“Find My” is an excellent tool for locating lost Apple products — except when it isn’t. Left your iPhone in a cab? You can follow its location via Find My on another device. Are your keys lost somewhere in the house? If they have an AirTag attached, Find My can help you locate them instantly. But when it comes to finding your lost AirPods — a feature Apple is touting big time with the launch of iOS 15 — Find My is functionally useless in all but the most limited scenarios.
Imagine: You’re on your way to the gym, AirPods in hand. You get in your car, drive to the gym parking lot, and enter the gym, only to find that your AirPods have abandoned you like the One Ring. “No problem,” you think, “I’ll just check the Find My app.” You fire up Find My, and, wouldn’t you know it, it says the AirPods are back at your house.
So, you drive back home. You take another look at the Find My app, which says that you should be right on top of your AirPods. You check the driveway, the yard, tear through your living room — nothing. Dejected, you head back to the gym, only to find your AirPods lying on the ground in the parking lot. What. The. Hell.
You cannot rely on your AirPods’ location in Find My
Let’s explain what’s going on here. The original AirPods, AirPods 2, and the Beats products that support Find My — none have any way to communicate with the Find My network on their own. As such, they rely on your other Apple devices to update their location for them. That wouldn’t be so bad, except location updating only happens when said earbuds can connect to your Apple devices. That means your AirPods must be out of their case. Find My won’t work at all when they’re inside it — even if you have your phone in one hand and your case in the other, Find My won’t be able to see your AirPods’ current location.
Let’s think about your gym scenario. If you were listening to your AirPods right before getting in the car, then took them out to drive, Find My recorded their last location as in your driveway. Then, your AirPods slipped out of your pocket when you exited the car at the gym, but because your AirPods weren’t connected to your iPhone at that time, Find My has no idea they’re in the parking lot; as far as it’s concerned, your AirPods are still back at your house.
These limitations mean Find My just isn’t a practical way to locate AirPods, like, ever. The only time the app comes in handy is if you misplace your earbuds while they’re out of the case and connected to your Apple device. If you fall asleep listening to them and they get tangled in the bedding, you can use the Find My app to see where they are and even to make them play a sound so you can find them. But if they are in the case that fell behind your nightstand overnight, Find My can’t see them or make them ping.
You can Find My AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, sort of
Now, Apple’s pricier AirPods are a different story: AirPods Pro and AirPods Max received firmware update 4A400 on Tuesday, Oct. 5 that adds new Find My functionality, making the service a bit more useful for finding your lost headphones. Not only will AirPods Pro and AirPods Max update their location when in range of your Apple devices, they’ll also do so when in range of other Apple devices. This is how AirTags share their location with Find My, and it makes finding Apple’s more expensive AirPods products much easier.
These devices also now work with AirTags’ “Find Nearby” feature, which lets you use your iPhone to track down the device in question. It isn’t quite as accurate with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max as it is with AirTags, since the former are missing the AirTags’ U1 chip, but it’s a great tool to help locate your headphones to a more precise degree. You can also put these devices into Lost Mode, be notified when they are found, set up separation alerts, and play a sound to locate your AirPods Pro in the case, although that sound will be quite muted.
With that in mind, let’s go back to the gym situation: If you had a pair of AirPods Pro, they would continue to update their location until out of range of your iPhone. That means that you would see your AirPods Pro in the gym’s parking lot on Find My, rather than back at your house. If your earbuds then were picked up by another Apple user before you had a chance to find them first, that person’s iPhone or Find My-enabled Apple device would update your AirPods Pro’s location as well. (If you left your AirPods Pro on the bus or train, finding them will be a lot iffier a prospect.)
Of course, neither instance of this technology is nearly as useful as it is on iPhone, since your phone can always update its location on its own using GPS. But with this update, Find My at least works much better; provided you’ve sprung for AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, it might actually reunite you with your misplaced headphones. For AirPods, AirPods 2, and Beats users, however, the app remains extremely limited, which is to say, nearly useless. Just something to keep that in mind the next time you stick those earbuds in your loosest pocket.