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Google working on AirTag rival supported by 3 billion Android phones

Google’s tracking tags could rely on a network of 3 billion Android phones, making it the largest tracking network in the world (Getty Images/ iStock)
Google’s tracking tags could rely on a network of 3 billion Android phones, making it the largest tracking network in the world (Getty Images/ iStock)

Google is working on a Bluetooth tracker to rival Apple’s AirTag and Samsung’s SmartTag, according to an Android researcher.

The device, which is codenamed Grogu, features a speaker to emit a noise and ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology to support Bluetooth tracking.

UWB technology would allow users to physically locate the tracker via a compass-like interface on a phone, offering far more precision than Bluetooth. It also means that tracking can be done silently without the need for the tracker to emit an audible tone.

The technology was first spotted by Kuba Wojciechowski, who discovered code for a first-party tracker reportedly under development by Google’s Nest team.

“It turns out Google’s working on a first party tracker,” Wojciechowski tweeted in a thread detailing the device.

“It has an onboard speaker, similar to AirTags. It should come in a few different colours (although I don’t know any specifics at this time).

“I don’t have any information regarding the release timeframe of the tag, but if I had to guess I’d say Google’s gonna announce the technology at Google I/O and then launch it at the annual fall event, alongside new Google Pixel devices.”

The rumoured device follows reports that Google is working on incorporating its ‘Find My Device’ feature into a network that uses the Bluetooth capabilities of nearby Android devices.

If implemented, Google could rely on 3 billion active devices globally in order to find lost tags, making it the largest single tracking network in the world.

Patch notes from December 2022, first reported by tech publication Arstechnica, noted that “Find My Device now supports encrypted last-known-location reports for Android devices, using a new privacy centric framework”.

Similar to Apple’s anti-stalking features that have been introduced for its AirTags, Google will likely introduce a system that alerts users if their Android device detects a tracking device mirroring their movements.