtags-related news this week. Instead of an ultra-broadband Bluetooth tracker for 30 euros, Apple announced a massive expansion of its “Where is it?” Program. This allows third-party manufacturers to include their devices on Apple’s own network.
At first, only three companies participate in the program: Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof. But it is easy to see that there is the possibility of rapid expansion. We do not have in our hands a “Where is” device to test, because they will not be available until April 15th. However, it seems as easy as integrating an iPhone or a pair of Airpods into the “Where is” application. Connect the device, then you can follow your blue dot in the app, ping if you get lost nearby, and track you even if you lose your internet connection.
IOS 14 “Where is”: iPhone locates any object
Apple also announced a draft of the Ultra specification for chipset makers that will allow devices to use the ultra-wideband chip in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 for super-accurate tracking. It’s the first handy app for the U1 chip (Apple is currently using it to expand Airdrop a bit) and will be available for the upcoming Galaxy Smarttag + and the rumored UWB Tile dongle. It is not a prerequisite for “Where is” participation that devices support the U1 chip, but it will certainly offer benefits.
Enlarge Samsung will sell a UWB version of its Galaxy Smarttags later this month.
While the number of partners capable of “Where is” is small at first, the available devices are quite different. Van Moof sells two electric bikes (the S3 and the X3) that cost 2,000 euros each, Belkin has a pair of wireless headphones and Chipolo has a circular keychain. Apple has already indicated that more partners are on the way, and developers of all sizes must be curious.
iOS 14.5 can warn about stalking with airtags
I still hope Apple’s trackers hit the market sometime this year, but after this week’s announcement, I don’t know how necessary they will be. Airtags have always been difficult to sell, and now that third-party devices have direct access to the place, it’s even more difficult. Introducing “where is” for third-party devices not only weakens the effect of airtags, but renders them largely irrelevant even before they hit the market.
Top-notch third-party devices
Legacy devices cannot be upgraded to add “where is” support, but it does not appear that “where is” incurs any kind of cost to manufacturers. For example, the same Van Moof bikes that have Where Is assistance now cost as much as before. And while the upcoming Belkin Freedom True wireless earbuds for just under $ 100 have a surcharge compared to the Soundform earbuds for $ 60, they also provide better battery life, noise suppression, aptX audio, wireless charging, and automatic noise detection. ears, in addition to the “Where is” – Connection.
Expand Van Moof bikes now support “Where is”.
These are the types of devices that would be tailor-made for airtags. But with the integrated “Where is it?” a standalone Bluetooth tracker becomes irrelevant. And while the Belkin, Chipolo, and Van Moof tend to be in the higher price bracket, there will likely be dozens, if not hundreds, of “where is” devices available by the end of the year. And if we can buy a device where it is, why should we buy an additional tracker, even if it is from Apple?
Leak: Airtags still in March 2021
Of course, there are always keys, backpacks and luggage that can be lost, and the Chipolo One Spot Tracker relies on the “Where is” integration to sell a special edition black tag. Even without Apple’s trademark, it’s hard not to see the One Spot as a direct competitor to Airtags every time they hit the market. And it would be strange for Apple to sell a competing tracker to any of its launch partners. Assuming they cost roughly the same, anyone interested in the Chipolo Tracker would certainly choose an airtag instead, especially if they are rumored to cost the same.
We knew that Apple’s “Where is” network and “Objects” support would come in iOS 14, but the evidence seemed to suggest that this applied to Airtags rather than third-party support. Implementing “Where is” directly on devices makes more sense than attaching a clumsy label to everything, and the more devices that sign up to the program, the less the need for Bluetooth trackers.
Also, if a bluetooth tracker hits the market, surely there will be more to come. Some will be cheaper, some will be stylish in design, but all will put pressure on the airtags to succeed. From what I can tell, Airtags won’t be able to do anything the Chipolo One Spot can’t, other than possible UWB tracking.
Expand Unlike Airpower, Apple never announced Airtags.
Apple’s tracking system for its devices is second to none, and providing the same level of privacy and encryption to third-party devices is a real advantage for consumers. But given the choice between devices that don’t need adapters and a tracker that looks and acts like the rumored airtags, Apple’s trackers seem pretty irrelevant, especially as more “where is” devices hit the market. Apple’s trackers are likely to be prettier, but other than that, what’s really the selling point? The main advantage of Airtags over Tile and other trackers would be the integration with “Where is” and the connection to the larger iPhone-based network. But if other devices can already do it, why should you spend money on an air day?