Before you read any further, the answer is yes. If you’ve clicked into this, you’re most likely using an iPhone and you’re wondering if this expensive AirTag tracker really will help you find items that you might have misplaced. In that case, yes, you probably really do need this, and you’ll be glad to fork out that S$45 or US$29 for your peace of mind.
Apple was kind enough to provide us with some AirTags as well as an iPhone to have the full experience, which is great, since my usual Android phone wouldn’t have been able to use the AirTags at all.
Let’s talk about setup. It’s super easy. Extract the AirTag from the pack, pull off the protective film and at the end, there’s a little battery tab that gets pulled out as well, activating the tracker. The AirTag then goes into pairing mode and you get a popup on any nearby iPhones to prompt pairing. It’s smooth and incredibly convenient, just like every other accessory that Apple makes, as long as you’re using an iPhone or Mac computer.
I then proceeded to marvel at the beautiful shiny metal side before putting the small disk into the leather keyring holder, which is a separate purchase. This is a bit of a pain point for me, I think. A leather keyring holder costs more than the AirTag itself, while a silicone loop costs the same as one AirTag. It’s an expensive purchase for sure, especially if you’re planning on attaching AirTags to more than one item.
Moving on, we come to the first downside. The metal side of the AirTag is incredibly easily scratched if you don’t get a holder that completely covers the AirTag. After just a few days of use, I noticed hairline scratches on both the metal and plastic side, but of course, the shiny metal showed the scratches more obviously than the white plastic. It’s purely aesthetic of course, since it doesn’t affect the performance of the product, but it’s just a bit of a bummer that the pristine AirTag is all scuffed up after just a bit of use.
Anyway, you get to choose from a list of items to let the Find My app know what the AirTag is attached to. It’s a pretty long list too, with options like Bike, Camera, Headphones, Luggage, Keys and more. Some don’t quite make sense. Most people wouldn’t be dangling an AirTag off their headphones, but more on this later.
Once the tracker is all set up, you get to see it on the Find My app’s map under the new Items tab. Since my keys never really leave my person, I’m able to see it travelling with me on the map whenever I open the app.
But what’s really mindblowing is the way you can use the app to find whatever item you’ve put the AirTag on.
Here’s my real-life example: I asked my brother to hide my keys somewhere in a three-storey house, then I went on a “treasure hunt” to find them after. Starting on the first floor, the app told me that the signal was weak and that I should walk in a different direction. That stayed for the whole floor, so clearly, I went to the second floor. Once I climbed the last step, the phone prompted me that I was just a few metres away from my keys. Success!
Now, at this point, most other Bluetooth trackers like Tile would require you to play a sound on the tracker so that you can pinpoint the exact location. Apple’s Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology makes it even easier to find that location. I got an arrow pointing me in the direction I should head towards. Once I got into the correct room, the app prompted me that I was right on the spot. Okay, but there were no keys on the table. I decided to ring the tracker and found it was hidden on the loft bed above.
My relatives were impressed with the AirTag, and they’re a family of all Apple users, so I already know that the next time I head over, they’ll probably be sporting the tracker on their keys and such. But I completely understand why they would. It’s such a refined take on an item tracker that just makes finding lost items extremely easy.
If you look past the AirTag though, you’ll realise this technology has the opportunity to make its way into so many other things. Apple could implement a version of this in the AirPods Max headphones. Lose them under a pile of clothes? You’ll be able to find them, no problem. Where this feature would really shine, though, is with the tiny AirPod and AirPod Pro earbuds. Unfortunately, I have no idea if Apple would even be able to implement the UWB chip into the earbuds, due to space constraints. But imagine if they could. You wouldn’t have to worry about lost earbuds anymore, because your phone would be able to track them down with such preciseness.
The AirTag’s form factor right now isn’t great for everything, but if Apple has plans to shrink it down further, maybe even flatten it and make it in the form of a sticker or something, it definitely opens up so many more avenues for use. I know my dad loses his spectacles all the time; he’s always asking “where did I leave my glasses?” Well, with a sticker tracker, problem solved. Search for it with your phone. With an AirTag in its current state, it’s just not possible because nobody’s going to hang a tracker off the arm of a pair of spectacles.
Additionally, you get to tap on Apple’s network of over 1 billion devices with a notification when an AirTag marked as lost is detected by a compatible device. Honestly, you’re more likely to bump into someone using an Apple device than someone who’s using a tracking app network. And that’s the beauty of it. Apple is using their vast, extensive network to push this. There’s no need to build a network to make sure that you can crowdsource and track your device, it already exists.
Even if the person who finds your belongings doesn’t use an iPhone, they could still use the NFC function on their phone to get your contact info so that they can try to return the item to you.
Of course, then the AirTag was announced, there was so much hoo-ha about privacy and security. What if someone slips an AirTag into your bag or pocket to track you? Well, Apple has it covered. Any unknown AirTags travelling with an iPhone user for a prolonged period of time will result in the iPhone user getting a notification that there’s an unknown AirTag that has been in the vicinity for a while, with some options whether to pause safety alerts, meaning you’re fine with the AirTag in your vicinity, or whether you want to locate the AirTag by ringing it. Apple also provides instructions on how to disassemble an AirTag to disable it and stop sharing location, which is excellent for personal safety.
My mother got the notification two hours after we left the house to get dinner, which was a decent amount of time. It’s not like you’d get the notification if you were just travelling with someone using an AirTag on the bus or train, but if there’s really someone trying to track you with an AirTag, Apple has made sure that you’ll be aware of it.
All in all, I’d say that even if you’re not intending to use AirTags with everything you own, the one great option is definitely for keys. If Apple ever decides to release a second or third generation with a sticker form factor, I know I’ll be recommending them to every iPhone user I know.
More information about the AirTag (S$45 for one, S$149 for 4-pack) can be found on Apple’s website.
Written by Cheryl Tan