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This week Apple quietly released a firmware update for its AirTags that will make it easier for unsuspecting folks to find out when an unwelcome AirTag may be nearby.
Apple has recently been working more diligently to improve AirTag’s anti-stalking features as a result of a lot of negative attention that the small tags have been getting in the press over the past few months.
In early February, the company even went so far as to release a statement on AirTag and unwanted tracking, emphasizing that it has been “actively working with law enforcement” to track down those who would abuse the AirTag to invade the privacy of other people. It also promised several enhancements to make it easier for potential victims to know when an AirTag has been planted on them.
Most of those enhancements arrived with iOS 15.4, such as offering improved warnings to remind people that using an AirTag to track someone without their permission is a crime — and if you do so, Apple will do everything in its power to make sure you face the consequences of that.
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Now, Apple is dropping the last piece into place with a new firmware update for the AirTags themselves that tunes the audible alerts to ensure that you’ll know when an unknown AirTag is hanging around without its owner.
While Apple doesn’t usually offer release notes for the embedded firmware in devices like AirTags and AirPods, it’s made an exception this time. A new support article outlines the changes in AirTag Firmware Update 1.0.301 as “Tuning the unwanted tracking sound to more easily locate an unknown AirTag.”
Apple had more to say about this when it first announced the upcoming change in February:
Tuning AirTag’s sound: Currently, iOS users receiving an unwanted tracking alert can play a sound to help them find the unknown AirTag. We will be adjusting the tone sequence to use more of the loudest tones to make an unknown AirTag more easily findable.
Although a lot of the negative publicity around the AirTag is undeserved — there are far more dangerous trackers out there — this latest update addresses one of the most valid concerns. Advocates for victims of domestic violence have pointed out that the anti-stalking measures on the AirTag are virtually useless for folks who don’t own an iPhone or even those who have an older iPhone that hasn’t been updated to at least iOS 14.5.
In response to these concerns, Apple released a firmware update in June to make an AirTag play an alert much sooner after being separated from its iPhone. However, some still felt the alert sound was too easily missed. This week’s firmware update should resolve that.
The support article also offers instructions for how to check what firmware is on your AirTag. Unlike AirPods and MagSafe accessories, the firmware for an AirTag is identified through the Find My app:
- Open Find My on your iPhone or iPad.
- Select the Items tab at the bottom.
- Select the AirTag you want to check.
- Tap the name of your AirTag. The serial number and firmware version will appear.
Unfortunately, like AirPods, there’s nothing you can do to push the update to your AirTags — you’ll just have to wait. Your iPhone will also need to be running iOS 14.5 or later, but that’s the minimum version required to use AirTags in the first place.
The good news for those who may be concerned about AirTags being abused is that there’s no way to prevent the firmware from being updated unless you never bring it near an iPhone. The update will automatically happen in the background.