Should you worry about stalkers using an AirTag on you?
A few have already been victimized
Anyone who’s ever owned a piece of technology in the last two decades has had the anxiety-ridden experience of misplacing their favorite devices somewhere. It’s become such a problem that a few companies have created a niche for tracking devices specifically made to track wayward devices. Breaking out of that niche market, Apple recently launched its own popular version of the device called the AirTag. However, such a tracking device does come with a worrying problem for privacy-conscious individuals: Can stalkers use an AirTag to stalk their targets?
The story so far
Recently, a Sports Illustrated model Brooks Nader revealed that someone used the tracking device to follow her around. While she was partying in New York with friends, an unknown party slipped an AirTag into her coat pocket. The device had been tracking her for hours before her iPhone eventually alerted her to the device’s tracking as she was walking home.
Nader’s discovery is currently the most widely reported incident of unauthorized tracking using an Air Tag. However, the phenomenon has already been happening outside of celebrity circles. For example, a public Facebook post from user DAnna Biscoe-Farrell describes how someone attached an AirTag to her truck. The device had also been tracking her for miles before her iPhone alerted her to its existence.
With two major incidents tattling on the device’s more nefarious potential, is it finally time to consider the AirTag a security risk?
What are AirTags?
Apple launched the AirTag last year. Instead of just a spartan tracking device, the brand turned the device into a fashionable device to own. Users can add engravings and personalized key rings to go along with the new device. It even has a relatively affordable price tag, offering the device for only a decent US$ 29 per piece.
In terms of size, the AirTag is just as small as a poker chip. Though Apple does want its users to flaunt the tag with accessories, the device’s diminutive size does allow for its users to hide it from plain sight.
Using the AirTag is a simple process, too. The device pairs with a user’s iPhone (or other Apple device) using the Find My app. They can then check Find My to know where the tag is located.
Now, as you might have noticed in the above reports, Apple will also alert users if an unauthorized AirTag is somehow following them around without their knowledge. It can notify users either with an iPhone alert or chirps that the tag will eventually play. It’s a convenient security feature designed to prevent malicious tracking.
Should you be worried about stalkers?
The AirTag’s description does set up a double edged sword (or, more appropriately, reveals two sides of the same poker chip). The AirTag is inherently useful. It can help users find lost devices with a simple app. However, its unassuming design can become a security risk with enough malicious ingenuity.
However, before we get into why an AirTag is a bad idea, let’s run down the pros of the AirTag’s security features. Compared to other tracking devices, the AirTag was specifically designed to prevent unwanted tracking. Other devices in the market don’t even have alerts if you’re carrying an unauthorized tracker. For example, a quick search on Amazon and Lazada pings unbranded GPS trackers that can easily track people or vehicles without consent for a fraction of the price. Tile, the leading tracking brand before the AirTag came along, even offers different shapes and sizes. Relatively speaking, the AirTag protects against stalking more than any other product in the market.
That said, the AirTag’s security measures are still severely lacking. For one, the device will alert victims only if they own Apple devices. If you’re carrying someone else’s AirTag on your person but don’t own an Apple device, then you’re in potential and unknowable danger until the AirTag chirps. While Apple has made great strides in creating a robust ecosystem for its products, the Apple-exclusive has inevitably ostracized Android users from its security blanket.
Further, the sizable delay between attaching an unauthorized AirTag and alerting the followed user can be too late. In the above incidents, it took hours before the victims discovered the AirTags on their persons. By then, the stalker could have already attacked or discovered where the victim lives.
Finally, as a smaller niggle on the AirTag’s features, Apple doesn’t really offer any solution once a device discovers an errant AirTag. Though authorities can certainly check who owns the AirTag, Apple doesn’t have a system in place that can easily report stalkers.
What should you do if someone attached an AirTag on you?
Given the delay before an actionable alert, there aren’t a lot of hard-hitting solutions you can take against a stalker. However, that’s still no reason to panic.
If you detected the AirTag before you reached home, don’t go straight to your house. Leading a stalker to where you live is the worst case scenario. Instead, lead the device somewhere far from where you live. Once you’re in a safe and untraceable place, you can figure out what to do with the device.
The easiest solution is to throw the device away. Disposing the tracking device can already throw the stalker off. However, don’t attempt to destroy the tag. Besides alerting the stalker that you discovered their device, you run the risk of damaging the tag’s battery. A damaged battery is a safety risk and can explode.
There are, of course, more rigorous methods you can try to bring the stalker to justice. A functioning AirTag has the linked Apple device attached to its hardware. Investigating authorities can identify and locate where the owner of the tag is. Once you discover the tag and have transferred to a different location, you can report the tag to the police.
In terms of preemptive measures, always keep your things in sight especially objects that can easily hide a small object. Though people can easily slip something small into your things without you knowing, there’s no harm in keeping your belongings safe and staying away from strangers suspiciously close to you.
SEE ALSO: Apple’s Find My service can now locate e-bikes, earbuds
Nothing Ear (2) now available in Singapore: Price, features
Truly authentic sound
London-based tech brand Nothing has launched the Ear (2) TWS earbuds in Singapore.
It is priced at SG$ 199 and will initially be available on Limited Edt from March 23. Free tryouts will be available at Challenger stores in Bugis Junction, Vivo City, and Causeway Point.
General sale will commence starting on April 8 at all Nothing partner stores in Singapore, both online and offline, including Lazada and Shopee.
Truly authentic sound
The Hi-Res Audio-certified earbuds feature an 11.6mm custom driver for deep bass and crystal-clear highs. Its LHDC 5.0 codec technology ensures the finest sound details are transmitted at frequencies up to 24 bit/192 kHz.
The Ear (2) is also engineered with Nothing’s best noise cancellation technology yet, achieving up to 40dB of reduction.
With personalized Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Adaptive Mode, users may also adjust the noise reduction level based on their environments.
The device also has an improved wind-proof and crowd-proof Clear Voice Technology. This complements the three high-definition microphones on each earbud which have an advanced AI noise reduction algorithm that filters out unnecessary noises when answering calls.
Personalize the experience
Additionally, using the Nothing X app, users may also personalize their listening experience by adjusting the equalizer settings in real-time for optimal sound quality.
Dual Connection, on the other hand, allows for easier device switching between listening to music or receiving calls, for instance. The device likewise supports Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair.
The Ear (2) has buttons on each earbud, allowing for easy controls like adjusting volume, skipping to the next track, or switching between noise cancellation modes.
Nothing’s latest offering delivers up to 36 hours of playback on a fully-charged case – with ANC turned off. Using fast charge, it can replenish up to eight hours on a 10-minute charge.
For peace of mind, the earbuds are rated IP54 for water resistance while its transparent case is rated IP55.
Sony announces WH-CH720N, WH-CH520 wireless headphones
Available in four colors
Sony has made two new wireless headphones available in the Philippines: the over-ear WH-CH720N and the on-ear WH-CH520.
The WH-CH720N is priced at PhP 7,999 and comes with Dual Noise Sensor technology, as well as Sony’s integrated processor V1 chip for noise cancelling. The lightweight device provides up to 35 hours of battery life on a full charge.
When connected to the Sony | Headphones Connect app, users may also adjust ambient sound 20 different levels to suit the environment.
On the other hand, the WH-CH520 is a more affordable option, retailing at just PhP 3,299. It’s available in four colorways – black, blue, white, and beige – to match one’s style.
Both models feature Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) for high-quality sound as accurate as how the artist intended for songs, and Multipoint connection for easy connectivity between devices.
The two headphones also offer better call quality with their beamforming microphones which support Precise Voice Pickup technology and Wind Noise Reduction Structure.
Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 review: Return of the classic
For intermediates and experts
44 years ago, cars were still boxy, the Apple II was just two years into introducing personal computers inside homes, and the word ‘phone’ meant the landline phone inside your house. It was 1979, personal technology wasn’t a thing yet. Until Sony introduced the very first model of the Walkman, the TPS-L2.
More widely recognized in the mainstream now as “Star-Lord’s ancient iPod”, it revolutionized the music industry back then by putting a cassette player in everyone’s pocket, allowing anyone (well, anyone who had the equivalent of US$ 600 at the time) to listen to music anywhere, anytime they wanted.
Fast forward to 2023, we see Sony has updated the Walkman line to fit in with modern standards. The Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 no longer uses an analog Cassette. It’s now a high-fidelity digital music player.
Gone are its plastic and metal body held together by screws, it’s now a glass and metal sandwich like modern smartphones. It has physically changed to the point of being unrecognizable, but the important thing has stayed the same– It’s probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.
It’s not a phone, it just looks like one
Like its great granddaddy the Walkman TPS-L2, the Walkman NW-ZX707 is built to last. It continues the time-honored traditions of the Walkman line– namely its metal build, external music control buttons on one side, and the audio jack at the top.
But everything else about the build feels like a mix of old smartphone design cues, just updated to 2023. Upon first look, the NW-ZX707 looks like a weirdly small, thick, and heavy smartphone with sharp edges and two headphone jacks in an age where even midrange phones are ditching it.
It’s got a 5-inch 9:16 LCD display with huge bezels straight out of 2017. It’s even got a soft-touch vegan leather back that we haven’t seen in smartphones for years. With that said, ergonomic considerations kind of start and stop with the external music control buttons.
The overall design is boxy, the edges are sharp, the corners are angular, and the screen is flat as they come. Coming in at 157g, it lets you know that it’s in your pocket.
Could’ve used 5G?
In more ways than one, it only looks like a smartphone, but under its metal exterior, the differences are much more obvious. So while it is running near-stock Android 12, you can’t actually use it as a phone, because it doesn’t have a SIM tray (Which I find kind of weird? Like, I think that with high-fidelity music streaming apps available, that would work well with a 5G SIM for on-the-go hi-fi).
While it boasts some of the best audio chips available on any music player today, it doesn’t have a speaker. And while you can expand its 64GB storage with a microSD card, it’s almost exclusively for your music files, because the screen is too small for media viewing and too slow for even light gaming. And there are no cameras on the device.
But it sometimes tries to function like one
The software on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 is where things start to get dicey for me. While I appreciate that it’s built on top of Android 12, a very secure, stable, and customizable platform, I feel like Sony could’ve customized the software a bit more to streamline the experience.
Take for example the experience immediately after setup. Since the ZX707 is linked as an android device to your Gmail account, and there is no special designation in the Android system that it’s a dedicated music player, it’s inevitably going to receive email and other non-music related notifications.
It can be fine for power users, but I don’t think receiving the same notifications as your phone in the middle of music listening is conducive to the hi-fi Walkman experience. Take it from me, spend that extra 15 minutes of deep-diving into your settings to either log out of your Gmail account or turn off notifications for any non-music-related apps and services.
The tide hasn’t come in yet
Speaking of apps and services, a big miss for the ZX707 here in the Philippines is the lack of support for hi-fi streaming apps like Tidal and Qobuz. They’re just straight-up not available in the country. So, if you’re planning on getting the new Walkman, your best bet in filling it up is either manually ripping your CDs or Purchasing hi-fi master tracks in either FLAC, PCM, or DSD.
The digital does its best to be analog
Pre-installed software is limited mostly to the Sony Walkman music player app and its customization software, which is generally fine since it leaves so much space for all your high-resolution music on the internal 64GB storage. And for the entirety of the Walkman NW-ZX707 experience, this is where you’re going to get the most value out.
The music player is pretty standard fare, save for the fact that it has support for extremely high-resolution audio formats like FLAC, PCM, and DSD– it even has a separate section dedicated to all your high-res files. There is no visualization option, but you do get a little Cassette animation when the device is idling– a nice touch. And if you’re looking to have better synergy between your Sony headphones / IEMs, there’s the Sony Headphones Connect app where you can choose your headphone model from a list, and the app will automatically change its sound signature via profiles to give you the best listening experience.
But in the great chance that you’re not using Sony headphones to plug into the ZX707, you’ve got a great range of sound customization via the Sound Adjustment app. And let me tell you, this customization app is the bee’s knees. It’s got properly staged equalizer settings, giving you control from sub-bass 31Hz frequencies, all the way up to cymbal-rattling 16KHz highs in 0.5db increments. It’s a great EQ fine-tuning utility, and super responsive.
There is also a whole slew of sound improvement utilities built-in with the sound adjustment app. There’s the DSEE Ultimate toggle– It’s a new feature from Sony that apparently increases the dynamic range of sub-hi-fi tracks like MP3 and CD formats using AI technology.
I found it somewhat effective, but not to the MP3 files on the device– it worked better when it was post-up-sampling non-hi-fi streaming apps like Youtube Music and Deezer.
There is also a DSD Remastering feature, which converts all PCM signals to DSD. In theory this should increase the signal resolution of sub-hi-fi recordings like MP3, low-quality FLAC rips, and of course, low-bitrate PCM files, but it should be of little value for audiophiles looking to load up the ZX707 with higher-quality 24-bit 117.6KHz PCM files. Do note that PCM and DSD are both quantized signals, so while they’re some of the most high-resolution signal formats a music player can put out, they are still (losslessly) compressed to some degree.
Lastly, the ZX707 also features sound emulation/simulation features if you ever want to introduce some analog qualities to your hyper-clean modern digital recordings. There is a DC Phase Linearizer which somewhat emulates the natural warmth of an analog amplifier, and a vinyl processor, which simulates the sound signature of hearing your songs through a vinyl record player.
I feel that this is something you might want to turn on based on the kind of files that you’re listening to. There are certain genres that benefit greatly from the warmth and texture of Vinyl simulation like classic rock and electronica. Also, remember to turn this off if your music conversions are from Vinyl like my library. It doubles the Vinyl noise and kind of overdoes the warmth of the track.
Good thing that with all of these settings, there is a toggle for direct output so you can A-B your sound settings really fast anytime.
With a little help from my (Hi-Fi) friends
But enough about all of the intricacies that happen outside of the play button. I called the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 earlier in this article “probably still the most fun music player you can get with your money.”, so that begs the question– how does it sound?
Well, let me get this out of the way for all you audiophiles first: it’s not a ‘flat’ music player. It’s not a reference device, nor does it advertise itself to be one. It’s high-resolution, sure– but it’s not neutral. And that, to me, just sounds like a good time on paper.
In my two weeks with the NW-ZX707 I was able to try it out with three of my most used audio gear:
- For the budget on-the-go side, the KZ x CRN ZEX Pros
- For hi-fi home listening, a modded pair of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros
- On the weird-but-fun side, the Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass.
And with that lineup, one might assume that the ZX707 would be picky with showing its audio brilliance– not really. It sounded great on everything.
KZ x CRN ZEX Pros
Pairing the ZX707 with the somewhat-neutral KZ x CRN ZEX Pros brought out a good tandem. The ZX707’s sound signature at stock is somewhat warm with a moderate emphasis on midbass and lower mids. The ZEX Pros are somewhat known to have a fair bit of sibilance, but I’m glad to report that because of the Sony Walkman ZX707’s laid-back presentation, there wasn’t much harshness in the highs. Detail suffered a bit, especially on busier tracks, but that was more of the limitation of the ZEX Pro’s limited drivers than through any other factor. The stand-out track for this setup was Silversun Pickups’ “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”.
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros
The duo of the ZX707 and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros was probably my most used setup during my review period. They just complement each other very nicely. And since I’ve modded the DT770 Pros to have a 4.4mm Balanced input, I was able to leverage the higher power output capabilities of the Walkman– I paid for the whole 250 Ohms, I’m going to use the whole 250 Ohms.
The DT770 Pros are known for their surgically neutral and flat response with a slight prominence in the low-bass. It’s that kind of sound signature that I found pairs the best with the ZX707, as it will ‘convert’ the headphones from ‘mixing ready’ to ‘party ready’. It’s like having a smoothening filter applied to all frequencies, but it doesn’t reduce any of the texture and detail. For that pairing, I turned on the DSEE, the DC Phase Linearizer, and the Vinyl Processor.
It was able to inject a lot of warmth and texture to my songs– coupled with the very forward vocal presentation of both the ZX707 and the DT770 Pros, vocal-centric music like ballads, soft rock, and even ‘00s rap sounded amazing. There are a few times when the bass would sometimes start getting bloated, but it wasn’t something a few adjustments to the EQ couldn’t handle. The stand-out track for this setup was Barenaked Ladies’ “New Disaster”.
Sony MDR-XB700 Extra Bass
Lastly, we’ve got the crazy pair of Sony MDR-XB700s. The midrange of Sony’s classic Extra Bass line, it’s a deceptive pair of headphones– regular music players can make it sound okay, but only the best music players and amplifiers that have exceptional bass and sub-bass processing can make it sound the way it should. And for the ZX707, it was no problem at all.
Having a big hump of sub-bass all the way up to midbass in the EQ was the only way I can listen to the XB700s. Even at almost maximum volume, there was almost no distortion and no significant dynamics compression. It just powers through the songs cleanly and never lets any of the frequencies stray too far from their comfortable thresholds.
Presentation is always smooth and warm, with a big emphasis on vocal presence, and highs are much more relaxed but with a lot of texture. The highs don’t go too far up so listeners of borderline-sibilant textured tracks might have to EQ their highs in, or you might want to look at other ways to improve the high-frequency response on the ZX707. The stand-out track for this setup was Dutch Uncles’ “Flexxin”.
To round off my playback performance findings on the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707, it was able to sustain two (2) days of almost constant playback before needing a charge. I attribute this to fine volume and power control. The granularity in the volume adjustment is incredibly accurate and is always a requirement for any hi-fi music player.
Is the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 your GadgetMatch?
There’s an air of being carefree with the ZX707– it knows it’s not a reference device, nor does it try to be. It plays on its strengths of being a solid, high-power, high-resolution music player that you can take anywhere and plug anything into, and it’ll just slowly fade into the background. Present enough that you’re going to enjoy your music, but never stepping in to interrupt you from dancing to ‘Come Get Your Love’ on a distant alien planet.
Coming in at around PhP 45,000 or US$ 600, the Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 not only invokes memories of the original but also the (frankly) prohibitive price as well. Let me make this clear– this is not an entry-level audiophile PMP, it’s somewhat reserved for intermediates and experts who can leverage its non-neutral presentation to improve their on-the-go listening setups.
But as far as audiophile PMPs go, this is certainly one of the most fun ones I’ve tried so far. Check your gear first– it synergizes well with forward-sounding headphones/earphones with great highs presentation. If you’ve got one, I suggest going for the ZX707. If not, you might have to look somewhere else for your on-the-go hi-fi fix.
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