Apple has opened up about the details of several recent firmware updates for its AirTag tracking devices for the iPhone ecosystem.

From November Apple had released two firmware updates for its AirTag tracker device, but until now the firm remained tight lipped about the exact details of those updates.

It comes as Apple faces legal action alleging its AirTags were misused for unwanted tracking/stalking by some bad actors. For over a year now, Apple has responded to these concerns by gradually neutering the core function of the AirTag.

Tracking controversy

Apple released its AirTag tracking devices back in April 2021 – in a further expansion of Apple’s ‘Find My’ ecosystem. It was designed to help users keep track of their belongings (backpacks, cars, wallets, handbags etc).

It delivers precision finding by giving users the exact distance and direction to their AirTag, guiding them through a combination of sound, haptics, and visual feedback.

But it immediately triggered some privacy concerns, despite there already being rival offerings from firms such as Tile on the market.

Apple insisted that because it is part of the ‘Find My’ ecosystem, location data was kept private and anonymous with end-to-end encryption.

It should be noted that Apple iPhones automatically include a feature that alerts them when an AirTag they don’t own appears to be “following” them.

But two months after its launch, Apple in June 2021 released a software update after users complained that AirTags could be used to stalk people.

That update changed the window of time in which the AirTag will emit its sound warning – to a random time between 8 and 24 hours after the device is out of range of its owner’s iPhone.

And it took another six months for Apple to release its ‘Tracker Detect’ app to allow Android users to search for nearby active trackers, including Apple’s AirTag.

In February 2022 Apple again responded to concerns that AirTags were being abused by stalkers, and placed new privacy warnings during AirTag setup, warning people the devices are meant to track belongings, and that tracking people without their consent is a crime.

Update details

Now has opened up about what its two recent firmware updates for its AirTag actually does.

In a note on its support website, Apple provided details about the firmware updates named 2.0.24 and 2.0.36.

The 2.0.24 AirTag firmware update was released on 10 November, and it lets iPhone users locate an unknown AirTag with Precision Finding.

This feature was announced by Apple earlier this year as part of the company’s measures to prevent people from using AirTag for stalking purposes. It activates when a iPhone detects an unknown AirTag moving with the user. The person can use Precision Finding combined with a sound alert to quickly find and disable that AirTag.

Precision Finding requires a supported iPhone model with Ultra Wideband (i.e an iPhone 11 or later).

Of course, this update is not much help for the actual honest AirTag user, if the iPhone user is actually the thief who stole the belongings that the AirTag was hidden in.

In addition with the 2.0.24 AirTag firmware update, Apple also enhanced notification alerts for when an AirTag separated from its owner is moving with another person, and the AirTag will emit a sound to indicate it has been moved.

As for AirTag firmware update 2.0.36, released on 12 December, Apple said it fixed an issue in which the accelerometer built into the AirTag wasn’t activating in certain scenarios. This sensor is likely used to help the iPhone detect when an AirTag is moving.

Users can check the firmware version of their AirTags by going to the Find My app and tapping on the AirTag name.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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