Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, October 28, 2022

What They Don't Tell You About Airtags

  • The Find My page on does not show AirTags.
  • The FindMy app in MacOS (Monterey 12.6) does not reliably show you the locations of your AirTags. On one Monterey Mac, Find My took 24 hours before it started showing their location, while my other Monterey Mac still hasn't listed any AirTags after a week. All flavors of Find My can locate all my Macs and iPhones, so this is not an AppleID problem, but instead apparently an Apple policy. I suspect they are trying to discourage free-riding by people (like me) who don't use iOS. (I use an old SIM-less iPhone to register my AirTags, to find them if I ever need to.)
  • Unlike with Tile, you cannot share your AirTags with anyone. So only my AppleID can see the locations of our pets.
  • AirTags have anti-stalking privacy features that limit their usefulness as anti-theft trackers. (Admittedly, Apple advises not to use them to track stolen items.) Anti-stalking features kick in only when your AirTag is out of Bluetooth contact with any device on which your AppleID is signed in.
    • If your AirTag is away from your devices for >N hours, then it will beep for about 10 seconds. N seems to be about 24, but Apple presumably can change this at any time. I've seen this happen for 2 AirTags, but haven't yet experienced a 2nd beep on either.
    • If your AirTag is away from your devices but some other iOS device remains in Bluetooth range while the device is moving, then iOS warns you that you might be being stalked. If the unattended AirTag remains in range for >10 minutes, iOS will offer the option to make the the AirTag beep. You can even do this on Android, if you manually run Apple's tracker scanner app.
  • These anti-stalking features mean that smart car thieves can find your AirTag in only 10 minutes, while dumber thieves might notice it when they drive the car a day later.
  • There are YouTube videos explaining how to remove the speaker from your AirTag. Doing so made my AirTag barely audible to me only if I hold it against my ear, but inaudible a foot away.
  • Of the 2 4-packs of AirTags I recently bought, one had no removable speaker, and yet still makes the full beeping noise. Has Apple changed their design to foil AirTag silencing?
  • iPhone 11 and newer can use Ultra-Wide Band to pinpoint any AirTag's location to within inches. I don't know yet if this capability is restricted to the AirTag's owner, versus being available to potential stalking targets. If the latter, then smart car thieves with a modern iPhone will be able to find any AirTag you hide in your car.
There are so many iPhones here in the Bay Area that my AirTags got pinged every 5 minutes during a test drive -- even while sitting in a parking lot. By comparison, my Tile got pinged only twice in 30 minutes.
So I'll be hiding muted AirTags in our cars and e-bikes, and hoping that car thieves don't read my blog.

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