Tile Questions Whether Apple’s New AirTag is “Fair Competition”


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Ahead of its testimony in front of Congress, Tile has bashed Apple for moving into its market with the new AirTag accessory.

A still from Apple's ad for the AirTag item tracker showing a hand holding a keychain with an AirTag attached to it

Unhappy with Apple’s newly announced AirTag tracking accessory, Tile is raising concerns yet again about unfair competition and Apple’s tightly controlled ecosystem.

In a statement to TechCrunch on the matter, Tile’s CEO CJ Prober said his company is “flattered” to see Apple “enter and validate” the category that Tile itself “pioneered.”

We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition. Unfortunately, given Apple’s well documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we’re skeptical. And given our prior history with Apple, we think it is entirely appropriate for Congress to take a closer look at Apple’s business practices specific to its entry into this category.

Apple responded by saying that it has always embraced competition “as the best way to drive great experiences for our customers,” adding that it has “worked hard to build a platform in iOS that enables third-party developers to thrive.”

Tile’s trackers use Bluetooth technology and a companion mobile app for iOS and Android to locate lost items, as well as let the user view where they were last seen on a map.

Why Is Tile Complaining About Apple?

It’s important to note that Tile is among the companies scheduled to testify in front of Congress about competition, Apple’s business practices, and other topics of interest. It is also a member of the “Coalition for App Fairness” that counts Spotify, Epic Games, and many other developers unhappy with Apple’s business practices as its members.

Related: Essential Smart Luggage Trackers for Your Next Trip

CJ Prober went on to highlight some of the differentiating features of Tile’s accessories.

Specifically, the CEO mentioned Tile’s partnerships with more than 30 premium brands, such as Fitbit, Intel, HP, and Skullcandy, along with seamless integration with all major voice assistants including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Tile and Apple’s Find My App

The AirTag requires a U1-enabled host device such as one of the models from the iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 family or the latest Apple Watch Series 6, for example. Apple recently began supporting compatible third-party accessories in the Find My app, like the Chipolo ONE Spot item tracker (Chipolo, of course, is another direct competitor to Tile).

Needless to say, Tile’s item trackers are currently unsupported in the Find My app and it’s unclear if the company is willing to add integration for the Apple ecosystem given its complaints about unfair competition. Furthermore, Tile is required to share a portion of its subscription revenues on the iOS platform with Apple, thanks to App Store policies.

Three iPhone screenshots depicting the Item tab in the Apple Find My app with a WanMoof S3 e-bike and a Chipolo item finder on a map, plus Belkin's earbuds in Lost Mode

On top of all that, the company has yet to update its family of trackers with ultra-wideband functionality. Taking it all in, Tile’s unease with the AirTag is perfectly understandable given the strong competition from the likes of Samsung, and now Apple.

As for Tile’s publicly voiced concerns about Apple’s ecosystem and first-party support, that’s something that regulators may indeed want to take a closer look at.

What Is Apple AirTag?

Similar to Samsung’s SmartTag, the AirTag is designed for tracking personal items such as keys, wallets, gadgets, and so forth. It uses both Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband (UWB) networking via the Apple U1 chip to detect nearby devices in Apple’s Find My network.

A lost or misplaced AirTag can be seen and tracked on a map, making it easy to find the item that the tracker is attached to. The AirTag will be available sometime in May from Apple’s website, starting at $29 for one while a pack of four will be sold for $99.

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