Apple's Limits on Third-Party 'Find My' Integration Under Scrutiny
Apple last month introduced the new "Find My" Network Accessory Program, built to allow third-party products to work with Apple's own Find My app. While Apple's AirTags have yet to be formally announced, this program was seen as a way for Apple to level the playing field with competing Bluetooth location trackers, like Tile, and avoid accusations of Apple monopolizing the market.
In a new report today by The Washington Post, there are more aspects to this program that haven't been previously detailed, including far stricter rules for third-party companies using the Find My app. According to an anonymous developer who shared a secret 50-page PDF from Apple about Find My, customers who use Apple's app to locate a device will be barred from using third-party services simultaneously.
Although the details remain sparse, this suggests that while you will be able to link a Tile tracker to Find My and use Apple's app to locate a lost wallet, for example, you would then be prevented from using Tile's own app to do the same. Additionally, because of Apple's restrictions to "always allow" location access, every outside company will have to ask each Apple user for permission to obtain their location, which is a notable hindrance for item location apps.
Another issue pointed out by developers is their limited access to the iPhone's Bluetooth antenna and other Apple hardware. While the Find My app can use these pieces of hardware whenever it needs to, third-party software can only use the Bluetooth antenna within certain thresholds, and if the developers go beyond that Apple cuts their access off and prevents the software from working. Notably, according to these developers, Apple does not inform them what the specific threshold is.
Following the announcement of Apple's Find My app and amid the rumors swirling of Apple's own Bluetooth tracking hardware, Tile began taking action against Apple. The company accused Apple of abuse of power and of illegally favoring its own products in a letter sent to the European Union in May. Tile said that Apple was making it more difficult for users to operate the Tile Bluetooth trackers on iOS devices, "by selectively disabling features that allow for seamless user experience."
Despite the claims made by developers in The Washington Post today, Apple spokesman Alex Kirschner said that the company sees its Find My Network Accessory Program as helpful to smaller companies that lack resources to build a location-finding service: "If you were a smaller player interested in getting into the finding space and you haven’t built a finding network, this allows you to do that." Apple has denied that its policies are anticompetitive.