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iOS 14.6 adds a nifty new Apple AirTag feature

The third beta of iOS 14.6 for the iPhone is available to developers.

Apple AirTags iOS 14.6 Lost Mode
iOS 14.6 adds a new way to be contacted if your Apple AirTag gets lost.
Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple AirTags launched in April alongside iOS 14.5, which added a slew of new features on top of support for AirTags, like a setting to turn off ad tracking within apps, the ability to unlock your phone even if you're wearing a face mask, new emoji and new Siri voices. Now with iOS 14.6, one of the most useful features on Apple AirTags gets a much-appreciated update.

At the heart of Apple's AirTag is the Find My network, which has nearly 1 billion devices on it, including iPhones, Macs, Apple Watches, AirPods and now third-party items such as bikes and headphones. The idea is that if you lose your keys and they have an AirTag attached, as soon as another Find My device comes within Bluetooth range of your keys, your AirTag will communicate anonymously in the background with the device to tell your phone the location of your lost keys.

Lost Mode has a cool discovery feature that can be triggered with an NFC-enabled phone, either Android or iOS. If someone came across your keys they can tap their phone against the AirTag and be brought to a website that displays your contact phone number, if you left one.

Apple AirTags iOS 14.6 Lost Mode

If you put an AirTag in Lost Mode, iOS 14.6 lets you choose to be contacted via a phone number or email address.

Patrick Holland/CNET

You might be nervous about leaving your phone number as a means of contact. The developer version of iOS 14.6 beta 3, which came out on Monday, gives you the option to leave an email address instead of your phone number. When you enable Lost Mode within the Find My app, a window pop ups with a field to enter your phone number. Above the field is a blue text button that reads Use an email address. Simply tap on it and the phone number field will change into an email address field. If someone comes across your missing item with an AirTag attached, they will be able to contact you via email instead of a phone call.

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The release of the iOS 14.6 beta 3 comes less than two months before Apple's annual developer conference, WWDC, which will be held virtually in June. Apple is expected to announce new versions of its operating systems, including MacOS, WatchOS and iPadOS. It's likely that iOS 15 will be announced and that it could be available to download as a public beta later this summer -- iOS 14 was available in early July.

For more about iOS 14.6, here's everything we know about Apple's upcoming operating system.