Is Apple's AirTag finally going to launch to take on Tile?

Will Tim Cook announce a new AirTag at the forthcoming event? (Image credit: Apple)

We've been waiting months and months to hear more about Apple's seemingly-innocuous new accessory - the AirTag - but it's one that could have huge benefits for the brand,

Found in a recently-reported leak of Apple's forthcoming iOS 14 software (courtesy of 9to5Mac), we're told that there's reference to a Tile-rivalling small device that can be attached to nearly any object, and your iPhone will be able to locate it if it goes out of range through Bluetooth connection.

The AirTag, according to the leak, will contain a user-replaceable battery (no mention of the mooted wireless-charging or water-resistant capabilities we'd heard word of recently) and users will be able to buy multiple tags and monitor them all from an iPhone.

The AirTags have previously been reported to work with Apple's ARKit - according to MacRumors, users will be able to hold their phone up and a balloon will dangle above the missing device if it's lost in the near vicinity.

It's also reported that the AirTags will make sound when out of range of your phone or iPad, although 'safe spaces' can be set so they don't go bananas every time you leave the house without your remote control or something.

Why now?

What's curious about this is not that Apple is doing it - not only have the rumors been around for a long time, but this device makes so much sense - but that it's taken so long.

We were fully expecting to see the AirTag at the iPhone 11 launch last year, where the device would allow users to get notifications of lost items by any iPhone that goes near the tag.

That's a pretty broad network of people helping you automatically look for your keys, wallet or jacket - with more users than Tile, the frontrunner in location tag, has on its books instantly (although Tile's chief was pretty bullish when talking about the possibility of competition from Apple).

So what's the hold up? That's the mysterious thing... wireless charging could have explained it, but for a company like Apple developing this kind of small and relatively inexepensive device should be pretty simple. 

It would also lock users further into the Apple ecosystem, effectively making something simple like a glasses case an Apple-branded device.

We're now expecting the AirTag release date to come later in March, when Apple is strongly rumored to be holding an event to launch the iPhone 9, new iPad Pro and perhaps even refreshed Apple TV hardware - that said, the rumored event could be delayed by the coronavirus outbreak so we're waiting to see whether an invite is still forthcoming.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.