When AirTags were first announced, Apple touted them as “a super easy way to keep track of your stuff.” While most people use Bluetooth trackers like the AirTag, Tile, or Chopolo options to track their phones, wallets, backpacks, or other items to prevent loss or theft. However, AirTags quickly garnered news attention for all the wrong reasons: they are sometimes used to track people without their knowledge.
While iPhones already have the capability to track and alert you of unknown AirTags, the same wasn’t true for Android devices natively (you could manually scan with an Apple app – h/t @vaughnsnc) until recently. Announced at Google I/O 2023 earlier this year, the native “unknown tracker” feature finally started rolling out to Android users at the end of July.
There are a few caveats though:
- At this time, Android’s unknown tracker alerts only work with Apple AirTags. However, Google is working with tag manufacturers to expand this feature to detect other trackers as well.
- Rollout, as is usually the case with Android features is sporadic. I can personally confirm the feature is live on various Pixel devices. Reports also indicated the new unknown tracker feature is available on Samsung devices running OneUI 5.1.1, Sony Xperia phones, and the OnePlus Nord N20 5G.
- Slide down your notification drawer and tap the settings icon
- Scroll down and tap “Safety & emergency”
- Scroll down and tap “Unknown tracker alerts”
- Toggle “Allow alerts” to enable alerts
This last screen also shows you when your phone last scanned for unknown trackers, as well as gives you the option to manually perform a scan.
So how does it all work? Your Android device will NOT detect a tracker that is currently reporting the location of another device that is currently paired with the AirTag. What it will detect is an AirTag that isn’t communicating with another device, like an iPad. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it actually makes sense as the AirTags you’d want to find are ones that may have been slipped into your purse, backpack, pocket, or even attached to your vehicle somehow. As Google states, “an unknown tracker alert is sent when someone else’s tracker device is separated from them and detected to be traveling with you and out of Bluetooth range from the owner.”
If an unknown AirTag is detected, you’ll be given a notification (if enabled).
- Tapping the notification will show you a map of the last 48 hours of available tracking information.
- You’ll have the option to play a sound on the tracker so you can locate it. The owner of the AirTag will NOT receive a notification this is happening.
- Once you do find it, you can simply twist off the backplate and remove the battery. After the battery is removed, the AirTag will be disabled.
- The serial number should also be printed on the inside of the AirTag so you’ll want to take note of it so you can pass that information, along with any screenshots of the past 48 hours of tracking information, to local law enforcement if you feel threatened.