Apple's new AirTags are as simple as they should be
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I. Lose. Everything. That character flaw, in tandem with a complete inability to see things smack in front of my face sometimes, means I’m perhaps the perfect person to try out Apple’s new AirTags. Good thing, then, that Apple sent along a few to test — along with a purple iPhone 12 running the new (and required) iOS 14.5 update. Let’s just clear one thing up now though: this is not a review! I’ve only had the AirTags for a day, which isn’t nearly enough time to properly live with these things. Still, that gave me ample opportunity to whiz through the setup process and test drive some of the AirTags’ most important features.
Apple is best known for its iPhones , Macs and, of course, Ted Lasso. But now it also makes a tiny tracker called an AirTag. You attach it to an object like your keys and you can keep track of where it is using Apple's Find My network.
This kind of tracker isn't new. But the biggest selling point for the AirTag is Apple's Find My network which is made up of hundreds of millions of Apple devices. Last week, the Find My network was opened up to third parties that can use the network for items like bikes and headphones. This will only increase that number of devices on Find My and make it even more robust. And that's important because let's say you lost your keys and they had an AirTag attached. As soon as someone with another device on the Find My network, like an iPhone, crosses its path, the AirTag will communicate securely with the iPhone in the background to update the location of your lost keys.
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After months of speculation and anticipation, Apple's AirTag trackers are finally here at a relatively affordable $29 for a single AirTag or $99 for a pack of four. We spent a week with five AirTags to see if they were worth the hype.After months of speculation and anticipation, Apple's AirTag trackers are finally here at a relatively affordable $29 for a single AirTag or $99 for a pack of four.
AirTags work with any iPhone or iPodTouch on iOS 14.5 or any iPad on iPadOS 14.5. A single AirTag costs $29 (£29, AU$45) and a four-pack is $99 (£99, AU$149). You can order an AirTag starting Friday April 23 and AirTags will be available on April 30.
An AirTag is a bit bigger than a Junior Mint
I can't emphasize enough how tiny an AirTag is. It weighs roughly the same as two quarters. It's bigger than a Junior Mint, a Milk Dud and a Mento, but not by much. One side is white the other is stainless steel. And it feels well-made. In fact, it's rated IP67 for dust and water resistance and can survive being submerged to a meter for 30 minutes.
Behind the stainless steel back is a replaceable CR2032 battery which Apple claims will last a year. Each AirTag comes with one already installed. When it starts to get low, your iPhone gets a notification. And CR2032 batteries are common. I like that Apple decided to make the battery replaceable and easy to access.
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Getting an AirTag setup with your iPhone
Setting up your AirTag is easy. You just pull the battery tab, bring it close to your iPhone, and tap the Connect button. I had to update my iPhone to iOS 14.5, sign into my iCloud account and verify the lock code on my iPhone. But even with the extra steps it was a straightforward process.
From there, you're prompted to name it. For example, I named my AirTag "keys" because I attached it to my keys. I know, original.
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Apple AirTags cost $29 (£29, AU$45) each or $99 (£99, AU$149) for a pack of four, and will be available for preorder on Friday. They'll sell in stores on April 30. You can also find different AirTags accessories like keychains and eyeglasses straps available from third-party sellers like Belkin.
Once the AirTag is tied to your Apple ID, you can use the Find My app and interact with it under the Items tab. To help you find your item, you can ping the AirTag attached to it and play a sound. The AirTag uses its surface as a sound actuator to produce sound hence the absence of any tiny speaker grills.
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Even if you don't have the Find My app open on your iPhone, you can say, for example, "Hey Siri , where are my keys?" The AirTag will chime in response.
The AirTag uses Precision Finding to guide you to it
But it gets better. If you have an iPhone 11 or 12 you can use Precision Finding to locate your AirTag. And that's because the AirTag, like the iPhone 11 and 12, has a U1 ultrawideband chip to determine the exact distance and directions to get you to it. A really cool interface pops up on your iPhone to guide you to the item and AirTag. It uses the iPhone's cameras, ARKit, accelerometer and gyroscope along with data from the AirTag to create a visual guide that along with haptics, and sound direct you to your lost item. Precision Finding works within Bluetooth range of the AirTag.
If someone finds a lost AirTag, they can interact with it using NFC
If your AirTag is far away, you can put it into Lost Mode which allows you to enter a phone number. If someone comes across the AirTag, they can tap it with an NFC phone (iOS or Android). This will take them to a website with information on how to contact you.
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AirTags don't store your location data
You're the only one who can see where your AirTag is. Any location data or history isn't stored on the AirTag itself. When the AirTag comes in contact with another Find My device, like an iPhone, location info is transferred encrypted and anonymously.
No one, not even Apple, knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the Find My device used to find it. Any Bluetooth signals rotate frequently, so other people can't use them to track you.
AirTags can't track another person unwillingly
Unfortunately there are people who might want to take advantage of the anonymity and privacy that the AirTag provides to track another person without them knowing. Apple created a number of features to discourage unwanted tracking.
Your iPhone or iOS device can detect an AirTag that's not with its owner, and will notify you if it is traveling with you over time. You'll then be able to play a sound on the unknown AirTag to locate it and view information like its serial number and see instructions on how to disable it.
Any AirTag separated from its owner for a period of time will also play a sound to alert you when it is moved.
As soon as AirTags were announced, I saw friends online joking how they wanted to put one on their kid or dog or whatever. If you attach this to a pet, that pet needs to come within Bluetooth range of a device on the Find My network for its location to be updated.
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As far as kids, the AirTag is meant for items, for example like your child's backpack. The built-in features aimed at preventing tracking that I mentioned above, mean that an AirTag isn't the best option for keeping dibs on your child's location. You'd be better to use an Apple Watch with Family Setup.
AirTags are small and can be put into a bag pocket for example. Apple also sells a few accessories for the AirTag that you can use to attach it to a variety of items:
Loop (polyurethane) ($29, £29. AU$45)
Leather Loop ($39, £39, AU$59)
Leather Key Ring ($35, £35, AU$55)
I got to use an AirTag for about 8 hours, which isn't much. I look forward to trying it out for longer, and will be back with in-depth review when I've had more time with the AirTag.
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