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Apple’s Find My iPhone app and service have been around since the early days of the iPhone, introduced in 2010 as a built-in “MobileMe” service that helped users locate a missing iPhone based on its GPS coordinates. A year later, Apple decided that it could also leverage the service to help users find their friends’ iPhones as well, as a way of letting friends and family members keep track of each other.
The Find My iPhone service evolved from its humble beginnings to become part of iCloud and also offer the ability to also locate iPads, Macs, and even Apple Watches and AirPods, along with a web-based interface that would allow users to not only figure out where they misplaced their iPhone, but also remotely lock it and wipe it. Meanwhile, Find My Friends remained a separate app which allows users to see how far away their friends are (or specifically, how far away their iPhones are), view locations on a map, and set up notifications for when friends leave or arrive at specific locations.
According to sources who have spoken to 9to5Mac, however, it appears that both apps are not only due for a revamp, but are slated to be combined into a single, unified “Marzipan” app that will be available on both iOS and macOS. The app, which has the codename “GreenTorch” is reportedly being tested by engineers at Apple already, and will add enhanced device tracking capabilities, as well as support for tracking other items similar in concept to how Tile’s devices work.
According to the report, Apple is working on a new hardware product to facilitate this, which is currently known only as “B389” to the people working on its development. B389 will be a tag that can be paired to a user’s iCloud account via their iPhone — similar to how AirPods work now — and then can be attached to any physical item.
The tags, however, won’t provide the same kind of location services that an iPhone does, of course, but will instead be used for proximity notifications — letting a user know when they move too far away from something like their keys or wallet so that they don’t leave it behind. Users will also be able to create “ignored” locations where proximity alerts won’t fire off, and share tag locations with friends and family members.
The tags will also reportedly be able to digitally store contact information, which other Apple devices will be able to read if the tag has been put into a “lost mode,” allowing the owner to be notified if a tagged object is found.
While this is the same concept that other solutions like Tile and TrackR have used for a while, an integrated Apple solution would make the whole idea much more viable, since every activate Apple device on the planet would have the feature built-in, rather than it being limited to only those users who have the appropriate vendor-specific apps installed and running. Essentially, Apple is in a unique position to create a significantly larger crowdsourced network for finding lost items.
Sources also say that the new app will include a “Find Network” feature that will allow iPhones and other Apple devices to be tracked and locked even when they’re not connected to Wi-Fi or to a cellular network. While it’s unclear how this will work, it seems likely that it will leverage the same technology used by the hardware tags to allow other nearby iOS devices to identify any potentially lost devices that are within Bluetooth proximity.