If you have a time machine and $3.99, you can maybe skip the $69 charge. The time machine is necessary because Apple pulled the Finder for AirPods app from the App Store. Why? Because Apple.
According to a review of the app from MacRumors, Finder for AirPods worked as advertised. It used the Bluetooth connection between your phone and the AirPod to figure out roughly where it was hiding. There is no way to ascertain a direction simply from the Bluetooth signal strength, but the app had a signal strength graph and text descriptions of your proximity to the missing AirPod. It was like playing a game of hotter or colder. That’s not ideal, but it was a $4 app could potentially save you from a $69 bill.
The app was sent to Apple for review on December 22nd, and published two weeks later. When people started talking about the app, Apple allegedly decided it should not have approved the app. The app was removed from the App Store, and the developer Deucks took to Reddit (where he had been promoting the app) to explain the situation.
Deucks says that Apple contacted him to because it didn’t like the “concept” of the app. Even though it didn’t violate any rules, Apple decided to pull the app. Apple has regularly removed apps from the App Store that it doesn’t like, which it reserves the right to do. There certainly isn’t any technical issue with the app. Deucks has several similar Finder apps for other products, including Fitbit, Misfit, and Jawbone. Users in the announcement thread have speculated Apple is trying to save face by pretending AirPods aren’t so easy lose. Others suspect they want to make sure people replace lost AirPods for $69.
Anyone who bought the app can request a refund from Apple via the support site. If you have it on your iPhone already, it should continue working for now. We’ve reached out to Apple to ask about its reasoning for removing the app, but we don’t expect a reply.