We’ve heard reports about Apple’s AirTags since April of last year, but despite many indications pointing to an imminent release of the new item tracking tags, they keep failing to materialize, and now it looks like our hopes for their arrival this fall may have just been dashed if a new rumour is to be believed.
Solid evidence of Apple’s new item tracking tags was first found in the initial iOS 13 developer beta released in June 2019. The presence of the newly adapted Find My app, and screens and text strings buried within made a lot of folks expect that Apple was preparing to unveil them last fall. Still, when Apple’s iPhone 11 event came and went with nary a mention of any location tracking services — Apple didn’t even say much about the new U1 chip in its iPhone lineup — it became clear that it simply was not to be.
However, Apple doesn’t appear to have stopped developing the new accessory. In fact, hints still keep appearing that have not only suggested that they’re coming, but even going so far as to reveal the name, as we saw in a leaked video that Apple itself inadvertently shared on its own support site last spring.
So needless to say that it didn’t seem like a huge stretch that Apple could be preparing to debut the new tags this fall — quite likely at its iPhone release event on Tuesday — especially after we also heard reports last month that they’re already in mass production.
However, now it looks like that may not be the case, at least not if the latest information from leaker Jon Prosser is accurate.
Earlier this morning, Prosser shared the news on Twitter that Apple has pushed back the launch of AirTags until next March.
Specifically, Prosser uses the words “announcement” and “launch,” so it sounds like this isn’t merely a case of delayed availability; it definitely seems as though Apple isn’t even ready to talk about the product until early next year.
With all of the noise around AirTags, it seems hard to believe that they still aren’t ready, especially is the rumours that they’ve already gone into production are true — although, of course, there’s no guarantee that they are.
However, leakers such as Prosser also get their information from various anonymous sources which can have their own mixed track records of accuracy, and it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for Apple to be feeding false information through certain channels to preserve some sense of surprise for its new product launches. To be fair, Prosser has already offered up some pretty dubious predictions in the past, but this is also one of the very few times he’s gone on record to say something isn’t coming on schedule.
Of course, there’s also another possibility when it comes to AirTags — these may be something of a “moonshot” project on Apple’s part. Considering everything we’ve heard about them, Apple expects to make strong use of ultra-wideband technology and augmented reality to provide an unrivaled item tracking experience that could let you actually determine where an object is specifically located in a room, rather than just pinning it down to GPS coordinates.
As a result, it’s entirely possible Apple has run into some engineering challenges in getting the AirTags to work the way they’d expect. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, and thanks to the AirPower debacle, we’ve already seen the danger in pre-announcing a product before Apple can guarantee that it will be ready to ship. It’s unlikely that Apple is going to repeat that mistake.
With antitrust investigations starting to heat up in the U.S. and Europe, Apple might also be choosing to delay the unveiling of AirTags for political and legal reasons. Even though AirTags are only a rumour at this point, potential competitor Tile has already raised concerns with U.S. lawmakers and even petitioned the European Commission outright to look into allegations of anticompetitive behavior on Apple’s part. While Apple isn’t known for bowing to this kind of pressure, it may be decided that right now would not be an ideal time to poke the bear.
No AirPods Studio Either?
In a second tweet, Prosser also adds that we shouldn’t expect to see Apple’s AirPods Studio at next week’s event, either. However, he’s considerably more circumspect in this case about predicting when they might actually be coming.
Prosser doesn’t seem to be ruling out a fall release here, merely saying that they won’t be unveiled next week. This means that they could come at another later event, or that Apple might just slip them out more quietly via a press release, which wouldn’t be all that surprising considering that it did the same thing with the AirPods Pro last fall.
In his tweet, Prosser also adds that he’s heard that there will be two variants of the AirPods Studio, confirming earlier reports of both a “luxury” and “sport” variant, adding with some confidence that the higher-end model will retail for $599. In contrast, the “sport-like” variant will come in at $350.
Despite Prosser’s contention that AirPods Studio won’t be announced on Tuesday, it still seems highly likely that their release is still much more imminent. Late last month, Apple began pulling third-party headphones and speakers from its retail stores, undoubtedly to clear the way for its own first-party products, which seems like a particularly unusual move if it plans to delay AirPods Studio for much longer.
Instead, assuming Prosser’s information is accurate, our guess is that Apple simply decided that the AirPods Studio weren’t worthy of getting any stage time next week, and wants to keep its event focused on the iPhone 12, in which case we’ll likely see AirPods Studio arrive in much the same way that the AirPods Pro did last year, via a simple press release toward the end of October, where they’ll still be available in time for the holiday season.