Tile bemoans Apple AirTags launch, raises antitrust concerns

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in General Discussion
Tile CEO CJ Prober expressed antitrust concerns about Apple's Find My app and AirTags just hours after the Cupertino tech giant announced the tracking accessory that is set to compete against Tile's main product line.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Apple on Tuesday unveiled its long-awaited $29 AirTag tracking devices, which are equipped with Ultra Wideband chips and integrate with Apple's Find My app.

In a statement to TechCrunch a few hours after, Prober said Tile remains skeptical of Apple's AirTag platform, citing the company's "history of using platform advantage to unfairly limit competition."

A top legal executive from Tile is also expected to testify in an upcoming antitrust hearing being held by the U.S. Senate on April 21. At the hearing, Tile is reportedly planning to ask Congress to probe Apple's business practices related to the Find My platform.

Tile has accused Apple of anti-competitive behavior in the past and in 2020 testified against the tech giant in a House Judiciary Committee hearing. In May of that year, Tile also called on the European Commission to launch an antitrust investigation of Apple.

Earlier in April, Apple opened up its Find My tracking network to third-party manufacturers. That could provide a damper against some concerns that Apple's own AirTag devices have an unfair advantage over competitors.

Apple's AirTag will become available to order on April 23, and will start shipping out to customers on April 30. Compared to Tile devices, AirTags feature tight integration with Apple's Find My network and support for Precision Finding via Ultra Wideband. Tile, for its part, also plans to release a UWB-equipped tracking accessory later in 2021.

The full statement from Tile CEO CJ Prober is available below.

Our mission is to solve the everyday pain point of finding lost and misplaced things and we are flattered to see Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world, enter and validate the category Tile pioneered.

The reason so many people turn to Tile to locate their lost or misplaced items is because of the differentiated value we offer our consumers. In addition to providing an industry leading set of features via our app that works with iOS and Android devices, our service is seamlessly integrated with all major voice assistants, including Alexa and Google. And with form factors for every use case and many different styles at affordable prices, there is a Tile for everyone.

Tile has also successfully partnered with top brands like HP, Intel, Skullcandy and fitbit to enable our finding technology in mass market consumer categories like laptops, earbuds and wearables. With over 30 partners, we look forward to extending the benefits of Tile to millions of customers and enabling an experience that helps you keep track of all your important belongings.

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. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further in front of Congress tomorrow.

In response, Apple said the Find My network predates Tile and notes the device maker can offer support for the system if it so chooses. Apple's statement follows.
We have worked from the very beginning of iPhone to help protect the privacy of users' location data, giving them transparency and control over how all apps may access and share their location. Apple created Find My over a decade ago to help users locate and manage lost devices in a private and secure way. Since then, we have expanded Find My to help users keep tabs on the other important things in their life -- from sharing location with friends and family members, to locating third-party products like Van Moof bikes and Chipolo item finders. We have always embraced competition as the best way to drive great experiences for our customers, and we have worked hard to build a platform in iOS that enables third-party developers to thrive.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,120member
    Not that I am in the market for such things, but the airtag implementation seems a superior product.
    It isn’t an example of Sherlocking in IMHO.

    I am also uncomfortable with the rush to label new competition as anticompetitor/ antitrust. It is rapidly becoming a tool to get the cloying embrace of mother government to protect businesses from competition, with of course quidpro pro for the venal politicians.
    DAalsethmike1Bombdoen2itivguypulseimagesrepressthiscaladanianGabyBeatswilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 23
    Seems to me Tile needs to quick squawking and get on Apple's "Find My" band wagon.
    jknashmike1n2itivguypulseimagesrepressthisStrangeDaysBeatschaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,188member
    Tile is such an odd entry into this discourse. Their entire argument seems to be that Apple shouldn't be able to enter a market because they develop the operating system. (Raising the question about every other software and hardware product Apple have.)

    I mean, wouldn't Apple entering the market be *good* for competition. Especially if any company can also make a comparable device under the FindMy framework?

    I think the real issue here is that a lot of people have tried Tile and found it doesn't live up to their advertising, like a lot of BT trackers, they seem to fail at staying connected.

    Also Tile didn't pioneer the field, they weren't even close to being the first. In fact the LE specification for Bluetooth had already earmarked this as a potential use case.
    george kaplann2itivguypulseimagesStrangeDayssphericchaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 837member
    Apple can develop their version of Tile unless Tile has a patent on their tech. And Tile can copy the features of AirTag unless Apple patented their tech. 

    And, of course, Tile can work with all the PC vendors. 
    pumpkin_kingwilliamlondonjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    sbdudesbdude Posts: 83member
    At what point did competition become anti-competitive? At what point did vertical or horizontal integration become anti-competitive? Doesn't Tile have a market outside of Apple? The world has turned upside down with no end in sight.
    mjtomlinentropysJapheycaladanianwilliamlondonchaickajony0applguywatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 6 of 23
    ppietrappietra Posts: 271member
    Funny how Samsung is already selling a similar product and service and Tile didn’t complain! Is Apple forbidden to compete with Samsung?
    DnykjpRfC6fnBsJapheyn2itivguypulseimagescaladanianBeatschaickajony0applguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,274member
    I believe Tile is threatened by more than Apple. Apple’s platform allows for competition to compete without having to buildout their own network. The barrier to entry has been erased over night. 
    mike1n2itivguychaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 122member
    I hope the AirTags give advanced warning of when the battery is about to die. I have several Tiles and a few of them died without me knowing about it, so I can't find what they're attached to.
    pulseimagescaladanianBeatschaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,317member
    What blows my mind is that when pretty much every competitor to Air Tags doesn't have user replaceable batteries, Air Tags DO. Not exactly what you would expect from an Apple product. I think that's shocking, and awesome. Not a fan of the trackers that you basically have to throw out after a year, or subscribe to in order to get new ones. 
    n2itivguypulseimagesStrangeDayscaladanianchaickakurai_kagewatto_cobraTRAG
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Tile have access to the FindMy network and Apple have licensed the UWB tracking chip. Apple have given them all the software and hardware tools they need to create a real competitor to AirTags.

    Apple creating tightly integrated accessories or even vertical accessories that leverage their own technologies and hardware is not anti-competitive. ApplePencil is a great example of this.

    This is really the case of Tile not understanding how weak their position in the market has always been, they make a commodity product. As long as Apple hasn't stollen some IP I can't really see what Tile can do here. They are trying to jump on the anti-competitive bandwagon but when you drill down on their particular case, it really doesn't add up. Worse for them, Samsung has released a similar AirTag network and products so AirTags already has competition. Tile should have really spent more time innovating than complaining how unfair life is.
    n2itivguypulseimagescaladanianchaickakurai_kagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    I don't agree with Tile on everything but most of the people posting do not appear to be aware of the actual complaints which seem pretty valid. 
    1. AirTags are automatically allowed to be found whereas Apple makes it very difficult for you to use Location Tracking with the Tile. In my own experience the "allow always" setting was disabled multiple times over several IOS updates.
    2. AirTags will have at least 6 months of exclusivity in the market before Tile will be able to get their devices approved.
    3. If Tile decides to support Find My it will mean that they have to create a second product line because Find My is a proprietary protocol which Tile will not be able to use for their devices that support Android. 

    That being said it seems like eventually Tile will be pretty competitive since Apple charges more for the key fob to put the AirTag in than the AirTag itself! Tile on the other hand can just directly go on your key chain. 

    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    sbdude said:
    At what point did competition become anti-competitive? At what point did vertical or horizontal integration become anti-competitive? Doesn't Tile have a market outside of Apple? The world has turned upside down with no end in sight.
    It’s anti-competitive because Tile can’t compete with the new and better capabilities of Airtags. It’s literally the definition! Sheesh!

     LOL!
    pulseimagescaladanianBeatsEsquireCatsjony0kurai_kagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member
    The big issue here is that Apple does not allow 3rd party apps to indefinitely access Bluetooth while they're in the background on iOS. So Tile's tracking system is left at a disadvantage as it is not able to constantly monitor unless their app is open and running. The FindMy system in iOS is allowed, specifically because it is a system level service.

    So the question becomes is it ok for Apple to allow its operating system to do this, but not 3rd party apps? And of course the answer is, yes.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 732member
    slurpy said:
    What blows my mind is that when pretty much every competitor to Air Tags doesn't have user replaceable batteries, Air Tags DO. Not exactly what you would expect from an Apple product. I think that's shocking, and awesome. Not a fan of the trackers that you basically have to throw out after a year, or subscribe to in order to get new ones. 
    The new Tiles have replaceable battery 
    jony0
  • Reply 15 of 23
    glennhglennh Posts: 48member
    mjtomlin said:
    The big issue here is that Apple does not allow 3rd party apps to indefinitely access Bluetooth while they're in the background on iOS. So Tile's tracking system is left at a disadvantage as it is not able to constantly monitor unless their app is open and running. The FindMy system in iOS is allowed, specifically because it is a system level service.

    So the question becomes is it ok for Apple to allow its operating system to do this, but not 3rd party apps? And of course the answer is, yes.
    The only issue here is that Apple does not have to let anyone into its hardware, software and operating systems period! Just like in sports, the home team will always have a distinct advantage! Apple can not be forced under any U.S. Constitutional legal mandate to research, patent, design and manufacture it products for the benefit or profit of others entities not belonging to its shareholders and approved by its Board of Directors and Executives appointed by this Board.

    People, companies (yeah, I am referring to Epic) and Legislative “Hypes” need to get over the fact they are not entitled to the work of others. The simpler fact is that are all invited guests in the Apple Ecosystems and there are others choices if they do not like the rules, competitive products and behavior of the Apple INNKEEPER! 
    chaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    So when they wanted Apple to open up, they didn't mean for everyone else.
    edited April 20 caladanianwilliamlondonchaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    Get used to it - now that Apple's achieve the scale and scope it has, every two bit company in the world who has a competing product will attempt to use overbearing government's antitrust units as a bludgeon against Apple.
    EsquireCatsjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    stuartfstuartf Posts: 52member
    glennh said:
    mjtomlin said:
    The big issue here is that Apple does not allow 3rd party apps to indefinitely access Bluetooth while they're in the background on iOS. So Tile's tracking system is left at a disadvantage as it is not able to constantly monitor unless their app is open and running. The FindMy system in iOS is allowed, specifically because it is a system level service.

    So the question becomes is it ok for Apple to allow its operating system to do this, but not 3rd party apps? And of course the answer is, yes.
    The only issue here is that Apple does not have to let anyone into its hardware, software and operating systems period! Just like in sports, the home team will always have a distinct advantage! Apple can not be forced under any U.S. Constitutional legal mandate to research, patent, design and manufacture it products for the benefit or profit of others entities not belonging to its shareholders and approved by its Board of Directors and Executives appointed by this Board.

    People, companies (yeah, I am referring to Epic) and Legislative “Hypes” need to get over the fact they are not entitled to the work of others. The simpler fact is that are all invited guests in the Apple Ecosystems and there are others choices if they do not like the rules, competitive products and behavior of the Apple INNKEEPER! 
    It makes no sense to give direct unfettered access to hardware and software. This would be a security nightmare. Companies give access to underlying hardware and software features through APIs. Apple do this all the time with it's API frameworks

    In this instance Apple published details and the APIs for "Find My" at last years WWDC. Which is why we saw third parties announce Find My integration as recently as last week

    Apple instantly gave any willing competition access to a potential network of a billion iPhones. If anything Apple have increased the value of Tiles proposition in this instance.

    chaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,188member
    mjtomlin said:
    The big issue here is that Apple does not allow 3rd party apps to indefinitely access Bluetooth while they're in the background on iOS. So Tile's tracking system is left at a disadvantage as it is not able to constantly monitor unless their app is open and running. The FindMy system in iOS is allowed, specifically because it is a system level service.

    So the question becomes is it ok for Apple to allow its operating system to do this, but not 3rd party apps? And of course the answer is, yes.
    Background apps don't get to be a performance/battery drain on iOS. The FindMy system prevents the duplication by providing a universal platform that Tile can also use.
    edited April 21 chaickajony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23
    chaickachaicka Posts: 238member
    genovelle said:
    I believe Tile is threatened by more than Apple. Apple’s platform allows for competition to compete without having to buildout their own network. The barrier to entry has been erased over night. 
    That’s essentially the key point. Now, any device maker in the world can simply build or integrate better tracking without heavy R&D investment and threatens Tile’s main market lead.

    In short, Apple helped to create competition to Tile’s business and Tile isn’t happy about that.
    jony0watto_cobra
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