This App Is Like a Homing Device for Bluetooth Signals

This App Is Like a Homing Device for Bluetooth Signals
Photo: Kamil Zajaczkowski, Shutterstock

Bluetooth devices are more common than ever. It seems the wireless technology is baked into almost every product we buy: it connects our iPhones to our Apple Watches and Fitbits, our wireless headphones to audio sources, and our game controllers to our consoles. Of course, the more tech goes wireless, the easier it is to go missing: I’ve lost my AirPods to the couch more than once, and I’m sure you have a similar experience. There’s an app, however, that makes locating just about any Bluetooth device as easy as you can imagine.

Sure, if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, you have Find My: This network of Bluetooth devices communicates with internet devices like the iPhone to update their location on the Find My map. If you check the app, you can see the last known location for all compatible devices. Apple’s U1 chip takes locating items a step further, as the tech literally guides you toward where the Bluetooth device is hiding.

But not all Bluetooth devices are compatible with this technology, and not everyone is in the Apple ecosystem. There are plenty of Bluetooth devices in your world that can go lost without a clear solution for finding them. Luckily, there are apps designed to help you track these items down, similar to how Apple’s U1 chip works, no matter what smartphone you happen to own.

Find your lost Bluetooth devices on iPhone and Android

The best free app I’ve seen so far is Wunderfind, available for iOS and Android. After skipping a slightly aggressive upgrade screen, you’re presented with a simple interface, showing just about all of the Bluetooth devices in your vicinity. Not only do I see the devices I own (from computers, to speakers, to headphones, and more), I see many devices I don’t recognise, presumably belonging to my neighbours. Bluetooth has a range of roughly 9.14 m, so it makes sense to pick up certain devices in the apartments next door.

Other free apps, like LightBlue and Bluetooth BLE Device Finder, also show you a list of the devices in your area, so this isn’t a uniquely great feature. However, what Wunderfind offers above these apps is guided tracking for free. When you tap on one of these devices, you’ll see a new screen appear, showing a large circle with a smaller blue circle in the middle. How big that blue circle is depends on how close you are to the Bluetooth device, a distance which is also represented by a percentage out of 100. For example, if you see a small blue circle with a score of 20 per cent, you know you’re not particularly close to your object: If you see a large blue circle with a score of 80 per cent, you’re nearly there.

Reviews for the app praise it for this feature: While you see many reviews thanking the developers for helping them find devices like Apple Pencils and earbuds, you’ll also see more important devices discovered, such as hearing aids. It makes you wonder why more companies don’t make apps like this one, or, if they do, why they don’t take the time to make them as well. Apple’s Find My is a good start, but it could clearly add more functionality like this.

It’s difficult to scan for AirTags with Bluetooth tracking apps

Where I think these apps can improve — and where it might not be their fault — is in identifying AirTags. You might have read about controversies surrounding the company’s tiny trackers, which are designed to help locate the various devices and items that easily go missing or are targets for theft. AirTags can go on your keys, so you can easily fish them out of your couch, as well as your backpack, in case someone “accidentally” picks it up and leaves your location.

In this respect, it’s a great product. However, you can quickly see the issue: If you can track an object, you can track a person. Apple did think of a workaround here, though: If your iPhone senses a strange AirTag in close proximity long enough, and that AirTag is separated from its owner, it will alert you both as an announcement your iPhone, as well as through an audible alert from the AirTag itself. There’s also an app for Android users to manually scan for AirTags in their vicinity.

From what I can gather, these Bluetooth tracking apps don’t pick up my AirTag. The fact that none of them do makes me wonder if there’s something specific about the AirTag that doesn’t make it show up in a Bluetooth scan. I’ve seen complaints about the Android AirTag tracker app not working unless the AirTag was separated from its owner for a certain period of time: Perhaps that’s what’s going on here, too. That’s tough to test, though, since I’m using my iPhone to run the Bluetooth scanning app, as well.

Apple isn’t the only Bluetooth tracker in the game, either: Tile also makes these devices, although I don’t own one myself. I can’t confirm if these apps can pick up Tile trackers in their scans, or if they have a similar problem to AirTags. Keep that in mind if you’re trying to use these apps to scan for Bluetooth trackers.

All that said, Wunderfind is a great option for finding your lost Bluetooth devices. If you want to pay the one-time $8.99 premium, you’ll gain access to “pro” features, such as playing a sound to find lost devices, notifications when devices are lost or found, a map of the Bluetooth devices in your area, and free updates for future pro features.