Apple’s AirTags and Find My service can be helpful for finding things you lose — but they also introduce a big privacy problem. While those of us on iOS have had some tools for fighting those issues, Apple left those of us on Android without much to work with. A new Android AirTag finder app finally addresses some of those concerns.
How AirTags work
Apple launched AirTags in late April 2021 as a way to help keep track of important items, such as your keys or wallet. The small Bluetooth tracker lets you look up its location on your iPhone, Mac, or iPad. Similar systems had already existed through the likes of Tile, but AirTags have the advantage of using Apple’s Find My network.
The Find My network employs the passive use of hundreds of millions of Apple devices to help expand your search. That way, you can locate your lost items even if they’re too far away for traditional wireless tracking. Your lost AirTag may be out of your own phone’s Bluetooth range, but it may not be far from another Apple device.
Why do you need an AirTag detector for Android?
The Tracker Detect app comes out of a need for better security in the Find My network. Having such a wide network to track a tiny, easy-to-miss device could make it easy for someone to use AirTags to track someone.
People pointed out this vulnerability pretty soon after Apple announced the AirTags. With more than 113 million iPhones in the U.S., not to mention other Apple devices, the Find My network could be one of the widest tracking systems available. A device as small and easy-to-use as an AirTag on that network could make stalking easier than ever.
That said, Apple has a built-in feature designed to prevent tracking. If your iPhone senses that a strange AirTag, separated from its owner, is following you, it will send you an alert. If that AirTag is not found, it will start to make a sound anywhere from 8 to 24 hours after being separated from its owner.
However, Android users haven’t had these protections. That’s where Tracker Detect comes in; with this new Android AirTag app, you can scan the area to see if anyone may be tracking your location with an AirTag or other Find My-enabled accessory.
How to use Tracker Detect
If you’re concerned about people tracking you, download the Tracker Detect app from the Google Play Store. You don’t need an Apple account or any Apple devices to use it.
The app won’t scan automatically, so you’ll have to look for devices manually. To do that, open the app and tap Scan. Apple says it may take up to 15 minutes to find an AirTag that’s separated from its owner. You can tap Stop Scanning to end the search if you feel safe, and if the app detects something, it will mark it as Unknown AirTag.
Once the app has detected an AirTag, you can have it play a sound through the tag for up to ten minutes to help you find it. When you find the AirTag, you can scan it with an NFC reader to learn more about it.
Hold the top of your phone up to the white side of the AirTag. Before long, a notification should appear, which you can tap to see information like the tag’s serial number. If its owner marked it as lost, you’ll see their phone number. The app will also provide you with steps to remove the battery if you think someone may be tracking you.
If you think you’re in danger, remove the battery and call law enforcement. Otherwise, you can return the lost AirTag to its owner.