Apple thinks my AirPods are following me

Apple is losing track of my AirPods, which could indicate a broader issue with iCloud’s ability to associate devices with its devices via unique identifiers.

You may have heard a buzz about the Apple AirTag in recent months. This lightweight tag, which Apple sells for $29, can be clipped onto just about anything to keep track of things. It can also be attached to something or put in a pocket or purse.

As a result, malicious parties have in some cases used the device to monitor people, prompting Apple to take action to alert its customers when AirTag detects someone might be planted there by a malicious party, such as in a briefcase book.

I’ve encountered a strange and related phenomenon in recent weeks: Apple mistakenly thinks my stuff is tracking me.

I’ve repeatedly received a notification on my iPad mini screen that reads, “AirPods Pro detected: AirPods Pro have been moving with you for a while. The owner can see their location. You can play a sound to find them.” The alert, the first time it appears, gives you options to leave the alert on or off.

The point of the caveat is that just like AirTags, other i-devices, including AirPods, can be put in someone’s bag or pockets and used as a tracking device to keep track of a person’s movements.

also: Apple plans to make it easier to find unwanted AirTags

However, in this case, the warning is completely false. These are my AirPods Pro, which I’ve had for years now as I’ve been able to check this with my iPad to play a sound on my AirPods.

Apple tech doesn’t know these are my AirPods. The strange behavior began to appear in February.

I’m not alone in experiencing this annoying false alert. The AirPods support user forum shows that many people in recent months have been experiencing the same frustration.

“Annoying alert from Find My iPhone,” Fufi1973 wrote on April 18, in the Apple discussion forums.

Fovey continues,

I keep getting alerted that my AirPods Pro are not mine. Tried forgetting it and resetting it several times. It still happens several times a day. I am disturbed. I get it on my phone and iPad every time I open the case and use my AirPods. I play the sound to make sure it’s really my voice and it’s my own.

There are many examples of this.

“I have my airpods and they are connected to my phone but a notification pops up saying that air pod professionals have been detected near you and they are my airpods, what should I do to reset them?” Manny321_13 writes on April 12th.

Users also reported an issue with their AirTags not being recognized.

also: Lose your iCloud usage from Apple, and you’ll lose more storage space

“I get constant notifications that there’s an air card near me, but it turns out they’re my signs. Shouldn’t my phone know the difference?” Joe Thomas writes 3 on February 8.

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In each of these cases, the suggestions given are to reset the device, AirTag, or AirPods, whatever is misbehaving.

It’s ironic, as many of the entries in the Apple AirPods support user forum are of the “Lost my AirPods” type, asking for help on how to find AirPods. (Note: To intentionally track your AirPods, you need to have an iCloud account and turn on the “Find My” capability of the respective AirPods.)

also: Apple locked my iCloud account for five days, with no warning, no explanation, no excuse

Multiple inquiries with Apple PR had not been answered at the time this report was published. It’s worth noting that Apple has published a note promising a “series of updates that we plan to introduce later this year,” which include something like “find searches” for AirTags and “purify the logic of the spam tracking alert.”

The note does not mention any unwanted alerts.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Apple’s software isn’t always able to recognize my AirPods as mine. The way AirPods connect—or don’t—is a frequent source of frustration, in my experience.

also: Remember when Apple seemed to be aware of its own products?

I have an iPhone, a MacBook, two iPad Pro and an iPad mini. They all, at certain times, want to grab AirPods as a Bluetooth output device.

This can lead to real comedy when the device is I no You want to use the hold for the AirPods, thus blocking them from the device I really want to use the device with.

An example that occurs frequently is when I get out of the house, with my iPhone in my pocket, I put on one of my AirPods, and I say, “Hey, Siri, call Tommy.” Unbeknownst to me, by default, without my knowledge, the AirPod was connected to my MacBook instead of my phone.

So the message I get is that Siri can’t make a call right now. Then I have to take out the iPhone and pick an AirPod to connect it.

The result is that AirPods have a lot of options, but you don’t know what you really want to do.

also: One thing Apple will definitely announce at WWDC (and four more it will definitely announce)

What can one conclude? The fact that the same problem appears in more than one type of device, both AirTags and AirPods, indicates that the problem is larger than individual types of devices. Moreover, the fact that the problem is intermittent indicates that something periodically breaks down.

And the fact that AirTags and AirPods are linked to iCloud with an owner via a unique identifier indicates that the problem is not a Bluetooth issue and more an iCloud services issue. It is conceivable that iCloud periodically loses the association between devices and unique identifiers.

It’s all guesswork. Without Apple’s response, we can only guess. Apple will host its annual developer event, WWDC, from June 6-10. Maybe that might bring some clarity.

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