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Tile could beat Apple’s AirTags to market with new ultra wideband item trackers

Apple’s AirTags personal item trackers have been the works for what feels like a long time (first discovered by 9to5Mac in April 2019). Dating back to September 2019, Tile seemed concerned about the upcoming product. Now news has leaked that Tile is working on a version of its popular tracker with ultra wideband (UWB) instead of just Bluetooth. Maybe it could even beat Apple’s AirTags to market?

Discovered by TechCrunch, Tile is reportedly getting ready to launch the new UWB-based personal item tracker “this year.” Notably, we just saw a report from Kuo that Apple will finally do the same with AirTags this year.

Up until now, Tile’s trackers have worked via Bluetooth which has some limitations and of course doesn’t work at long ranges (so Tile uses a community approach for that). UWB that’s built into Apple’s recent iPhone 11 and 12 lineups and will work with AirTags and the new Tile tracker goes beyond Bluetooth and can record directional/spatial data which can offer an improved experience for finding lost items.

TC got a hold of early internal concepts for what the nex-gen tracker might look like (shown above):

Based on Tile’s internal concept art for the device (shown below), Tile’s UWB model will look similar to its other small trackers, like the Tile Mate and Tile Pro. It will also have a square shape, center button, and flat back to support being mounted using an adhesive. And like other Tile dongles, it can be attached to a keychain.

Another aspect will include an AR camera view to help customers find their lost items (just like AirTags):

The Tile app, meanwhile, will allow users to launch to an AR-enabled camera view that will help to guide them to the item’s location using overlays, like directional arrows and an AR view of the item’s location.

No word yet on when this year we might see Tile launch the new UWB tracker but it should arrive with iOS and Android support.

Interestingly, third-party accessories can be integrated into the Find My app with iOS 14, so Tile could be working with Apple on that despite some rough patches between the two.

9to5Mac has found evidence in iOS 14.3 code that item tracker support in the Find My app may require UWB. If that ends up being the case that could mean use will be limited to iPhone 11 and 12 users (in the Find My app). It’s possible Tile’s could include UWB and Bluetooth for support for many devices via the Tile app.

One thing is for sure, it will be fun to see the innovation in the personal item tracker market this year! For reference, the Tile Pro with removable battery goes for around $35 or less in a multi-pack. A UWB Tile tracker will probably be more expensive or in the same ballpark. And Apple could position AirTags at an even higher price point, but that’s not known at this point.

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Avatar for Michael Potuck Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.