Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple).

airtags mockup 4 blue text

The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an object in a way that is more accurate than GPS. The patents also reveal a large number of potential AirTags features.

AirTags design

The filings outline "a tag used for tracking physical objects," that is "a small, conveniently shaped device that can be attached to objects," and features "a robust structural design that ensures reliable use through a variety of conditions and environments." They suggest that "the tag may be waterproof or at least splash-proof, and may be capable of withstanding impacts, drop events, or other general trauma resulting from normal use of the tag." It may also be able to provide haptic and audible outputs.

AirTag pouch

Images in the patent also depicted the potential design of the tag, which happen to closely mirror the rumored design with a metallic disk on the rear and a plastic shell over the top and sides. The speculated leather pouch with a keychain ring also appears to have been illustrated.

The location-tracking and directional capabilities of the tags are said to be extremely accurate, such that "a smartphone may be capable of determining the location of a tag to an accuracy within three feet, and even to within one foot or less." The patents explain how the overall network environment that includes the the tags, smartphones, computers, and other devices provides features, presumably via an ultra-wideband connection.

AirTag case

Beyond locating a misplaced object, the tags may also be used to trigger actions on other devices when they are within a certain proximity or orientation. The patent gives the example of a tag being "positioned in a lobby of a building so that when individuals enter the lobby, their smartphone may detect that it is within a threshold distance of that tag, which in turn causes a map of the building to automatically be displayed on the smartphone."

The patents also explain that the tags may operate in a variety of modes. In a "normal operational mode... the tag may conserve power and establish momentary or intermittent communications with one or more other devices... to confirm the location and may exchange some information about the state or location of the tag. In this way, the tag can essentially periodically update other devices." Interestingly, this communication could apparently function in a one-way system, with the tag recieving no information from other devices despite transmitting it.

"Lost mode" would occur "in response to an unexpected loss of communication between the tag and one or more other devices," allowing the tag to privately route encrypted transmissions through third-party devices to send information to the owner's device. In other words, a lost tag could be silently discovered when another person simply enters its vicinity, allowing the owner to see the tag's location. A different mode could use the same system to report the location and status of tags that have been left at home, for example, via a connection with other devices in the home.

AirTags charging

The images also showed tags housed within a compact storage case, an Apple Watch Band, a cord or strap, and a circuit that can close or open. The patent also indicated that the tags could be charged by being mounted on a base, which may be similar to Apple's MagSafe charging cable.

AirTags Apple Watch

Curiously, images also showed how tags could be positioned on a user's body to monitor posture, track full-body motion to control a game or avatar, or monitor body movements in a workout.

AirTags posture

The tags may also be usable for augmented reality and AR gaming. For example, tags could be used as pieces for a game of AR chess since their location can be determineed with high accuracy. They could then be visually replaced in an augmented reality environment with computer-generated graphics.

AirTags motion tracking

While the patents do not prove that ‌AirTags‌ will have all of these features when they are announced, the length and breadth of the filings is striking. At minimum, they reinforce Apple's commitment to ultra-wideband technology. Nonetheless, the close correlation of these filings with various ‌AirTags‌ rumors is likely more than a coincidence.

For more information about ‌AirTags‌, see our full roundup.

Related Forum: AirTags

Top Rated Comments

symphony Avatar
21 months ago
I am going to surgically insert these into my wife and kids behind their necks. Definitely with my cat too.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
21 months ago

For example, tags could be used as pieces for a game of AR chess
Be still my beating heart.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GrumpyMom Avatar
21 months ago

I'm a crap golfer, so I would live these embedded in my gold balls. Spend way less time tracking them down.
You have gold balls?!! ?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SkippyThorson Avatar
21 months ago
These are going to be wildly interesting. Going from a tracker to motion-dots... The potential coupled with Lidar is going to be very, very fascinating for augmented reality.

Plus that side perk of finding my damn keys here and there.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WiseAJ Avatar
21 months ago
Shut up and take my money already Apple
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WiseAJ Avatar
21 months ago
How long before Tile issues a new statement about how Apple is being unfair and harming them with an unreleased and unannounced product that copies them?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

m1x mbp tags feature

Apple Lists 'M1X MacBook Pro' in YouTube Tags for WWDC Keynote Video

Wednesday June 9, 2021 7:19 am PDT by
Before WWDC, rumors largely driven by leaker Jon Prosser suggested that Apple would announce redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros during the conference. Those rumors, however, did not come to fruition. Interestingly, though, Apple lists "m1x MacBook Pro" as a tag for the WWDC keynote uploaded on YouTube. The tag, first spotted by Apple YouTuber Max Balzer on Twitter, is among other...
airtag in hand

New York Attorney General Issues AirTag Consumer Alert Over Stalking Concerns

Wednesday February 16, 2022 9:47 am PST by
Though Apple last week announced changes to AirTags that will likely help cut down on unwanted tracking, officials are starting to take notice of complaints. New York Attorney General Letitia James today sent out a consumer alert with "safety recommendations" to protect New Yorkers from AirTags (via The Mac Observer). Across the country, Apple AirTags are being misused to track people and...
apple store security patent

Apple Stores Could Stop Thieves With New Security Measures

Tuesday January 11, 2022 7:29 am PST by
Apple is exploring new security measures for Apple retail stores in an attempt to discourage and prevent smash-and-grab robberies. In a patent titled "Product-Display System" filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, spotted by Patently Apple, Apple details a number of mechanical systems for securing iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. The proposal effectively involves...
apple logo us flag smooth

Apple Ranks Seventh With Over 2,500 U.S. Patents Granted in 2021

Monday February 14, 2022 8:43 am PST by
Apple was granted 2,541 patents in the United States last year, surpassed by only six other companies, IFI Claims reports. In its rankings of the top 50 U.S. patent assignees in 2021 (via Patently Apple), IFI Claims Patent Services shows that Apple was granted 250 fewer patents in 2021 compared to the previous year, a nine percent decrease. Even so, Apple moved one place up the rankings in...
airtag android 1

Apple Releases 'Tracker Detect' App to Prevent Android Users From Being Tracked by AirTags

Monday December 13, 2021 10:44 am PST by
Apple today released a new "Tracker Detect" app on the Google Play Store, with the app designed to allow Android users to locate AirTags that might be nearby. According to the app's description, Tracker Detect looks for item trackers that are separated from their owner and that are compatible with the Find My Network, so it will locate AirTags and other Find My-enabled devices like the...
iphone 5g mmwave

Ericsson Sues Apple Again Over 5G Patent Licensing Infringements

Tuesday January 18, 2022 5:11 am PST by
Telecom giant Ericsson has filed another set of patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in a long-running dispute between the two companies over royalty payments for the use of 5G wireless patents in iPhones. In 2021, both companies sued each other in the US after negotiations failed over the renewal of a seven-year licensing contract for telecom patents covering 2G, 3G, and 4G...
oppo x rollable

Samsung Rumored to Launch First 'Rollable' Foldable Phone Later This Year

Thursday March 24, 2022 5:54 am PDT by
Samsung will add a third foldable device to its smartphone lineup this year that will likely feature a unique rollable form factor, according to a reliable leaker of Samsung's plans. Oppo X 2021 rollable phone concept The existing Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 have been relatively successful additions to Samsung's smartphone family, and the company reportedly plans to ship over 10...
targus backpack find my

CES 2022: Targus Debuts Backpack That Supports 'Find My' App Without an AirTag

Monday January 3, 2022 4:30 pm PST by
Accessory maker Targus today announced that its Cypress Hero EcoSmart Backpack with built-in support for Apple's Find My app will be available in spring or summer 2022 for a suggested price of $149.99 in the United States. The backpack is equipped with a small tracking module that allows the backpack's location to be tracked in the Find My app on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch...

Popular Stories

anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple's AR/VR Headset Nearing Completion as Board Gets Demo

Thursday May 19, 2022 9:52 am PDT by
Apple last week demonstrated its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple board members, indicating that the device is in an advanced stage of development and could see a debut in the not too distant future, reports Bloomberg. Apple has also ramped up development of the software that runs on the headset, with that software expected to be called "RealityOS," or rOS for short. Render via designer Ian ...