It’s been well over a year since we first heard rumours of Apple’s AirTags — the new location tracking tags that are expected to give Tile a run for its money — but now it looks they’re finally almost ready to be released. So ready in fact that it wouldn’t entirely surprise us to see them get some stage time at next week’s virtual Apple event.
According to a new report from Nikkei Asian Review, sources have indicated that Apple’s AirTags have already gone into mass production, which means that the company has presumably begun stockpiling them for an impending release.
Even though all evidence points to Apple’s September event being all about the Apple Watch, there’s already been strong evidence that Apple could also choose to debut a new iPad at the same time, and if that’s the case then Apple’s much-rumoured AirTags wouldn’t be off the table either.
We know that Apple has been working on its Tile-like location tags for at least a couple of years now, with the first reports of the then-mysterious new tags surfacing in early 2019 that were later backed up by new code found in iOS 13.
Apple also laid the groundwork for what could be one of the most groundbreaking features of the new item tracking tags with the debut of the U1 chip in last year’s iPhone 11 models, which could allow items to be located with significantly more accuracy than purely Bluetooth-based tags have been able to accomplish thus far, likely even adding augmented reality features to help point you to exactly where in a room a missing item is located.
Earlier this year, most analysts expected that the new AirTags wouldn’t actually ship until later this year anyway, although many were anticipating a pre-announcement of the new technology earlier in the year; Apple has a history of announcing first-generation products several months before their actual release, as it did with the original iPhone, the Apple Watch, and even the HomePod.
To be fair, like most Apple products, we can’t be completely certain that Apple will go with the name “AirTags” although this time around there’s unusually strong evidence for the name, including references found in iOS 13.2 code last fall, plus a leaked mention of them in an Apple Support video from earlier this year. A report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also notes that the new tags will be a more premium product that will be bundled with a leather case, so they’re likely going to be a notch above whatever companies like Tile have been offering.
While several reports have appeared suggesting that AirTags will finally make their debut this fall, we’ve also heard this song before. In fact, with the code to support them first appearing in iOS 13 last year, if anything it’s surprising that they’ve taken this long, and the most likely explanation is that it’s taken Apple longer than expected to make sure they’re ready; Apple certainly didn’t want to risk making the same mistake that it did with AirPower by preannouncing a product before it’s convinced it can make it work.
However, this recent report from Nikkei that the new AirTags are actually in production is the strongest evidence we’ve heard that an announcement could be right around the corner. In fact, at this point the real question isn’t if they’re coming this fall, but rather when.
Reports have pointed to a late October debut, but really very few expected Apple to host a September event at all, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Apple decides to hold off AirTags to show off with the iPhone 12, or adds them to what might be a more potpourri-style event next week anyway.