Google Just Resolved Apple AirTag's Most Concerning Issue

Automatic AirTag detection finally live on Android 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Apple
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Apple's AirTag has become a must-have device, not only to track your belongings – such as wallets and keys – but also to help the police recover your car if it gets stolen.
Law enforcement recommends car owners plant an AirTag in their vehicles, as this little device can provide almost real-time location information using nearby smartphones.

AirTags are part of the Find My network and connect to iPhones in proximity to broadcast their coordinates to a master device. They use a simple CR2032 battery, so they don't need recharging. The tracker sports a small form factor so that car owners can hide it virtually anywhere in the car.

Unfortunately, these have already backfired, as criminals and various bad actors turned to the AirTag for stalking and tracking their targets. Thieves use AirTags to monitor the vehicles they want to steal, as they can plant the device in places where it's impossible to spot it, such as behind the license plate.

Apple equipped the AirTag with tracking protection, so the device issues automatic notifications when moving with an iPhone owner. The system was available only for Apple customers. In contrast, Android phone owners had to download and install an application from the Google Play Store to manually scan nearby AirTags.

In other words, someone could track a Google user without getting a warning of the whole thing, as manually scanning for nearby AirTags wasn't everybody's cup of tea.

Google is now resolving this major shortcoming with a highly anticipated update. An update shipping through Google Play Services enables automatic AirTag detection on Android, and Google says it'll add support for more trackers shortly.

Google says Android users will get a notification when an unknown Bluetooth tracker (a device not paired with your smartphone) "is separated from its owner and is determined to be traveling with you." The system is similar to the one on iPhones, and users can generate a sound to locate the tracker without the owner knowing.

Additionally, Android will let users see a map of where the tracker was first detected and then follow it on the map. The OS will also support manual scans and provide users with recommendations on what to do if they discover an unknown tracker. For example, it'll include guidance on how to remove the AirTag battery. If the user believes they are in danger, the notification can recommend they call someone they trust or contact law enforcement.

The feature is available for any device running at least Android 6, and Google expects to reach the broad availability phase in the coming weeks. Further trackers will be added in the next few months, including from Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, and Eufy, but additional specifics will be shared closer to the release date.

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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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