Apple’s longstanding location-tracking applications Find My Friends and Find my iPhone are reportedly set for an imminent overhaul that will bring them together in a single iOS app. The app will also include the ability to track Apple-developed hardware tags. According to 9to5Mac, the new app will become available on macOS as a native app for the first time, based upon the iOS code — as a further demonstration of Marzipan cross-platform development.
Currently, Find My Friends serves as an opt-in way to track friends and family members, while the oddly named Find my iPhone tracks everything from personal AirPods, Apple Watches, and Macs to iPads and iPhones. Though each app has the same basic functionality — displaying your choice of a satellite or flat-shaded map with icons representing the current locations of tracked devices — they’ve been kept in separate iOS apps until now. Awkwardly, Mac users have had to access Find features through a web-based iCloud interface.
Today’s report suggests that Apple will combine the Find tools into a more powerful app with new features. A feature called Find Network will apparently allow you to track devices even when they aren’t connected to cellular or Wi-Fi networks, and Tile-like Apple tags that can be added to the same map will gain location-tracking.
One of the biggest issues facing third-party tag makers such as Tile has been that the ability to locate tagged items depended on other users loading the app, being within Bluetooth range of the item, and then conveying its location over a network connection. With somewhere around a billion active iOS devices out there, Apple-developed tags could be located with a background process and shared with the network — assuming the system doesn’t run afoul of the company’s privacy standards.
Apple’s tags appear set to use a low-power implementation of Bluetooth to offer tracking functionality similar to current AirPods, which is to say occasional rather than constant location updates. Each tag will be registered to your iCloud account but sharable with friends and will contain Lost Mode contact information readable by any Apple device. Using geofencing, tags will be able to trigger proximity- and location-specific notifications on paired devices.
The report doesn’t set a timetable for the tag hardware’s release but says it could be announced “as early as this September,” along with new iPhones. Setting the stage for the hardware, Apple’s new Find application would likely debut on June 3 at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference as a feature of iOS 13 and macOS 10.15.