The Two Faces of Find My

Originally published at: The Two Faces of Find My - TidBITS

Our lengthy article outlining numerous scenarios for ways that the AirTags could be used and misused revealed that some people didn’t understand the difference between Find My iPhone and participating in the global Find My network. They are distinct, and you can use one without the other.


Quite agree regarding AirPods and the case. Particularly egregious is not being traceable when in the case.

Under macOS 11.2.3, I tried to see the settings for Find My Mac and Find My network as illustrated in the article, but I got the message “You won’t be able to locate, lock, or erase this Mac while it’s asleep because Wake for network access is turned off. To turn on Wake for network access, open Energy Saver preferences.” I dutifully clicked the Open Energy Saver button, turned on Wake for network access, clicked the Back arrow, and saw that Find My Mac still claimed “Wake for network access is off.” Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

And while I’m at it, any ideas why Search in System Preferences makes itself gray? When it does, I can close System Preferences and re-open it, and then I can search, but after a while, the search field goes gray again.

I quit System Preferences, re-opened it, searched for energy and found only Battery, confirmed that Wake for network access was on, went to System Preferences > Apple ID > Find My Mac, looked at the options (which were now available), then returned to Battery and turned off Wake for network access. Now Find My Mac says that both Find My Mac and Find My network are on even though Wake for network access is off, and the Search box has gone gray again. What am I doing wrong?

You should probably update to 11.4 before stressing about this, given that AirTag support appeared in 11.3.

I understand that an AirTag is constantly reaching out via Bluetooth, and that it will exchange information with any iOS device that is within range and “connected to the Internet”. Will that be true if the Internet connection is via cell service? If it is your iPhone, not connected to WiFi, but connected to your cellular provider’s data service, and you walk through an area containing many AirTags (think airport baggage area), will you incur cellular data charges?

In theory, yes, but the amount of data transferred would almost certainly be in the noise category (as in, not enough to worry about). If you’re that concerned about bandwidth usage, I’d recommend installing a utility like DataMan that will give you more details.


Thanks, Adam. I’m certainly not worried about my data usage - just wondering about the principle.

Thanks, @ace; I will do that. I’m on the road right now and will wait to update, and I appreciate a reason not to worry about it.

I ran some experiments using two iOS devices to see if I could make offline finding work with location services turned off, as is my habit. It doesn’t work. If Internet connectivity isn’t available on a device with location services turned off, even where it is temporarily on on the finding device, no luck. And the same in reverse: if location services are enabled on the lost device, but off on your finder device, no luck either. Bluetooth is on in both cases, of course. Only where both devices have location services on will a finder device locate an offline device. If you prefer disabling location services, then make sure you have Internet access. With that, you can turn on lost mode and therefore location services, remotely, to pinpoint a lost device. It seems odd, though, that location services requirements are bilateral: surely the mere transmission of a beacon does not require it. But, I suppose, I can see how the entire Find My Network infrastructure for both transmitting other located beacons to Apple and transmitting one’s own beacon could be part of the same process … I suppose, maybe …

And yet, in related news, I received my AirTags four-pack today. With eerie serendipity, the tag fits more loosely, but still securely, in the former holder of my Tabcat tracker, being as it is almost exactly the same diameter (but tapering at the edges, and a teeny bit heavier). This enables me to track my fluffy friend using the proximity finding technology enabled with UWB in my iPhone 11 Pro Max. It works very well, even with location services turned off, which provides an interesting counterpoint to the offline finding of iOS devices. I will test it more rigorously when Tab roams a bit further afield or at least moves actively again. All of this makes me very happy, for some reason.

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