Tune Find My for Travel Tracking to Avoid Annoying AirTag and Apple Device Alerts

Right. The purpose is to help you locate lost items, not recover stolen items.

Why wouldn’t you pair the AirTag with his phone? That’s the use case: personal tracking.

Well, unless I am missing something, when he rides to Uni, and then parks his bike and wanders off elsewhere on campus, and then doesn’t come back for more than 8 hours, wouldn’t the device potentially start beeping?

I see! It seems like Apple uses additional clues, such as Bluetooth for nearby devices. I don’t hear about this happening!

Maybe they are fibbing about the low end of the range, since I would think if it really was 8-24, anyone who had one in their car would have it beeping when they finished work on occasion. So maybe it is more like 12-24, or maybe the 8-12 range is extremely low probability.

Anyway, it remains that the anti-stalking measures significantly reduce the utility of the AirTags as an anti-theft device.

You could consider a Van Moof. I own their S3, a wonderful e-bike which works with Apple’s Find My, they also have their own insurance scheme.

Again: it’s not intended to be an anti-theft device. It may be able to be one in limited circumstances, but that’s not what the AirTag was intended to do.

I have a similar strange problem with my AirPods Pro.

I am fortunate to have a summer cabin which we go to frequently. Obviously I take my AirPods Pro with.

When I come back home-on both my iPhone and my wife’s iPhone we get a notification that AirPods are following - I never get it when we arrive at the cabin (which has internet and wifi)

The article states “An AirTag will play a loud beeping sound after it has been separated from its paired device for a random interval between 8 and 24 hours”. How is this not a problem for the luggage use case? If one is traveling for more than 8 hours, there is a risk that an AirTag beeps loudly inside luggage somewhere, possibly inside the plane or in baggage handling… not sure I want to provoke any airline security or baggage handling personnel! Might they not separate the bag and flag it for screening of some sort if it starts beeping loudly? Seems like that would be opposite to the intended effect of getting smoothly reunited with one’s suitcase.

I disagree a little with that. It’s more about theft recovery than theft deterrent: most people stealing an item won’t know there’s an AirTag in it. However, that makes it more likely to aid with recovery.

I’ve put an AirTag in a TagVault: Bike from ElevationLab on both my 18 y.o.'s bike (paired to his iPhone) and on my bike (paired to mine). It’s a savvy design: someone would have to realize there was a tracker in it and get the right Allen wrench or destroy the water-bottle cage and case to stop it tracking.

Ok, I’ll amend what I said by adding that Apple does not market the AirTag nor ever talk about the device as a theft recovery device. All of their marketing material is about lost / misplaced items, like keys, bags and wallets (that you may have left behind somewhere rather have stolen).

Notice that they always mention “misplacing” items. But because of the anti-stalking features (the beeping and notification to somebody with an iPhone that is traveling with an AirTag that is separated from its owner after about a day at most), it’s really not marketed to be used for theft recovery. It may work for that purpose, but that’s not why it exists.

Liability! But also because I think they’d prefer to not have it be seen as something you could rely in that direction. Clearly, it can help with recovery, but I can’t imagine anyone inside Apple signing off on that.

If I’m reading things right, the sound alert wouldn’t play because it’s not moving with someone, but just sitting there.

If you don’t have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, an AirTag that isn’t with its owner for a period of time will emit a sound when it’s moved. This type of notification isn’t supported with AirPods.

Now, if someone steals the bike, it would theoretically make sound, though I think it takes a while to do that.

This trigger the “not near its paired device” alert, which is 8 to 24 hours after the last time the paired device was nearby. However, I have been curious in practice if Apple’s logic is:

  • The device is wherever and the paired devices hasn’t been seen for 8–24 hours
  • The device is in a different place than the last time the paired device detected it and it’s been 8–24 hours (that could indicate in a stalking situation that someone [their bag, car, etc.] hasn’t moved since the paired device was last nearby).
  • The device is consistently near one or more other devices for at least 8 hours.

You can see how if Apple is basing the “no paired device nearby” alert solely on that parameter, that it would go off every 8–24 hours, and trigger in Peter’s kid’s bike’s situation.

However, if Apple shades that with information about Find My network devices nearby and/or Bluetooth devices, perhaps it won’t?

Apple seems pretty clear that movement is necessary. Another quote from that page:

If you hear an AirTag emitting a sound: To alert people nearby, any AirTag separated for a period of time from its owner will emit a sound when it’s moved.

So the paired device must be somewhere else for at least 8 hours AND the AirTag must be moved. Detecting movement would require a connection with nearby Find My devices. On a college campus, that seems trivially easy—someone’s going to walk by with an iPhone frequently.

But I don’t see why it would go off if the bike is just sitting there—there’s no movement involved.

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Well, I’m a maroon. I have been misreading the combination of factors for some time! I went and checked the Wayback Machine to see if Apple had changed this text in the last 18 months. They have—but the language is always effectively the same. Has to be moved. Which makes sense. There is some stalker danger in knowing that someone remains in the same place, too, a sort of negative knowledge. (That is, someone remotely can query the AirTag to see that it’s in the same place; they wouldn’t know when or if it had made a sound if it had been moved, but would know, sort of, that it remained about in the same place.)

Amazing, I wrote a book on this…and that detail is correct in the book!


Ahh, ok, that’s good and makes sense - it’s not adding any real information to the owner if it isn’t moving and its where the owner last left it.

So that means it wont beep in normal use in the case I describe, but actually makes it even worse for the purpose I want it for (which, yes, Apple is not marketing it for, I get that!). It means not only will it alert the thief if they have an iPhone, it will beep to alert them to its location, but that would only be if left unattended for 8+ hours, which I guess will be a rarity.

Still worth doing on an expensive ebike I guess.

There are simple hacks on the internet on how to disable an AirTag speaker. Won’t eliminate “unknown tag” alerts, but will stop the beeping and make the tag harder to find.

Just today I got email from Elevation Lab about their new TagVault Surface for AirTag, a waterproof stick-on case they show being put on bikes, skis, etc. Seems like exactly the use case you’re wanting. I am wondering if the waterproof case mutes the beeping.

(I have their TagVault for pet collars and it’s great – but the beeping is still slightly audible. Helped me find it when my dog got his collar caught on an old fence in the woods and tore the tag off. Took me a while, but the beeping sure helped locating it as there were no iPhones in the woods.)

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Apple’s working on thwarting that with additional alerts “later this year.”

I was thinking about this: you can mark it as lost and get updates, and there’s nothing that keeps you from marking it as lost all the time. But I don’t know if it provides ongoing updates in that mode.

Really, AirTags are “don’t forget a thing” or “find a thing you lost,” which for me could include a bike or car in a large parking area. The theft part—just not fully in the use case.

Also, I do think that if someone moved my bike (which has an AirTag in it) and it started going BEWEEE BEEWEE BEWWEOOOO that perhaps they would run instead of stealing it? Maybe?