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Apple updates AirTag to fix its biggest flaws

Apple AirTags
(Image credit: Apple)

You'll be able to use Apple AirTag with a little more peace of mind, thanks to a new software update from Apple. The company has updated its key finders to address a loophole that made it shockingly easy for other people to track you without your knowledge.

AirTag debuted earlier this spring as Apple's long-anticipated entry into the key finder market. Like the other best key finders, AirTag connected to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to track objects like keys.

AirTag owners with an iPhone 11 or later could also use the Precision Finding feature that leverages the U1 chip in those iPhones for more precise tracking detail, putting an arrow on the phone's screen to show you in which direction the Air Tag is.

But AirTag offers much more than localized Bluetooth tracking, which is limited to a range of only a few dozen yards. Apple's Find My network turns hundreds of millions of iPhones, iPads and MacBooks into relay stations for AirTags, which means you can locate an AirTag pretty much anywhere in the world as long as there's an active Apple device nearby.

And there's the problem. Slip an AirTag into someone's coat pocket or handbag, and  you can track them wherever they go without their knowledge. 

AirTags were supposed to offer anti-stalking features that notified you if an unauthorized AirTag was revealing your location information, but reviewers like Gizmodo's Caitlin McGarry quickly discovered some flaws in Apple's approach

An AirTag separated from its paired iPhone was supposed to sound an alarm after a while, for example, but that alert usually didn't come until three days later. Other reports said the alert beeps weren't very loud and were hard to hear if an AIrTag was in a bag or heavy item of clothing.

Similarly, on-screen notifications alerting you that you were being tracked by an AirTag only appeared if you were running a fully updated iPhone.

Stopping the stalking

The over-the-air update issued by Apple causes the separated-from-my-iPhone alert to sound much sooner on an AirTag than it did originally. 

"This time period is changing from three days to a random time between 8 and 24 hours," Apple said in a statement.

That may not always help a person being stalked by someone with whom they live, as the separation-alert countdown resets when a maliciously placed AirTag comes within range of its paired iPhone.

However, Apple also plans to release an Android app later this year that will let anyone with an Android device know sooner if they're being tracked by an AirTag. That should close some of the gap between Android and iPhone users with AirTag. 

Meanwhile, iPhone and iPad users should update to the latest versions of iOS/iPadOs to make sure they get the alerts.

These latest measures don't make the AirTag's security bulletproof, but it addresses the chief flaws that caused outlets like the Washington Post to declare that Apple's tracker made it extremely easy to keep tabs on people without their knowledge. 

We look forward to testing out the update with our own AirTag to see if the situation's improved.