The AirTag, which is “difficult to lose”, is the new beginning of Apple’s ecology

The skill of losing everything is going to be lost.

After seeing AirTag, several friends who raised cats next to me said, "Give me a cat owner". Obviously they usually play a lot of peekaboo games with kittens, either under the sofa or under the bed, but the cat owner. Not responding yet.

It can be seen how worried people are about finding things and pets, and the Air-style prefix naming is enough to highlight its lightness and compactness, whether it is a suitcase, a keychain or a cat owner.

But is Apple really just launching a tracking locator?

From the function of AirTag and the technology behind it, it can be found that Apple is opening up a new accessory ecology and pushing the product strength of Apple devices to a new level.

Finding accurate to 0.1m, how does AirTag do it

AirTag can be said to be a physical continuation of Apple's "Find my iPhone" function. It also supports remote tracking of items. Fix AirTag to backpacks, pets, etc. and connect to Apple devices such as iPhone to manage and track them.

This small round object, as always, is the Apple logo on the front, and it also supports custom engraving services when purchased from the official website.

When it is close enough to the item wearing AirTag, you can find or use Siri to awaken it just like the iPhone awakens the Apple Watch, and AirTag will emit the corresponding sound to help people find it by listening to the voice.

It is worth noting that AirTag supports the "accurate recognition" function of the shortest 0.1m, coupled with the voice guidance, it is indeed "difficult to lose".

▲ The search function supports setting contact information

When an item or pet exceeds a safe distance, AirTag will also sound an alarm. Of course, this safe distance can be set, and once it cannot be found at all, it can also be set to "lost" mode. Once there are other Apple users Try to connect or touch with a mobile phone with NFC function, the original user's contact information will be displayed.

Earlier, we had a colleague found her Apple Watch in the trash through the "Find" function. For small items or users who often lose items due to poor memory, the search function is still quite valuable. The safe distance setting It is also good for monitoring lively little pets.

In addition, AirTag uses a small battery as an energy source. Due to the development of low-power Bluetooth technology, its battery life is extremely strong, and the unit of measurement is all years. Of course, if the battery life is about to run out, AirTag will automatically remind you to replace the battery.

The IP67 level of waterproof and splash-proof means that you can use it in more environments.

The AirTag that supports the search function relies on the Bluetooth connection. Even when it is offline, the AirTag can find its location through a "search" network composed of hundreds of millions of Apple devices such as other iPhones, and pass it to the original owner through a fully encrypted method. In the phone.

The reason why it can achieve accurate identification of 0.1m is related to the UWB ultra-wideband technology.

Apple’s layout of it can be traced back to the iPhone 11 series released in 2019, which integrates UWB technology with a built-in chip called U1.

At that time, the application of the U1 chip was still paired with Apple devices that also used the U1 chip to achieve faster data transmission through AirDrop.

We have also specifically introduced this chip in the previous article . Compared with common communication technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi in the industry, UWB technology is mainly used for short-distance precise connection and data transmission.

Like the lidar of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, UWB technology also confirms the distance by measuring the flight time of the signal back and forth.

Moreover, UWB uses low-energy pulse signals. Earlier we mentioned that UWB devices can reduce the detection accuracy to a range of 10 cm, far exceeding the 1-meter accuracy that Bluetooth, WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 can achieve, and it is not easy to repeat. Shock.

This also ensures connection stability and avoids interference from multiple devices.

▲ The extremely strong connection stability of AirPods comes from Apple's self-developed chip instead of Bluetooth

Of course, the application of UWB technology is not limited to the function of tracking items on AirTag. It is widely recognized by the industry in the field of Internet of Things, that is, the application in the field of smart home. The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag, which is also a smart tracker, is equipped with The corresponding function.

The Galaxy SmartTag can be changed to a smart home switch through Samsung devices. In Samsung's official introduction video , the Galaxy SmartTag can be an air-conditioning switch, a sweeping robot start switch, a home light switch, etc.

AirTag is the new beginning of Apple's accessories ecology

Apple's layout of UWB ultra-wideband technology is also not limited to AirTag, it will be the new beginning of Apple's accessory ecosystem.

At the beginning of April, Apple announced that it would open the "find" function similar to AirTag tracking to third-party manufacturers, and said that it would announce the standards of related chips so that third-party manufacturers can better cooperate with Apple devices with U1 chips to improve the tracking performance. Distance accuracy.

In the press release, Apple announced a number of products that have been connected to the "find" function, namely Belkin's SOUNDFORM Freedom True wireless headset, VanMoof's S3 and X3 electric bicycles, and Chipolo ONE Spot small tracker.

Their pairing experience is similar to AirTag. After the connection distance is exceeded, the system will record the last connection location, and once it is near the relevant location, after reconnecting via Bluetooth or UWB technology, the tracking range is further narrowed, and then confirmed by voice etc. Specific location.

Another special feature is that third-party products that access Apple’s "Find" function also support the same remote lock function as the iPhone and Apple Watch. Once the user can’t find the relevant device, set it to a lost state. It will automatically prohibit the connection to Bluetooth and basically cannot be used.

The iPhone is connected to a third-party device through the Apple ID to identify the only user. Unless the user has turned on family sharing, other people can use the device, otherwise only the original user's contact information can be seen when connected.

Paying attention to security is also an old tradition of Apple. It even built a secure webpage on its official website to introduce people to the capabilities of related security chips and its security principles.

This makes me think that when users sell third-party devices that have access to the "find" function in the future, second-hand recyclers may also require the removal of connection records and let them be sold without connecting to Apple devices such as iPhones.

Otherwise, a large number of second-hand MacBooks worth several thousand yuan may not be sold by recyclers before, and they can only dismantle and sell them.

▲ Apple's security chip restricts the reading of Mac information very strictly, and once a user forgets to clear the personal account information when selling the product, other people will not be able to use the Mac

Following MagaSafe, Apple’s accessory ecology has added a new role. Third-party products that have access to the "Find" function have richer forms and functions that can be explored. Chipolo ONE Spot, which is also a tracker, can be used. As the launcher of the mobile phone camera, it can even connect to voice assistants such as Siri, Google assistant, and Amazon Alexa for voice control.

These new accessories are part of Apple's MFi system, and as Apple further announces related access standards, the UWB function integrated by the U1 chip will also be used by more accessories.

On the one hand, it is because the connection stability of UWB technology and short-distance communication are more accurate. With the rapid growth of IoT devices, the anti-interference ability of Bluetooth or WiFi is relatively weak, and there is a risk of disconnection of multi-device connections.

Moreover, although Bluetooth technology has been developed for more than 20 years, the related protocols are still confusing, and there are still many devices that do not use the latest Bluetooth 5.0 protocol.

So far, many companies, including Apple, have only used Bluetooth as a pairing connection instead of data communication.

In addition, third-party accessories based on the search function are still a relatively closed ecosystem, and self-developed chips give Apple a stronger ecological control.

Given the interface of the chip's basic capabilities, as for the specific form and function, with Apple's appeal, third-party manufacturers are likely to invest a lot of resources in it, and the probability of good accessories appearing is much greater.

The self-developed U1 chip not only meets the requirements for the basic experience of accessory ecology, but also complies with Apple's consistent security and privacy principles.

Besides, for third-party manufacturers, access to Apple's accessory ecosystem is also a wide-ranging source of traffic. Excellent products may even enter the Apple Store to increase product exposure.

On the other hand, third-party accessories based on the search function are all part of the MFI accessory system. According to Apple’s past practices, third-party manufacturers who want to access the ecosystem have a high probability of completing MFI certification, or even purchasing corresponding certification from Apple. chip.

Relevant business income will continue to roll out with the continuous introduction of accessory products, and the sales will increase.

▲ The lightning charging cable may be the most familiar MFi certified accessory. Source: Naztech )

Finally, I want to emphasize that a wealth of accessories will also feed back to Apple devices such as the iPhone. Looking at the industry, there are only a handful of products and companies that can provide such a rich accessory ecology like Apple, and they will also become the competitiveness of the iPhone. .

As a friend of mine said, iPhone users always have the most choices to buy mobile phone cases, and after the "Find" function is opened, there will be more and more related accessories products. They all have strong advantages with iPhone and other Apple devices. The binding relationship.

Once these accessories leave the iPhone, they will not be able to exert their best capabilities or even be usable. This requires rethinking for users. Abandoning the iPhone does not only mean giving up a mobile phone, it may also mean giving up previous purchases. A lot of accessories.

In the past, we always said that iPhone, AirPods, MacBook, etc. constitute Apple's hardware ecological barriers, but in fact, accessories are also part of Apple's ecological barriers.

In the not-too-distant future, with the emergence of various third-party accessories that support the "find" function, this barrier will become thicker and thicker. They are the new driving force for future users to continue to stay in the Apple ecosystem.

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