Good luck

Android's AirTags detector app has one (very) fatal flaw

It'll find unknown AirTags, sure — but only if you know to run a manual scan.

Raymond Wong / Input

Fear of Apple’s AirTags being used for unauthorized tracking purposes have birthed a miracle: an Android app made by Apple. The app in question, called Tracker Detect, specifically targets AirTags and other Find My-equipped devices. It’s available now on the Play Store.

The much-anticipated release of AirTags earlier this year was met with thunderous applause from critics and consumers alike. Like the keyring trackers popularized by Tile, these coat button-sized devices can find just about anything you want — though Apple’s proprietary software makes that tracking even more precise and effortless.

That precision is great if you want it and terrifying if you don’t. Apple has already made it much easier for iOS users to understand when they’ve been subject to an AirTag ambush, but anyone without an iPhone has, until now, been left to fend for themselves.

It would’ve just been irresponsible of Apple to not release something similar for Android devices. Too bad the app isn’t all that useful in its current state.

Just download and scan — The new Tracker Detect app won’t enable full AirTags functionality. It’s still Android, after all.

The app basically just does one thing: scan. According to the Play Store description, Tracker Detect won’t look for just any AirTags, though; it only searches for AirTags that have been separated from their owners.

No Apple ID is required to use the app, nor is any other login. Once it’s been downloaded, you can just hit the blue scan button and wait for it to look around. If an unknown AirTag is found, users can bring their phones closer to it and get more information, like the product’s serial number. The app can also provide information about how to disable the AirTag manually.

One fatal flaw — Here’s the thing about this new app: It only works when users open it up and hit the scan button. There is no background functionality at all.

This is a confusing choice. If someone’s dropped an AirTag in your bag and you don’t even have an inkling it’s happened, there’s a slim-to-zero chance you’ll know to open the Tracker Detect app to conduct a scan. Unless you’re just routinely running scans, there’s no way for the app to alert you to an unknown AirTag’s presence.

Apple’s Tracker Detector is great for exactly one purpose: Finding an unknown AirTag when you already have some idea it’s there. Maybe Apple will realize the app needs to be expanded and add automatic scanning capabilities. If not… well, just cross your fingers and run a scan every once in a while, I suppose.