Apple tracker tags: Everything we think we know

Reports have been circulating about Apple making a tracker tag similar to Tile smart trackers. And since Apple debuted new ultra wideband or UWB technology in its iPhone 11 models, the speculation has heated up that Apple could release its Tile-competitor before the end of 2019.

Apple first debuted its iBeacon, an implementation of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology, in iOS 7 in 2014. The Beacons were small, inexpensive Bluetooth transmitters that aimed to provide location-based information and services to iPhones. For example, if a retailer has a beacon in its shop and you have the retailer's app, if you pass the shop, you might get an alert for a special offer.

The rumored new tracker tags could work a little differently. For example, Tile's tags can be clipped onto your keys, bag, a child's toy or slipped into your wallet or passport. It can also be stuck on a device, remote control, outdoor gear or other small electronics to help you keep track of lots of different items.

While nothing hasn't been officially confirmed, the tech giant has dropped a number of bread crumbs to indicate that the product is possible. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Here are all the rumors we've heard so far about Apple's possible tracker tag tech.

Rumor: Tag design

After Apple's WWDC's keynote presentation in June, "Tag 1,1" was spotted in the original iOS 13 code by developer Steve Moser, and whispers began about the company developing its own alternative to the Tile trackers. Further examination of the original internal build showed that the tracker would likely be small and circular, with the Apple logo in the center.

Rumor: What the tag can track

If the tracker tags are going to mirror Tiles, it's possible that they'll be able to clip onto various items. The code suggested the tags will be battery-powered and able to attach to items like keys, a purse or a backpack, and could then be used to help you find them if the item is lost. The tracker tags can reportedly pair with your iCloud account by proximity to an iPhone or other Apple device.

Users would reportedly get notifications when the device gets too far away from the tag, so you wouldn't lose things. If the tagged item is in a location that the user has set as a safe place, users won't be notified by the app. If the user taps a button on the phone app, the tags could chime. If an item is put in "lost mode," other iPhone users might be able to contact the user if they find the lost item.

In addition, the tags and app might have an augmented reality feature to help find lost items. An AR red floating balloon might appear over the area when people are looking through the screen in the app to help them get a more precise location, according to the iOS 13 internal build, uncovered by MacRumors.

Rumor: The tag will work with the Find My app

The tracker tags will reportedly work with the new Find My app, a hybrid of the former Find My Phone and Find My Friends apps, under a specific tab called "Items." A dedicated hardware tracker would allow anything to be tracked the way the app now tracks misplaced iPhones, iPads or AirPods, for example.

Rumor: The U1 chip in the new phones is prepping other Apple products for the tags

When Apple debuted its new line of phones at the iPhone 11 event in September, the tech giant added a new chip to its phones. As mentioned above, the U1 chip takes advantage of ultrawideband technology, which will allow increased precision when locating other U1-equipped Apple devices by offering "GPS at the scale of your living room," MacRumors reported. This isn't confirmation of the tracker tags, but it appears like Apple is laying the groundwork in its new devices.

Since older iPhones don't have the U1 chip, it appears likely that Apple would give its trackers both Bluetooth and UWB technology so that it would work with non-iPhone 11 models. However, the newer models will likely pinpoint tracked devices much more accurately. While Bluetooth can track items within about 5 meters, UWB can track items up to a distance of 5 to 10 centimeters.