An extremely creative ad and a dedicated spot right after Tim Cook’s address introduced Apple’s latest baby, the Apple AirTag to the world. Of course, when Tim Cook talks about Apple products, one will feel that Apple is infallible. The hype is not entirely unjustified, especially considering the exceptional quality and performance delivered by Apple.
We can also rest assured that Apple does not like to do anything half-baked even a minor companion product like the AirTag. If you are curious regarding the AirTag and what it has to offer, we’ve got you covered. From the AirTag’s range to what this product is all about, here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Apple AirTag?
According to Apple, the Apple AirTag is an iPhone accessory that provides a private and secure way to easily locate the items that matter the most. It’s shaped like a small puck or slightly big mentos that is clear plastic (also customizable) in the front and stainless steel in the back. This small device can be attached/assigned to any precious items that you can keep track of using the Find My network or Bluetooth. It comes with a battery life of one year as well as a replacement battery that you can use when the first one runs out.
The Apple AirTag is customizable thanks to 31 emoji options provided by Apple during the purchase and you can also use an accessory like an AirTag loop, a bag charm, a luggage tag, or a secure holder in which you can secure the AirTag before attaching it to the item you want to tag.
The AirTag has been fitted with technology that complements the U1 ultra-wideband chip found in the iPhone 11 and 12 for what Apple has termed ‘Precision Finding’. It also comes with a cool Lost Mode feature and is rated IP67 in terms of water resistance. This means that your AirTag can remain in one minute of water for 30 minutes. The Apple AirTag is currently priced at $29 for a single piece and $99 for a set of 4 AirTags.
In terms of range, connectivity plays a very major role, in fact, it is the most fundamental when it comes to any SmartTag because there’s no point if one cannot locate their lost object via the Tag. Via Bluetooth, the Apple AirTag’s Bluetooth range has actually not been fully disclosed yet. It could range anywhere between 200-400 feet but the Bluetooth range is yet to be confirmed.
The Tile tag, depending on which one you’re using, offers ranges between 150 feet to 400 feet. The Tile Sticker offers a range of 150 feet, Tile Slim 200 feet, Mate 200 feet, and Pro 400 feet. All vary in terms of price and functionality and price range. If we consider the Tile Pro which is at $34, the Galaxy Tag Plus at $39.99, and the AirTags at $29, then the AirTags have a definite edge over the rest.
What else to know:
AirTag Ultra-Wideband (UWB) compatibility
Ultra-Wideband technology is all the rage in 2021 since it uses radio waves for a wireless communication protocol. This means that even if your device is well outside the Bluetooth range, you will still be able to locate it using an additional app on your phone provided by the manufacturer of the tag.
Unfortunately, Tile is yet to deliver any of its devices with the UWB tech, instead, Tile makes up for it with a community app that you can use to locate your missing item. Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag Plus, on the other hand, offers UWB in collaboration with the Smart Things app. It uses augmented reality to create a visual of your lost item’s location and guides you there using fun markers.
Apple’s UWB, similar to the SmartTag, works with the Find My ecosystem to locate your phone regardless of how far it is. It will then guide you using the phone’s gyroscope and map to locate the lost item. Keep in mind that this Precision Tracking is only available for iPhone 11 and 12 series. While this is not as fun as the augmented reality execution of Samsung’s SmartTag Plus, it gets the job done effectively nonetheless.
One cannot underestimate the potential of a surveillance tag to be misused for heinous purposes. Fortunately, Apple basically considers privacy to be a basic human right so you can rest assured that the AirTag does not store location data/history. Apple makes it a point to use end-to-end encryption for any kind of communication between the AirTag and Find My app.
There is no transparency both from Samsung and Tile on how the information that is derived from the tags is used. The users are only informed regarding what information will be collected by the companies and must give the appropriate permissions to allow this to happen.
Unwanted tag detection with AirTag
A very special feature that is only available with the Apple AirTag is the Unwanted Tag detection feature. So if someone tries to track you with an AirTag without your knowledge, the AirTag will go off like an alarm to indicate that you are being stalked. Basically, Apple devices can detect when an AirTag isn’t with its original owner. It will notify the owner when an unknown AirTag is in their presence and it will start ringing loudly if it has been separated from its original owner for an extended period of time.
Alternately, if someone finds an abandoned or lost AirTag, they can tag it to their iPhone using the NFC feature and check who lost it, thus making it easier for the original owner to find their AirTag.
The Tile tag can be used with pretty much any device including Apple as long as the Bluetooth requirement is met. However, both in the case of Apple AirTags and Samsung Galaxy SmartTags, are specific to the manufacturer’s devices and incompatible with any other manufacturer’s phones.
Tile comes in different sizes and for different functionalities. The Tile Mate/Pro is big at 1.65 x 0.26 inches and ideal for big items as well as keychains while the Tile Sticker is useful in more subtle situations like a wallet. Once a connection is established via Bluetooth, you can easily track your items from your phone. The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag Plus uses NFC to connect with the phone via an app and the tag will be connected to your phone.
Both the AirTag and SmartTag are available only in one size without any kind of size customization available. Apple off-sets the size customization problem by offering multiple accessory options and this is where the caveat lies. In a twisted irony, the various Apple accessories are actually more expensive than the AirTag itself, making the affordable cost of the AirTag kind of negligible.
The AirTag is small at 1.26 inches compared to the 1.65×0.26 inches of the Tile making it the more compact option. A major plus for Apple is the simple connectivity that, like Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag Plus, happens with a tap thanks to the NFC feature present in the tile. All you need to do is tap the AirTag to your Apple device and you will see a connection prompt on your screen.
AirTag compatibility: Supported devices list
It’s pretty certain that the AirTag has been optimized exclusively for Apple devices. If you want to use an AirTag, you need to own an Apple device that is running iOS 14.5 or later versions along with an Apple ID that you can use to sign in to your iCloud. The following devices in the Apple range are compatible with AirTags:
- All iPhones after iPhone SE and 6S
- All iPods after iPod Touch 7th generation
- All iPads in the Pro range and after 5th generation
- All iPad Airs after iPad Air 2
- iPad Mini 4
The Precision Finding feature is only compatible with the following Apple devices.
- iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max
As we enter a life that is steadily moving towards the work-from-home culture, one must wonder whether surveillance tags are necessary in the first place. It is more a hopeful notion and an expectation of the future that products like the AirTag will be useful and relevant. Nevertheless, the Apple AirTag, by virtue of being a surveillance tag, is actually a cool and surprisingly value-for-money product. For Apple users, this item is a real treat and worth investing in over any other surveillance tag for the kind of range and features that the AirTag offers. Unless absolutely necessary, please stay at home and keep the AirTag as an ornamental device on your precious items. Please take care and stay safe!