University researchers have created an Android app that they claim is better than Apple‘s at finding an unknown AirTag or other Find My-enabled tracker. The AirTag is meant to be used for locating one’s lost items. However, the advanced location technology Apple‘s beacons contain makes them attractive to thieves, who might hide an AirTag in a vehicle or other expensive item as a target to be located and stolen under the cover of darkness when the owner is away or asleep.
Apple does provide an alert to iPhone owners if an unknown AirTag is detected nearby and traveling with the person, suggesting that unwanted tracking might be taking place. Apple also released an Android app with similar capabilities. However, Apple‘s Tracker Detect app for Android must be open and manually triggered to locate an AirTag. This means the user would have to be expecting a hidden tracker and remember to use the app for it to be of use.
Related: AirTag Dimensions: How Big Are They?
Finding Hacked AirTags
It has come to light recently that some AirTag owners have modified the devices to prevent them from making a sound. With an iPhone, an AirTag can be located with both a range and heading provided, so the sound isn’t critical for this purpose. However, the Android app can’t use this ‘Precision Finding‘ feature since it requires a phone that supports Apple’s ultra-wideband technology, meaning an iPhone 11, 12 or 13.
AirGuard, on the other hand, can help find a muted AirTag since it can narrow down the location of the tracker by checking its relative signal strength. A stronger signal generally indicates it’s closer. It is somewhat similar to the approach used by Tile’s app to estimate the distance to its Bluetooth beacons. With background checking and distance estimates along with a manual scan option and the ability to play sound on a fully functional AirTag, AirGuard seems to be the superior Android app for finding unwanted trackers.