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Review of Apple AirTags

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Apple AirTag on my Passport Pouch

An Apple AirTag is a small, low-powered device that can be used to find anything it is attached to or in the proximity of.  It only works with Apple products and uses Bluetooth to connect to an iPhone or iPad. It uses the “Find My” app on the device to locate the AirTag. The phone needs to be within 30 feet or so for the device to locate the tag.   This is similar in technology to the “Tile” brand, but the magic of the AirTag comes from the Apple iPhone network. 

Once out of the short range of your phone, the connection to the tag is broken.  However, with an item lost or stolen with an air tag attached, the tag will detect any iPhone that comes near it and send you, the tag owner, an updated location alert. The person with the phone near your tag never even knows that this notification has taking place. Therefore, this is a viable device to throw in your suitcase, for example, when checking bags. Anybody with an iPhone who comes near your bag will trigger an update. Obviously, more crowded places with more iPhones (like airports) will give more updates.

The airtag is a smooth disk with no holes or rings attached. Therefore, you need to buy some sort of holder if you want to connect them to something. The batteries last about a year and are easily replaced with an over-the-counter CR2032 disc battery.

CR2032 Battery is commonly available and not Apple specific

I heard about Apple AirTags a while back and had been reading Facebook comments about people using them to track stolen trailers.  I had been considering buying one just to test it, but losing my wallet prompted me to make the purchase.  My wallet had slipped out of my pocket and was under a seat cushion.

I bought a pack of 4 for $99 and now have attached one to my key ring, another to my wallet, one to my passport pouch, and one for my antique car or trailer (depending on which one I am traveling with).  Amazon has the Apple AirTag 4-pack.  On my keychain and passport pouch, I bought Belkin AirTag cases with key ring.  For my Ridge Wallet I bought a carbon fiber AirTag holder from https://ridge.com/collections/everyday-carry.  For my car and trailer, I bought a Velcro holder that can be discreetly attached out of sight.  

I did a very easy setup to pair each tag to my phone and iPad.  Each tag is assigned a name at setup and is easy to change if your re-purpose your tag.  Pulling off a plastic battery tag activates the battery.

Screenshot of the Find My App with AirTags

After setup, I tested these around the house.  I found that my phone was occasionally pinging all associated AirTags and detects their last known location. When searching, I opened the “Find My” app, and my phone began to search for the tag, and I was provided arrow-based directions to that location. When I was out of range, it prompted me to walk around while it was searching. I also discovered that there is a setting for my phone to be alerted if I have left an AirTag behind.   I also set home as a safe zone so I will not get an annoying reminder every time I leave the house, leaving various air tags at home on purpose.

I have had these tags for a few months, and I am a big fan of these little devices. The price is extremely good and far cheaper than many other tracking devices on the market. The game changer between this and the more popular tile tracker is the iPhone network that allows you to detect your air tags from long distances. It is tempting to get these for all kinds of stuff. They even make a holder to put one on your dog’s collar  or a wristband for kids!

There are two main reasons to have an AirTag on a valuable item. First, in case you have misplaced or lost it, or, secondly, to find it if somebody stole it. In the first case, something like a simple holder for a keychain or wallet is perfectly fine. The AirTag is visible and can easily receive a signal. On the other hand, tracking something that is stolen calls for a little more stealth.  As I mentioned, you can buy a variety of holders that have rings, loops, Velcro, or other attachment methods. For something you think may get stolen, put your AirTag in an unusual or hard to reach location that will be harder for the thief to find. If they have no idea that it is there, they probably won’t be looking for it, particularly in out of the way spots.  Note that dense layers of material can obstruct the signal.

There are just a few downsides. It is inconvenient that there is no lanyard hole or other easy way to attach. The fact that it does not work with Android or other phone technology limits the market. 

AirTags are not intended to be used to track a person without their knowledge. There is a limited anti-stalking feature that will notify a person if someone has planted an AirTag on them or in their gear and is using it to secretly track them. An iPhone will identify and alert the owner to an unknown AirTag that has been close to them for a long period of time. However, this only works if you have an iPhone or iPad. 

AirTags are splash, water and dust resistant, but not waterproof.

These are a great advance in tracking technology and seamlessly integrate with the Apple family of products.  I highly recommend these and plan to always use them.

For those looking for a more robust tracking capability, there are GPS trackers available that use GPS, motion detection, and cellular connections such as the Brickhouse Security Magnetic GPS Tracker. Some are battery powered, others wire into vehicle electrical systems. Most require a monthly subscription, but some allow you to active it only in the months you need to use it.

From simple to more sophisticated, some form of tracker is a handy addition that lets you recover missing items and have peace of mind that you are protected.

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