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Rumors are beginning to circulate that we could see a sequel to Apple’s AirTags as soon as next year, although it’s not yet known precisely what a second-generation AirTag might bring to the table.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shared a prediction this week that an “AirTag 2” is expected to go into mass production in late 2024. Since Kuo has deep connections within Apple’s supply chain, it’s likely he’s determined this by putting together some pieces based on the type of components Apple is working to source from its suppliers.
However, anything beyond the idea that Apple is planning to release a new model of AirTag appears to be pure speculation. Kuo suggested that the new “AirTag 2” will offer some unique “spatial computing” integration with Apple’s Vision Pro, which should already be on the market by the time it launches.
It’s not entirely clear what Kuo means by this relatively vague statement; however, one possibility would be the ability to use Precision Finding to be guided toward a lost AirTag while wearing the Vision Pro.
Although that should be somewhat possible with the AirTags that are available today, the current implementation of Precision Finding only works within a two-dimensional field; your iPhone can tell you how far away your AirTag is and point you to it with left/right navigation instructions, but it won’t guide you to move up or town to locate it.
Another leaker, LeaksApplePro, suggests that a new “AirTag 2” may offer “3D Precision Finding” but adds that it won’t launch until at least 2025. However, with Kuo predicting the new AirTags will go into mass production in the fourth quarter of 2024, these timelines may not be as far apart as they seem.
What’s more significant is whether “3D Precision Finding” would require a hardware upgrade to the AirTag. Ultra Wideband (UWB) locator technology isn’t inherently limited to a two-dimensional plan — that’s just the way Apple has designed the Precision Finding feature on the iPhone.
After all, if you’ve ever tried looking for an AirTag that’s lost on a different floor in your home from where you’re searching, you’ll have discovered that your iPhone knows how far an AirTag is above or below you — it just doesn’t guide you to go up or down to locate it.
There also used to be a hidden Precision Finding debug mode that demonstrated that the iPhone was aware of the vertical angle or “pitch” between the iPhone and the AirTag being tracked.
This is likely something that Apple will address in the Vision Pro for the current AirTag. However, a new “AirTag 2” could feature a more powerful locator chip to offer an even more precise location that could allow it to be pinpointed with precision accuracy directly in the wearer’s field of view rather than simply showing directional arrows.
With the iPhone having supported augmented reality for years, it was surprising that the AirTag didn’t offer this kind of “through-the-camera” capability to find a missing AirTag. Rumors leading up to the AirTag suggested AR would play a part, with code found in iOS even showing references to a virtual balloon that would appear to help users visually locate the lost AirTag.
Sadly, when the AirTag finally launched, the iPhone’s Precision Finding feature provided only basic bearing and distance, suggesting that the U1 chip in Apple’s original AirTag didn’t have the level of precision that would have made AR features work accurately.
However, we’ve been hearing since early last year that Apple is developing a new “U2” chip that could power the next generation of AirTags. In June, reports of this chip gained new life when Kuo suggested the iPhone 15 lineup will get a new UWB chip or faster and more efficient communications with the Vision Pro.
While Kuo doesn’t provide a designation for the new chip, “U2” is about as good as any, considering it would be a successor to the U1. According to Kuo, this new chip would be built using a more advanced 7 nanometer (7nm) fabrication process that would improve performance and reduce power consumption.
Such speed improvements could be the key to making AR-based Precision Finding work properly, as the key issue doesn’t seem to be the accuracy of the signal but rather how frequently the information can be updated as you’re moving around with your iPhone. The current U1 chip is fast enough to provide distance in meters or feet and an approximate bearing, but an AR view through the Vision Pro would need to communicate much more quickly, offering updates based on movements of a fraction of an inch as you move your head around to look for your missing AirTag.
In addition to delivering the faster performance that could make that happen, a 7nm chip would consume less power, perhaps allowing an “AirTag 2” to last longer on a single battery or shrinking the size of the AirTag by using a smaller battery. It could even be enough to bring us RF-powered AirTags that can charge over the Wi-Fi in your home.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]