Tile is poised to compete with Apple’s long-rumored AirTags and is planning to introduce an upgraded series of item trackers that include an ultra wideband (UWB) chip for more precise tracking.
Apple’s AirTags are rumored to include the U1 ultra wideband chip that has been added into the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models. Apple’s U1 AirTags will be able to offer better tracking capabilities than is possible with Bluetooth alone, which means that it is technology that Tile must match to remain competitive.
According to TechCrunch, Tile’s upcoming item trackers will also use augmented reality capabilities to guide users to a lost item’s location using the Tile mobile app. Apple is working on a similar solution and based on code that we’ve found in various versions of iOS, the AirTags too will rely on augmented reality to make it easier to find missing devices and accessories.
Prior Tile item trackers have relied solely on Bluetooth, which isn’t as accurate as UWB because of the spatial data that the newer technology is able to collect.
Because UWB offers spatial awareness capabilities, it will be able to locate missing items inside or outside, even when you can’t hear the tracker’s ring. This could help when the missing item is buried under something — like a sofa cushion — or inside something like a dresser drawer, for example. It can also help to find items more easily in a larger space, like a house with multiple floors.
The Tile app, meanwhile, will allow users to launch to an AR-enabled camera view that will help to guide them to the item’s location using overlays, like directional arrows and an AR view of the item’s location.
The iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models have U1 chips, and some Android phones support UWB, so these devices will be compatible with Tile’s upcoming trackers. Apple provided third-party developers with access to the U1 chip in the newest iPhones last year.
Concept art for the new item tracker from Tile suggests it will look similar to Tile’s existing trackers with a square shape, center button, keychain attachment, and a flat back that is compatible with adhesive.
Tile is planning to release the new item trackers later this year, and they will be compatible with iOS and Android devices. Apple has implemented a new system that allows item trackers to work inside the Find My app, but it sounds like Tile will be taking advantage of its own app for item location purposes.
There is no word on when Apple plans to release AirTags, and there have been signs of them in multiple versions of iOS. Many rumors suggested we’d see them before the end of 2020, but Apple has held off on a release. Earlier this week, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the AirTags would be released at some point in 2021.