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Apple’s New AirTags Could Add To Antitrust Scrutiny

 |  April 21, 2021

Apple launched its long-anticipated AirTags on Tuesday, April 20, a quarter-sized tracking device that is a lightning rod for Apple’s critics and competitors who say the tech giant is abusing its power in the smartphone market, reported The Washington Post.

The US$29 gadget, Apple’s first new hardware product category in three years, is meant to help iPhone users find lost items. But it’s the type of device that smaller device-makers have been selling for years — and critics say Apple’s entry into the market will make it harder for competitors to operate.

By attaching an AirTag to an item like a purse or a keychain, anything can be located by one of the roughly 1 billion iPhones in the world. The AirTag’s signal can get pickup up by iPhones connected to Apple’s “Find My” network, a software service that launched in 2019 and helps Apple users find lost devices.

Tile, founded in 2012, offers four hardware devices that can be affixed to keychains, stuffed in wallets or stuck to bicycle saddles. Tile’s software is built into products like Bose headphones and Fitbit fitness trackers to offer a nearly identical localization service. But Tile says it’s at an inherent disadvantage to Apple, which can prioritize its own devices.

For instance, in order for Tile’s products to work properly on iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, users must give Tile permission to track their location at all times, and Apple took away the ability of users to select that option when setting up the app for the first time. But all Apple customers are defaulted into tracking for the Find My network during the phone’s initial setup.

Apple spokesman Shane Bauer said, “We have always embraced competition as the best way to drive great experiences for our customers, and we have worked hard to build a platform in iOS that enables third-party developers to thrive.” Bauer added that Apple would have to sell a lot of AirTags to catch up with Tile and he said Apple hopes Tile will join the Find My network.