AirTags: Apple tracking device is good but limited for iPhone – 06/07/2022

If you keep losing your house keys, wallet and/or travel a lot, investing in an object tracking device with Apple’s AirTag can be interesting. The biggest limitation, however, is that along with it you’ll need to have an iPhone (or iPad) — not the older ones. Otherwise, don’t even spend your money on it.

I have tested AirTags in the last few months in different situations and now I tell you how it works and for which audience profile the cost-benefit will be worth it.

Below is a short summary:

  • Release date: April 20, 2021.
  • Arrival in Brazil: May 2021 for BRL 369 in the individual package and BRL 1,249 in the four-pack (official store).
  • Current price: BRL 358 single and BRL 1,192 with four (Apple store); from R$ 265 in retail stores.

what i liked

  • Accurate tracking, especially if you have a newer iPhone.
  • Good integration with devices in the Apple ecosystem

what i didn’t like

  • Cost is still high
  • easy scratch
  • Battery ran out even without using as much
  • Advanced location feature only works on newer iPhone models

How is an AirTag

AirTags Review - Front of Apple Device - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

The circular device is small and light

Image: Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

The AirTag is an 11 gram circular device that looks like a CR2032 battery, the type used in some scales. The back look reminded me of a large clothing button or the cap of some object.

The design is very simple. On one side, it is made of white (polycarbonate) plastic. On the other, stainless steel, with the company logo (which scratches easily).

Review AirTags - detail of the back of the Apple device - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

The back resembles a large white button

Image: Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

The product is IP67 certified, which guarantees dust resistance and the possibility of submersion to a depth of up to one meter for 30 minutes.

Review AirTags - Device thickness compared to a 50 cent coin and a battery - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

Comparison with a 50 cent coin and a battery

Image: Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

Comparison with a 50-cent coin and a battery - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt - Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

Comparison with a 50 cent coin and a battery

Image: Bruna Souza Cruz/Tilt

How AirTags Track Objects

The accessory is part of the category of devices called smart tags. It serves as a sensor to monitor the object it is stuck on, such as keys and wallets. It is also possible to use inside backpacks, bags and even on the collar of pets.

If you lose something along with the AirTag, it is possible to find out the coordinates where the device is located without the need for internet. You can also make the device beep to be located, as it has an integrated speaker.

With the help of the Bluetooth connection, the device is able to communicate between the object attached to it and Apple’s location system — better understand here how monitoring networks work.

A reminder: AirTags are not designed to track stolen items. To disable it, for example, is simple. Just take out the battery.

Where does the data appear?

AirTags tracking information appears within the Search function screen, present on Apple devices. For example, you can see a map showing the location of devices associated with your account (and friends who have shared the information with you). AirTags appear inside the “Items” part.

Because of this structure created, other devices from the manufacturer help to form this communication network for situations in which it is necessary to find a more distant object. According to the company, the devices do not identify who a particular AirTag belongs to. The process is done in an encrypted way.

Requirements to work:

  • Have registered an Apple account (Apple ID)
  • iPhone and iPod touch with iOS 14.5 or later operating system
  • iPad with iPadOS 14.5 or later
  • Ambient operating temperature: -20°C to 60°C

accurate search

iOS Search app will give users directions to find items with AirTags - Playback - Playback

iOS Search app will give users directions to find items with AirTags

Image: Reproduction

In addition to the map available in Apple’s Search function, AirTags work with Precise Search on more advanced iPhone models.

With it, you can monitor how close or far you are from the AirTag being tracked. The screen displays detailed information such as: Bruna’s keys are 2 meters to your left.

So, you can move your cell phone and walk following the directions for moving. Precision Search is only compatible with the devices below, which makes the use of such a good and useful feature very restricted.

  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max

My experience

I tested two test AirTags at the same time. I activated both as soon as I received them last year on an iPhone 13 Pro Max, also a test.

The process was pretty quick. By removing a small security seal, the cell phone recognized one AirTag at a time just by bringing them closer to the phone. I followed the steps indicated on the screen and gave each a name: “Backpack” and “Keys”.

As the device is just a circular structure, you need to buy accessories if you want to use it with keys or connected to other objects. In the official Apple store, a simpler keyring costs R$ 199 (it is worth searching other platforms for cheaper options).

The initial tests were pretty simple, like leaving an AirTag in the bedroom and turning on its tracking from the kitchen to measure how efficient the Accurate Search would be. And it is really functional.

I spent weeks using one of the AirTags on the keyring at home. As I didn’t miss a single time, I didn’t have to resort to tracking. However, I would sometimes go to the Find Items setting to see if the device was actually displaying the precise location. Each time it displayed the information correctly.

I even “lost” one of the AirTags inside the house about three times. I forgot where I kept it and used the sound emission to find it. It was successful.

bag tracking

AirTags: iPhone Search Map Screen - Tilt - Tilt
Image: Tilt

Months later, in January of this year, I went to cover CES here for Tilt, a technology fair traditionally held in the United States. This time, I renamed one of them to “Baggage” and put it inside the bag that would be checked in at the airport. The other stayed inside my backpack all the time, as hand luggage.

Both on the way out and on the way back, I monitored the movement of the suitcase as it moved away from me. When this first happened, an alert popped up on my phone. I warned that I had nothing lost and opened the Find function to monitor it.

Once inside the outgoing plane, I opened the map and the system showed that one of the bags was in one of the airport’s dependencies. This process took a few minutes to update due to distance.

That wasn’t the case, but if I wanted to visualize the itinerary to her, I could calculate the route and how long it would take to get to her. Apple’s system offers options on foot, by car, public transport and by bicycle.

battery life

According to Apple, the battery can last an average of one year. What was really confirmed after months in possession of the devices. Problem is, I barely used the tracking tags after January.

So, know that the battery will end up using or not using, and you will have to replace it with a new one to continue with your functional AirTags.

Improper screening of women

Since it began to be sold, there have been reports of misuse of the device to track women. According to Apple, if some unknown AirTag is placed on your stuff and you have an iPhone, it will detect that it is moving with an object that you did not configure.

If this happens, an alert is sent to the cell phone. “If you don’t find it after a while, the AirTag will start beeping to show you where it is,” says Apple on its website.

Despite this, the devices continue to be used by malicious people. In January of this year, nearly a year after launch, Apple released a “Personal Safety User’s Guide” with recommendations on how users should handle themselves if they are at risk.

Are AirTags Worth It?

In Brazil, this type of technology has not yet become so popular, even though it already has models from Apple, Samsung and other companies. One of the possible factors is that they still have a high price.

In the case of AirTags, the cost-benefit is even more restricted by the fact that they only work with specific models of iPhone and iPad. As I said at the beginning: if you don’t have an Apple phone or you have a very old one, don’t even spend it on it.

The devices will be useful for people who can invest in the technology and who will really benefit from it. It’s cool, interesting, it’s accurate in tracking. But you can live without.

UOL may receive a portion of sales through the links recommended in this content. Store prices and offers do not influence editorial selection criteria.

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