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

How would Apple be able to fix a disconnected speaker via software?

Elves, mostly.

More seriously, the alerts would appear on devices nearby. The idea is to provide more cues that there’s an unknown device and not rely on audio.

It would be nice for a future version, if they’d ensure the AirTag stops working when the connection to the speaker is severed.

When Steve Roberts designed the insanely big and (for the time) high tech BEHEMOTH bike in the early 1980s, it had a security system along these lines. From a purported Wall Street Journal article:

So he is back on the road, although his life isn’t entirely devil-may-care. He worries enough about the bike that he has loaded it with security systems. If someone gets within 15 feet of it, the bicycle will page Mr. Roberts and warn off the curious by saying something like: “You are being monitored by an alien spaceship. Do not touch the bicycle or you will be vaporized by a laser beam.”

We still don’t have frickin’ lasers. :frowning:

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“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?

Wondering this myself. I see in other replies that the airtag beeps only if it is moved. Even so, seems like a decently long flight or a major delay could trigger it.

Baggage handlers in Australia must be getting awfully used to beeping luggage! If I were them I’d run all baggage up and down the length of the plane to try and quiet the airtags before carting them away. :slight_smile:

Also, wouldn’t everyone on the plane get notified that they are being followed by dozens of airtags?

I’ve now updated the main article to make it crystal clear that the 8–24 hour rule for making a sound is triggered by motion. Apple apparently has a countdown timer in the AirTag as do third parties that incorporate Find My network technology. The timer is reset every time the AirTag can interact with its paired device.

These are excellent points. You’d think we would hear more about it! My suspicion is density of deployment is relatively low (like < 0.1% of all bags, maybe fewer, thus possibly 1 bag every 2 or 3 flight); and the sound is muffled inside an object, then the bags are lumped together providing further muffling.

The “traveling with” alert must be pretty funny, because it will show the path traveled! I haven’t heard of this, which seems possible, but I would guess the cargo hold is enough of a Faraday cage that Bluetooth signals aren’t penetrating to the cabin in most cases?

Good points!

I think it’s more than that. There are tradeoffs between how you’d design anti-stalking controls (and Apple made changes to AirTag shortly after launch that made it even more likely to warn a potential target of tracking) vs. its use as an ant-theft device (e.g., don’t warn the thief that s/he is traveling with an AirTag separated from its owner). Apple designed it this way deliberately, and markets it this way deliberately.

It surely has its uses to try to recover stolen items shortly after they are stolen, but I think that was never the intended use case. (I am a bit surprised, in fact, that Apple doesn’t have explicit warnings against trying to recover stolen items on your own rather than involving policing authorities.)

This is anecdotal, but I have used an AirTag to track my checked bag only once, last January. While I was in the plane Find My was reporting that the AirTag was with me. I was a little surprised that the AirTag could connect with at least somebody’s iPhone (if not mine) while the bag was in the hold, but that’s what I saw. (It was only a four hour flight, so it wouldn’t have started beeping anyway.)

It worked great after we landed, by the way. I recall that Find My was able to tell when the bag was getting closer to me as it traveled down the carousel. I was separated from the bag for the amount of time it took to get from the plane, through immigration and to the carousel before customs.

I’m flying again soon, and will check the app as we fly again just to see if that was an anomaly.

I’ve experienced the same thing. On the ground I could even tell which hold my bag had ended up in because apparently coverage was that good. But even in the air I got updates. So at least somebody had their iDevice turned on and connected to the internet.

Watching my bag travel across the airfield and through the bowels of the terminal as it approached my carousel at FLL was a nerd treat. Made the wait just that much more fun. That was with my first AirTag. After that experience I’ve bought a couple more. :laughing:

@david19 This current reality will probably amuse you:

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I go fly-fishing in the evening and as the light diminishes, my night vision kicks in. I have an AirTag on my fishing rucksack. The rucksack is left in the bushes on shore while wading. This is a repeating process. Fish a stretch of river, go back to fetch rucksack, hide rucksack at the start of new stretch. I use my iPhone to find the rucksack if I have moved far away from it and have a problem remembering where I left it. This is convenient both day and night.

At 68 my night vision is not as good as when I was 18, but I have no problem seeing the rucksack when I get close to it. When I enable the Find nearby function the software always responds with: “More light required”. I silently reply in my head: “Not this old guy.” I wonder what is the use case where you have to be told you need more light. Too much vine?

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Maps also marks the parking location if you’ve connected your phone to CarPlay – wireless or wired.

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I have never seen that error! Just reading up on it, Apple has never explained why that error occurs. There’s speculation that it relies on properties of ARKit for augmented reality to determine relative locations—but who knows. Wild!

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Does it try to show you an image of the room with the tag’s location highlighted? Sounds like a useful feature, and would definitely require ARKit and enough light to view the room.

But if it’s not going that, then yeah, it doesn’t make much sense to me either.

(I should probably go try out an AirTag and find out for myself. I bought a pack for my family to use with their stuff. One of the four is mine, but I still haven’t turned it on.)

If I turn on the flashlight, the message goes away. If I ignore it and don’t turn on the flashlight, it still shows how far away I am and the direction when I get in range.

Thanks for this (timely, for me) article, @glennf.

Is there any workaround for this? When I travel with a partner, I would like either one of us to be able to track either of our checked bags. (I’d rather not put two AirTags in each bag, but that could accomplish my goal.)

If there were, I promise I would have said so!

Apple locks it to a single Apple ID as one of many anti-stalking measures, despite the utility. You can wonder—why can I track an iPhone of somebody in my Family Sharing group but not one of their AirTags? iPhones have to be powered up; they have to remain charged; and someone can see and control sharing directly from the device with other people in the group.

The closest thing to what you want is a Tile. You can share a Tile with another person. However, while it has a crowdsourcing system, it’s vastly less dense than Apple’s. It seems unlikely to be useful for luggage tracking, as you’d need people all around your bag with iPhones or Android phones with the Tile tracking app installed and enabled for crowdsourcing.

As it turned out, I was not able to track my bag in flight this time. I imagine that nobody in the plane paid for full WiFi service for the flight. When I arrived in Portugal, Find My reported my bag still in Newark. However, a few minutes later it started showing up in Lisbon, about 5 minutes before it showed up on the baggage carousel.

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Thanks for the quick response.

I thought so, and your statement was unambiguous, but “If you don’t ask, they can’t say Yes.”

Slightly off topic: apple Wallet — the magnetic stick-on-your-iPhone gizmo, not the app— is not an AirTag, despite the fact that it tells me it is disconnected, and lists a last-seen location in the Find My app. It even had a circle of approximate location.

I learned this on a recent bike trip. I took the wallet off my iPhone and stuffed it in the bottom of my bike bag, because the added thickness makes it harder to attach the phone to its bike mount. Later that day I saw it in Find My still at the hotel we had left in the morning. I called the hotel but they couldn’t find it. It stayed there, all week, unmoving, until we got back. I thought for sure it was gone forever, because surely there had been someone at that hotel with an apple device in the meantime.

But when I unpacked my bag, sure enough, there it was at the bottom, and it happily reconnected to my iPhone.

Who knew that devices that aren’t actually traceable would show up in Find My! Very deceiving.