After years of industry whispers and supposed leaks, Apple’s AirTags are finally here. Announced at 2021's ‘Spring Loaded’ event (opens in new tab), the nifty little trackers mark Apple’s long-awaited arrival in the smart trackers market - and the Cupertino-based firm is off to a solid start.
Intended for use with keys, wallets, backpacks and the like, AirTags let users track their most important items, and expand the company’s 'Find My' network. As you’d expect from Apple, there are plenty of privacy-focused failsafes and safeguards, too. They sit among our list of the best personal GPS trackers (opens in new tab), and are absolutely, 100% for those who dwell inside the Apple ecosystem of devices. If you use Android... there's little point reading any more.
Apple AirTags: Design and Features
AirTags are, as you’d imagine, fairly nondescript from an aesthetic standpoint. Each one is a small disc, with a reflective surface bearing the Apple logo, with the other offering a clean, white look.
Leave one in your backpack, tuck one in your wallet, or attach one to your keys with an accessory, and you’ll be able to track all of the above (up to sixteen AirTags) via the ‘Find My’ application on your Apple device of choice.
If you can’t spot it, you can ‘ping’ using the app and listen out for the sound. If you’re lucky enough to be using an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 (opens in new tab) device, you can use Apple’s new ‘Precision Tracking’ feature to be guided to your AirTag, too.
The ‘Find My network’, as Apple calls it, is a network made up of millions of iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers (opens in new tab). This means that those devices can help locate your AirTag, all anonymously, so no one is identifiable via tracking.
The Bluetooth-based signal from the AirTag is also secure and encrypted. If you put AirTag into ‘Lost Mode’, you’ll be able to get a notification when the Find My network locates it. If anyone with a shred of common decency taps their device against it, you can opt to share your contact information, too.
Apple AirTags: Privacy
While personal tracking can be problematic, Apple has taken steps to minimize the potential for misuse.
One key factor is unwanted tracking, i.e. the suggestion that someone can place an AirTag on another person without them knowing. To discourage this, an iPhone will alert the tracked user if an unknown AirTag is near them for any length of time, but only when separated from the AirTag’s owner. So, great if you're an iPhone user, but there's no safeguarding to stop you tracking anyone with an Android phone.
Apple AirTags: Performance
The AirTags setup is incredibly simple, and anyone that uses AirPods of any kind will feel right at home. Users just need to peel off an adhesive strip, which pulls out a tab which kickstarts the unit’s battery. Hold the AirTag close to your phone, and it’ll show a “card” just like Apple’s popular earphones, and allow the user to designate the AirTag. Within seconds, the pairing is complete.
The AirTag’s internal battery will last for over a year, and is replaceable using a standard CR2032 battery, just like you’ll find for a watch.
Despite offering a speaker, AirTags are also waterproof. Dropping your keys in a puddle won’t kill the tracker, and it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes in a maximum depth of one meter - which is quite a deep puddle indeed.
Our only real complaint with the AirTag is that while it ticks all the boxes for iPhone users, Android users will be better served elsewhere. That’s undoubtedly to help maintain Apple’s iron grip on privacy (and arguably rightly so), but the good news is that Android users can help locate an AirTag in lost mode using NFC tech.
Should you buy Apple AirTags?
With a long-lasting battery, simple setup process and protection against unwanted tracking, Apple’s first entry into the tracker space is hard not to recommend for the price ($29 each, or a four-pack for $99).
If you aren’t in Apple’s ecosystem, though, the Tile Mate (opens in new tab) is a great alternative that’s platform agnostic, so if you're a non-Apple user this is our recommendation for you.