AirTag owner modifies case to make a thin, wallet-sized version

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware
An AirTag owner has taken apart the device, re-soldered the parts, and 3D-printed a new casing, to make a wide and slim version that will fit into a wallet.

Some Assembly Required. (Source: Andrew Ngal)
Some Assembly Required. (Source: Andrew Ngal)


Most people are just buying AirTags, some are taking them apart, but now one person has re-engineered his.

"I wanted to put an AirTag into my wallet," says new YouTuber Andrew Ngal, "so that I can also track its location. But I found out the AirTag is quite thick and will create a bulge in my wallet."

"So I modified the AirTag and gave it a new body," he continues.






The core of the process is taking the main logic board of the AirTag, and instead of having it atop the battery, move it so that the two pieces are side by side. Simply separating the parts, however, requires a heat gun to melt the glue holding them together.

Then the logic board has to be reconnected to the battery, which entails soldering wires to the board. And then soldering wires to the battery, which doesn't have the same obvious connection point.

Ngal also then had to design a new case and 3D-print it into a flatter shape. "It's not completely flat," says Ngal, "but you can see there's a pretty drastic difference in thickness."

"I would not recommend to anybody who is not familiar with hands-on electronic work because some components on the [printed circuit board are] really delicate," he continues, "and I actually broke off the power connector once. I had to solder it back on -- that was not fun."

While the result is a functioning AirTag that the Find My app can locate, Ngal does not address the issue of sound. Apple's AirTags use the white cover as part of the speaker system. So without it, or an equivalent, the modified AirTag may not be able to play quite such a loud tone when required.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 778member
    Apple ought to send this man a job offer.
    kiehtanPetrolDaveravnorodomcornchipjahbladebluefire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Good job! I agree it is too fat for many applications.  Making a new body with an attachment hole might be a new business for you. 
    twokatmewPetrolDavecornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    WaPo ought to love this.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,337member
    williamh said:
    Apple ought to send this man a job offer.
    YUP. Especially since I want Apple to make an Apple Card with Find My built in.
    genovellewilliamhroundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    MustSeeUHDTVMustSeeUHDTV Posts: 205member
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    pulseimageswilliamlondon
  • Reply 6 of 18
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,180member
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    One would hope the system is designed to disable tracking if this kind on tampering is performed. 
    williamlondonBeats
  • Reply 7 of 18
    Good for him, but this is not all that surprising or impressive.  I couldn't do it, but I expect an above average Arduino hobbyist would have no trouble doing the same.  And at the end of the day, his version isn't any smaller, it's just thinner (and twice as wide).  I'll be interested in seeing what real designers can do when they try to come up with a proper "Find My" wallet or wallet insert.
    dewmeargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 748member
    genovelle said:
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    One would hope the system is designed to disable tracking if this kind on tampering is performed. 
    It likely isn't, but the stalkee would still get a notification that they have an Airtag following them.

    At that point they can still get Apple and/or the police involved.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 297member
    mknelson said:
    genovelle said:
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    One would hope the system is designed to disable tracking if this kind on tampering is performed. 
    It likely isn't, but the stalkee would still get a notification that they have an Airtag following them.

    At that point they can still get Apple and/or the police involved.
    Only iPhones will notify a stalkee. Everyone else would be in the dark. 
    Beats
  • Reply 10 of 18
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,021member
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    Unless that stalker stalks on an android owner because Airtag will appear on the person’s iPhone screen too.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,617member
    Good for him, but this is not all that surprising or impressive.  I couldn't do it, but I expect an above average Arduino hobbyist would have no trouble doing the same.  And at the end of the day, his version isn't any smaller, it's just thinner (and twice as wide).  I'll be interested in seeing what real designers can do when they try to come up with a proper "Find My" wallet or wallet insert.

    Yeah, interesting proof of concept but not a product.

    However, it does very nicely raise the very valuable concept of separating the AirTag logic board from it's power source and packaging to reuse it as a modular component. Apple could easily follow this very simple model to embed AirTag capability into multiple other products that have a power source for the AirTag logic board, like MacBooks, AirPod Max, AirPod cases, or even smart cases for iPhones/iPads, which would not be redundant if it also works when these devices are powered down. Pretty much anything that can supply 3 VDC is a legitimate candidate for an embedded AirTag.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 595member
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    There are multiple sources for how to disable/remove the speaker.  Most people would physically break the device doing it, though...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 595member
    genovelle said:
    It only going to be a matter of time before some stalker takes out/disables the speaker from the AirTag.
    One would hope the system is designed to disable tracking if this kind on tampering is performed. 
    It is not - see the multiple online sources for how to disable/remove the speaker.  Most people would probably destroy the device trying, though...
  • Reply 14 of 18
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,337member
    dewme said:
    Good for him, but this is not all that surprising or impressive.  I couldn't do it, but I expect an above average Arduino hobbyist would have no trouble doing the same.  And at the end of the day, his version isn't any smaller, it's just thinner (and twice as wide).  I'll be interested in seeing what real designers can do when they try to come up with a proper "Find My" wallet or wallet insert.

    Yeah, interesting proof of concept but not a product.

    However, it does very nicely raise the very valuable concept of separating the AirTag logic board from it's power source and packaging to reuse it as a modular component. Apple could easily follow this very simple model to embed AirTag capability into multiple other products that have a power source for the AirTag logic board, like MacBooks, AirPod Max, AirPod cases, or even smart cases for iPhones/iPads, which would not be redundant if it also works when these devices are powered down. Pretty much anything that can supply 3 VDC is a legitimate candidate for an embedded AirTag.



    Most of these have Find My built in but you mean to be able to track the device while it’s off? That would be genius!

    Also the built-in AirTag logic board could be connected to the M1/A14 m etc. chip so it supports “smart charging”. Only charging it every 10 months or so, so that the AirTag battery doesn’t become overwhelmed and the battery life is extended.

    Im thinking it either has a separate AirTag battery or the last 1% of your device’s charge is dedicated to the internal AirTag.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 18
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,418member
    Beats said:
    williamh said:
    Apple ought to send this man a job offer.
    YUP. Especially since I want Apple to make an Apple Card with Find My built in.
    Like Apple's engineers couldn't figure out how to build one if they wanted to and have to hire this guy. 
    williamlondonargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 18
    kimberlykimberly Posts: 364member
    Beats said:
    williamh said:
    Apple ought to send this man a job offer.
    YUP. Especially since I want Apple to make an Apple Card with Find My built in.
    Like Apple's engineers couldn't figure out how to build one if they wanted to and have to hire this guy. 
    Having the technical skills to do it is not relevant. It is the idea and the get-up-and-go to realise the idea that Apple would be hiring. Go back to sleep.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 18
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,996member
    That wallet is pretty thick.  I've seen a lot of old guys who's wallets are about as thick as a Big Mac and held together with rubber bands. Rubber bands are also a theft deterrent measure against dippers, but these guy need it to keep the wallet closed.

    As is, this guys device would be right at home if some of the contents of their and his wallets were culled. It would make my wallet look like an AirBus. I would have radiused all the edges of the holder.

    He said the thickness of the finished product would "be down to the battery". If he'd used a CR2025 instead, it might have been a tad thinner but I think the PCB might have made a thinner battery a moot point.

    TrackR made a very thin version for wallets with radiuses edges, but it was a TrackR product and crap. If Apple ever makes a "wallet sized" AirTag, I'll snap one up. I could have used it a few years back.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 18
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,418member
    kimberly said:
    Beats said:
    williamh said:
    Apple ought to send this man a job offer.
    YUP. Especially since I want Apple to make an Apple Card with Find My built in.
    Like Apple's engineers couldn't figure out how to build one if they wanted to and have to hire this guy. 
    Having the technical skills to do it is not relevant. It is the idea and the get-up-and-go to realise the idea that Apple would be hiring. Go back to sleep.
    This product already exists. I’m fairly certain Apple is aware of it as they would’ve looked at everything that exists in this product field while planning AirTag. They don’t need to hire this guy. Also, clever pun, very original. 

    watto_cobra
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