Earlier this year, Apple announced a new feature baked into the Find My app that will let users find their iOS and macOS devices even if they are offline.
Now, a new report suggests that Apple may be considering expanding the capabilities of this “offline tracking” platform — including selling proprietary Tile-like devices that could be attached to personal items. Here’s what you should know.
Expanded Find My Abilities
Earlier this year, MacRumors contributor and developer Steve Moser found code strings within the iOS 13 betas which suggested that Apple is developing a Bluetooth tracking device.
These tracking devices could be small, Tile-like Bluetooth tags which could be attached to personal items like purses, wallets and keys. Once they are, a user could find these items using the Find My app.
Now, in a new report published today, Moser has apparently discovered more details within iOS 13.
The code strings and an ARKit “star” image could suggest that Apple is working on adding augmented reality support to the platform. That could end up being used in an AR-based tracking system similar to Pixie Tracking.
Essentially, you could bring up a dedicated app on your iPhone and use AR via the camera viewfinder to locate your missing items.
Other code strings found within iOS 13 hint that Apple is working to make its potential Tile competitor more feature-rich than originally anticipated.
Users may be able to digitally “leash” individual trackers to iOS or watchOS devices. That could allow the platform to notify users if a tracker goes out-of-range of the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. In other words, the system could send you a notification if you accidentally leave your keys at the bar.
Tile, for its part, offers similar functionality, but only to subscribers of its premium monthly service.
The Upgraded Find My Platform
All of these features appear to be aimed at a vastly expanded Find My platform. It’s a new app in iOS 13 that combines features from Find My iPhone and Find My Friends, and adds some new ones.
The system works by having iOS or macOS devices intermittently send out Bluetooth signals to other devices in their general area. Those devices will then relay that signal to the owner of the lost or missing device. Apple encrypts all of this data using rotating public keys.
While the new Find My platform was first announced back at WWDC ’19, Apple didn’t announce or even hint at any Bluetooth tracking devices. But the code in iOS 13 suggests that the company is working on it.
Find My and the offline location feature will debut in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina in the fall. It’ll be enabled by default on devices with Bluetooth and Find My iPhone turned on.
At this point, there’s no telling when Apple will debut its own proprietary Bluetooth tracking devices, how much they will cost, or whether the devices will require any additional subscriptions.