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Google at I/O 2023 announced that it would leverage the over 1 billion Android devices in use to find your lost items. The Find My Device (FMD) network was originally supposed to launch this summer, but Google is now delaying it.
Back in May, Google said Bluetooth trackers from Tile, Pebblebee, and Chipolo would be compatible with the Find My Device network. The two latter brands already opened pre-orders, but Chipolo communicated a delay two weeks ago.
Google announced today that it’s delaying the launch of the Find My Device network. It comes down to unknown tracker alerts that automatically warn you if somebody is monitoring your location with a nefariously placed tag. While Google already said that all Bluetooth tags compatible with the FMD network will support Android’s unknown tracker alerts, the iPhone does not have similar detection capabilities.
At the start of May, Google and Apple announced an industry-wide unwanted tracker alert specification. Bluetooth trackers that abide by that approach will be discoverable by Android and iOS. The two mobile platforms have committed to add support once the spec is finalized.
Google is not launching the Find My Device network “until Apple has implemented protections for iOS.” By making sure iPhone owners can find FMD-compatible trackers, this should hopefully reduce and help prevent the Google network from being used to track Apple devices without awareness from their owners. That would reflect badly on the FMD network and associated products, which is an ongoing occurrence for AirTags.
Notably, Google confirmed to us that the unwanted AirTag tracker alerts that Android is rolling out starting today are based on a custom implementation that is different from the upcoming spec. Android is implementing the alerts now to allay customer concerns since the Apple tracker is widely available.
In terms of when the Find My Device network will launch, Google only mentions the expected end of 2023 finalization of the spec. There will presumably be another waiting period for Apple to update iOS.
What is the Find My Device network
Today, Find My Device can locate lost phones and watches that are connected to the internet. (There’s also support for some Bluetooth headphones based on their last known connection to your phone/tablet.)
The new Find My Device network can “locate devices that are offline or that don’t have location capabilities.” This works by having the 1+ billion Android devices in the world periodically check for nearby devices to crowdsource the location of missing ones.
Behind the scenes, Google says “location data crowdsourced from the network is end-to-end encrypted, and that it “can’t see or use it for any other purposes.” The Find My Device network can locate phones and tracker tags, as well as headphones, including Pixel Buds, as well as those from Sony and JBL.