We have been haring about Apple AirTags for what seems like a lifetime since the pandemic came along and made time appear to have all but stood still. The idea behind these tiny tools, being to be able to locate your belongings in a Marco-Polo fashion. With location tracking being a hot topic of debate during the midst of a worldwide virus it is unsurprising people remember the rumors of Apple’s handy, hide-and-seek gadget. 

Well, finally you can get your hands on them. They will set you back just under 30 bucks apiece ($29), or you can buy a set of four for $99. Dieter Bohn recently gave his opinion for The Verge on the tiny location devices and was suitably impressed but stated they weren’t exactly worth the wait. Perhaps there was a little too much hype? 

That said, Apple has released a thoughtfully designed system with an unmistakably ‘Apple’ design. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, helping users locate a misplaced item, whilst ensuring privacy and safety.

AirTags are overall a well-manufactured, useful product. The only foreseeable drawback being third-party companies. To understand why you first need to know a little more about how they work.

To put it simply an AirTag is a tiny little puck-shaped object that houses a Low Energy Bluetooth radio and a U1 ultra-wideband (UWB) chip. It can be paired to your iPhone just like any other Apple Bluetooth product; for example, AirPods. Once they are paired the device will remember them and create a new “Items” tab via the Find My app.

Within the Find My app, you can select which AirTags you want to chirp by marking the item as lost. Here you will see other features available. There is also a convenient button that you can tap to locate them in space if you have an iPhone with UWB. This will bring up an arrow when you are within 4 feet of the object. It is pretty neat.

Apple aesthetics

Image: apple.com

Quintessentially Apple, the AirTags are brilliant white with a silver button, simple, understated, and in keeping with the classic looks of the brand. There is an option to have the plastic parts customized with emojis or letters which will help tell objects apart in a busy household.

Shiny appearance aside though Dieter noticed the chrome and plastic were very quick to get into pretty bad shape, which is a real shame. So they won’t be staying pristine. In fact, Dieter compared them to early model iPod nano’s.

Clever audio output solution

Apple’s Airtag design cleverly utilizes the body itself as a speaker, vibrating to make an audible chirp. The volume levels are adequate, loud enough even for older ears. However, if the object in question happens to be stuffed down the deep dark recess of a sofa or buried with cushions you might find it is a little trickier to listen out for as the sound is easily dampened. Especially if you aren’t in the same room, that is where the UWB location really does come in handy.

AirTag features
Image: theverge.com

A small gripe would be that the design doesn’t incorporate a hole for attaching a lanyard loop. Which makes a lot of sense and is a bit of a mystery? To attach an AirTag to anything specific, like many Apple products in the already extensive ecosystem; You need to purchase a separate accessory… Mystery solved!

With this classic Apple revelation then, you might be surprised to hear, that the battery is user-replaceable. Something Apple typically keeps for itself. The AirTags function with a standard CR2032 cell and Apple says it can provide a good full year of use.

As we already said, the tags themselves work fairly well in an indoor environment but the true test comes when it is put to work in the outside world. If you lose an item when out and about, it is truly lost. Any iOs device can send you the location, but you don’t have to worry about privacy as it is end-to-end encrypted.

If your lost AirTag is encountered by anyone passing by they can tap it and see some information via NFC connectivity. This is limited to a serial number. However, if the item’s owner selects it as lost within their Find My app there is an option to add your phone number this lets someone who has found your item leave you a message regarding their contact information. This feature isn’t limited to iPhone users, it also functions on Android devices.

Any iPhone with Bluetooth can see a lost tag, even when traveling in a car. Apple has a huge network of devices to leverage and some third-party companies aren’t happy with their level of competition. Tile recently approached congress to discuss the topic.

There is potential for privacy issues, in response to concerns raised Apple says that each AirTag frequently cycles its Bluetooth ID. But, they acknowledge the risk and are developing the system to consider personal safety first and foremost.

One solution they have in place in the system shows you a network notice if a device has been separated from you but is nearby. This is to prevent you from losing it in the first place. Thus, eliminating the need to turn on the lost mode altogether. The notification reads “AirTag Found Moving With You.”

Ultimately, the safety alerts are in place to protect you from somebody using the tech in reverse, tracking you via an AirTag. Of course, if you lend an item out you won’t want to be pinged continually as a reminder so you can disable these safety alerts in the app as well. 

If you tap the pop-up safety notification you can make the AirTag audible if it is actually lost or follow the alert instructions to disable the AirTag by removing its battery.

AirTag safety

Eventually, Apple says, “If you feel your safety is at risk, contact your local law enforcement who can work with Apple. You might need to provide the AirTag or its serial number.” Apple won’t disclose your location but could provide registered information on whoever has listed the AirTag as theirs. 

One of the most redeeming features of Apple’s tags is they automatically begin to beep if the tagged object moves away from you all of a sudden. This means you can potentially, keep items from being stolen. A pickpocket may well want to ditch something that beeps at them more quickly, the audible tracker may mean it isn’t worth the hassle.

The Verdict

Overall, Apple’s AirTags are thoughtfully designed in terms of both the physical product and functions of the system itself. It is bolstered by the Leverage that Apple already has with its connectivity and Bluetooth command.

They are without a doubt a very Apple set of trackers. They will cost you a little more than similar products on the market but when it comes to the exclusive Apple club, many customers are happy to pay the extra for the compatibility and ease of use.

Image: ixbt.com

It is great to see Apple being prudent when it comes to privacy and thanks to Apple’s tight ecosystemic integration; It offers plenty that third parties can’t compete with on parr. 

Android-operated phones don’t have any sort of Find My app equivalent, bringing it more exclusivity. If you are already well and truly integrated into the Apple product range and scatterbrained when it comes to your car keys, then they are probably a good addition.