Apple has long offered a secure Find My service to help track down lost Apple devices. Simply open the Find My app, or log into iCloud.com and click Find iPhone, and you’ll see a list of all your registered devices and their last known locations.
Even if the lost device isn’t connected to the internet, Apple’s huge Find My network – a crowdsourced combination of Apple devices across the globe – can use Bluetooth to securely approximate its location and report back to you.
It’s a great way to track down an errant iPhone or lost AirPods, but it doesn’t help with non-Apple devices. Until now.
A big update to the Find My network means that Apple is now allowing third-party companies to build Find My compatibility into their items as part of the existing Made for iPhone (MFi) program.
Early partners to the program include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof – who will be releasing earbuds, key trackers, and even e-bikes with the new “Works with Apple Find My” badge from next week. Apple expects plenty more accessories to join the collection before long.
Apple has also released a specification allowing other companies to manufacture the Ultra Wideband technology in certain recent Apple products that makes directionally-aware finding possible.
It’s long been rumored that Apple would release a Tile-like tracking device to serve a similar purpose, but this surprise announcement seems to partially replace the need for such a device. Why would you buy a Bluetooth tracker when your favorite accessories have Bluetooth tracking built in?
Of course, it will take some time for the catalog of compatible accessories to grow, and even then existing products won’t ever work with Find My. So there’s still plenty of room for the reported “AirTags” to exist on store shelves – if Apple still wants to go down that route.
The fact that one of the very first products to partner with Apple is Chipolo’s ONE Spot item finder suggests Apple may be happy to leave the Bluetooth tracker market to others and simply provide the tech to make it work.
In the meantime, Tile is still a good option for anyone looking to keep tabs on their keys, wallet, or backpack. Read our guide to how they work if you’re curious, and stay tuned for more news from Apple on Find My products throughout the year.