In April 2021, Apple added AirTags to their ‘Find My’ Network. AirTags are $30, battery-operated NFC and Bluetooth LE tracking devices. They leverage the vast network of iPhones to passively communicate their location, battery status, etc up to the Apple ‘Find My’ Network. Apple AirTags Bluetooth LE messages are mostly encrypted advertising packets.
The vast network of Apple devices can use NFC and BLE to identify AirTags and receive alerts when AirTags that do not belong to them are travelling with them. This discourages people from using AirTags as stalking devices. Think about how easy it might be to slip an AirTag inside someone’s purse, or stick one to the inside the bumper of someone’s car. Android phone users don’t have any of the anti-stalking features that iPhone users have to prevent these types of scenarios.
The aim of the AirTagLocator app is to discourage and prevent malicious use of the AirTags technology.
The AirTagLocator app gives Android phone users the ability to know if an AirTag is near them.
The AirTags regularly change their Bluetooth identification name, so as to be harder to identify and track them. When the AirTag name changes while you are listening to it in the AirTagLocator app, you will need to go back to the previous page by tapping the back arrow at the top and scan again for AirTags in your vicinity. In general, AirTags will emit a Bluetooth message every two seconds. If you are far away from the AirTag, or if the Bluetooth radio in your phone is not very strong, you may miss some of the messages. Bluetooth advertisements/beacons are kind of like smoke signals, they repeat the same (or similar) messages over and over again and it is expected that some will be missed.
If you are having problems detecting AirTags with AirTagLocator, you might want to look up the specs on the Bluetooth radio in your phone. While writing and testing this app, we noticed that Android phones with BLE 4.2 radios (circa 2014) don’t pick up AirTag messages as accurately as BLE 5.0 radios (circa 2016 and later). If you have a phone that is running Android 7 (Nougat) or earlier, there is a pretty good chance you have a BLE 4.2 radio.
Why does the app ask for permission to use Location (GPS)?
In order to use use the Bluetooth radio on your phone, Android apps need to have permission to use Location (GPS). The code inside of the AirTagLocator app only uses Bluetooth, it does not use any GPS/Location data at all.
The AirTagLocator app temporarily collects and displays data on the AirTag that the user is scanning. No data is stored in persistent storage at all. When the app closes, all data that was collected is lost. This app uses no authentication method, so you do not need to login. The only data that is collected is anonymous system information. We collect this information in the case that the user experiences a crash or an error so that we can get feedback on our errors and create a quality app that works.
If you have comments, concerns or feedback on the AirTagLocator App, please Contact Us. We would love to hear from you.