Google could make the AirTag alternative we really want

With the Apple AirTag stalking issues, Google has a real chance at taking over the tracking device market.

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Apple AirTags
Ray Wong / Inverse

Apple may be getting some real competition for its AirTag from Google. The search giant is reportedly working on its own Bluetooth tracking device, as noted by Kuba Wojciechowski, a frequent leaker of Google’s Pixel products who spotted references to Google-made locator tags and a tracker.

The project is currently codenamed “grogu,” named after the character from The Mandalorian that’s more affectionately known as Baby Yoda. Google clearly isn’t quite ready to reveal its Bluetooth tracking device just yet since we haven’t seen anything related to the device from official channels.

Precision tracking — ​​Wojciechowski says that the device is currently being developed by the Nest team, although it won’t necessarily be released under Nest branding. Google’s tracking device will have an onboard speaker, come in different colors, and will be compatible with Ultra-wideband (UWB) and Bluetooth Low Energy, according to Wojciechowski.

The UWB support means the tracker should work with Google’s Pixel 6 and 7 Pro smartphones that have UWB compatibility. UWB also means far more precision when it comes to locating the actual item that the tracker is attached to.

These rumored specs are all well and good, but we would like to see something that can really challenge Apple’s AirTags. Currently, AirTags are in a weird space between being effective at finding your lost items and not being able to be used maliciously.

To prevent the possibility of being used for stalking, Apple alerts iPhone users if there’s an unknown AirTag traveling with them. However, this can also tip off potential thieves who are instead alerted that whatever they stole has an AirTag on it. This is undoubtedly a hard equation to answer, but we’re curious to see how Google addresses this issue of safety versus theft prevention.

On a more practical level, we’d like to see Google’s tracking device offer more form factors than Apple’s singular round design. If you look at third-party companies like Tile, it offers a standard design with a hole in it to go around keys, but also has its Slim design that fits into a wallet. While Apple’s AirTag can be suited up with different accessories to change its form factor, we feel like Google should just make devices that can easily hook up to different items instead of forcing customers to buy more accessories.

Google could also set out to undercut Apple’s AirTag and its $29 starting price. While it’s not that expensive on its own, buying multiple AirTags for your keys, your backpack, and several devices can add up. Considering Tile offers its similar tracking device for $20, Google could land on a price that falls somewhere in the middle.

Potentially coming soon — Google hasn’t officially acknowledged its work on a Bluetooth tracker yet, but Wojciechowski says that the company might announce it during its Google I/O event later this year, in time for a release during Google’s annual event in the fall.

We still can’t count Apple out completely, though. Following its AirTag debacle, Apple updated the design to combat unwanted tracking in February 2022. However, industry leaker Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple will work on a second-gen AirTag, considering the solid sales numbers the tracker put up.

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