Apple AirTag review: I found my keys, now can you please help me find my mind?
The best parts about the Apple AirTag are that it’s sleek, looks good with its accessories, is very, very simple to set up, and works really well.
- Directional indicators
- Reliable and pretty accurate
- Sleek, good looking
- Replaceable battery
- Not compatible with Android
- Cannot ping phone from AirTag
To put it very simply, Apple AirTag is a Bluetooth tracker. You can attach it to your keys, your bag, you may figure out a way to attach it to your iPhone/iPad/MacBook, attach it to your pets, or small kids in a crowded area - there are really a whole lot of ways you can leverage Apple's iOS integration and the huge network of iOS devices to find things you've lost. Except for your mind, or your motivation, I seem to have lost both at some point of time in April this year.
The best parts about the Apple AirTag are that it's sleek, looks good with its accessories, is very, very simple to set up, and works really well. But of course, it is only compatible with your iPhone (or iPad) so if you are on Android and want a Bluetooth tracker, you have to pick between a Tile or a Samsung SmartTag. In the world of Bluetooth trackers, Apple is essentially competing against Tile which has a network of significant size (definitely larger than Samsung's SmartTags). However, when it comes to speed and accuracy of tracking, Apple AirTags do it better.
You can buy one Apple AirTag for ₹3,190 and a pack of four for ₹10,900. The accessories you can buy with it, like the leather key ring, a silicon loop, and a leather loop, are priced starting from ₹3,590 for the leather key ring, ₹2,990 for the silicon loop, and ₹3,990 for the leather loop. Of course, you don't NEED these. But they do make it easier to attach the AirTag to keys, bags, pets, etc. We used the leather key ring to attach one AirTag to the bunch of house keys, and the silicon loop to attach it to a handbag. Thanks to WFH, there was really no need to slip an AirTag into the laptop carrying case, but we totally see that happening in the future.
Now, we didn't misplace a handbag, but we did forget the keys in a restaurant once. And this is the part where we tell you how well it works. Unlike a Tile tracker, whose range stretches to 30 feet at max, an Apple AirTag's range is essentially infinite as long as there is someone else with an iPhone around it. This is truly the best part about Apple's offering, besides the fact that it looks so good. The guys at TechRadar hid an AirTag and a Tile Tracker at a busy intersection in the US and clocked how long it took for the trackers to ping an accurate location and then went out to find them. Well. Apple won by a huge leap.
Now, to pair an AirTag to your iPhone or iPad, all you need to do is to pull out the tag and hold it up, it automatically gets detected. You then name it and your Find My app starts tracking it. To find an AirTag, you can ping it to play a little sound, or you can play a little hot-and-cold game with it. Once you are closer to your AirTag a distance indicator appears along with a directional arrow (if you are on iPhone 11 or higher since it uses ultra-wideband directional protocol). If your AirTag is at a higher level, like my keys were hanging on the key holder up near the door, that too gets indicated. The time we left the keys at the restaurant, and left the mall, the Find My app showed its last location as being inside the mall. Once we were back inside and tracking it, the directional arrow turned up almost immediately guiding us to the keys.
The sound that the Apple AirTag makes is not too loud. You can hear it comfortably in a relatively quiet environment but if you are in an outdoorsy, crowded area, pinging the AirTag is not going to be helpful. Also, you cannot use the AirTag to ping your linked iPhone or iPad, this is perhaps one of AirTags' few flaws.
If you are more than 30 feet away from your AirTag, the tracker leverages Bluetooth connections from other iPhones/iPads near it to indicate where it is. All the connections the AirTag uses to indicate its position are end-to-end encrypted. Now, since Apple uses other iPhones to track the AirTag if you are too far away from it, it's going to work well in places where there are a lot of iPhone or iPad users, so essentially in cities. If you are in a rural area, we'd suggest you keep your possessions in check.
This particular feature we just talked about is insanely helpful, but it also creates another serious issue - stalking. Since the AirTag is so small and so easy to find in a city like say Delhi, or Mumbai, anyone can slip one of these into your bag without you knowing and, well, that's that. Don't even get us started on how this is a serious privacy concern, particularly for women, and how it can be used, and abused, to track people. However, Apple has tried to address this issue. If an AirTag is separated from the owner for anything between 8 to 24 hours, it is going to beep once to alert its presence. So if there is an AirTag on you that is not yours, you can expect to hear it beep any time between 8 to 24 hours. But since AirTags are not very loud, it is possible you might miss it. Earlier this duration between an AirTag being separated from the owner and beeping was a long, horrific, three days which was brought down to this 8 to 24 hours after an outcry.
Also, if you have an iPhone running iOS 14.5 and up and there is a “foreign” AirTag on you, Apple says you are going to be alerted once you return to your home location (as indicated by Apple Maps/Contacts). There is an app reportedly coming in for Android users for this same purpose by the end of this year, but till then there is no way an Android user can know if an AirTag is on them unless they hear it beep.
So, if you think about it, you can use an AirTag to stalk pretty much anyone in your house (child or partner) as long as they return home at the end of the day, that way, the AirTag is never going to beep. But that's not just an Apple AirTag problem, it can happen with a Samsung SmartTag and a Tile tracker too.
If you lose an AirTag, you can use the Find My app to put it in Lost mode, and anyone who finds it and checks it will see your phone number and a message and hopefully return it to you.
All in all, there's little to complain about here, to be honest. The AirTags are definitely the better looking Bluetooth trackers as compared to the others in the market, while we are not a huge fan of the shiny side (thanks to a few scratches it did pick up), the option to customise it with engravings (free of cost) is cute. The leather key ring is super luxe and we love the way it looks, and you can buy cheaper alternatives for this from third-parties now. There is really no way you can attach it to your phone though, unless you figure out a way to hang it from a phone case that has an option to accommodate a key ring, or a loop - but it's quite ungainly, and we don't want to think about it. The AirTags are also water-resistant for upto 30 minutes (IP67 rated) and their battery should last you for about a year and is replaceable.
There is a legitimate concern when it comes to AirTags being used to stalk people, and the fact that it is not compatible with Android are perhaps the only “issues” here. And also that it's a little bulky if you intend to slip it into your wallet. Apple is not the first company to have made a Bluetooth tracker, however, they made one that looks better than the rest (especially with the accessories) and, as we pretty much always say, it “just works”.
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