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Apple AirTags – Soon To Be The Most Prolific Apple Product

Rumors have been flying for a long while now, the mobile tracker industry getting more and more nervous, Samsung rushing to release its competing product… but the Apple AirTags are finally here, and the wait has been worth it!

Apple Airtags

Apple Airtags TL;DR

Honestly, Apple Airtags are probably the single most boring product Apple has ever developed. It’s a twoonie size tracking device. Whoopty-doo!

That’s it. 

No built-in display, no camera, no M1 processor; just a simple battery-powered plastic and stainless steel disk. Secure it to your keys, toss one in your backpack, your purse, anything you lose often. It’s not flashy, it’s just the simplest Apple Accessory ever. But by God it’s incredibly useful beyond its simplicity, and I’ll tell you now it will outsell the iPhone in record time, and very shortly will be the single most numerous Apple product out there. 

Apple AirTags have some solid features. They have an easily replaceable, industry-standard CR2032 battery that lasts for over a year with standard use. They are rated with IP67 water and dust resistance, good for up to 30 minutes in up to a meter of water; but knowing Apple often understated ratings, I’m sure someone will discover an AirTag in the Mariana Trench in the future. They have a built-in speaker to help you find them, and advanced sensors and Bluetooth technologies. 

They are relatively affordable as well, $39 per unit, or $129 for a set of 4, you can load up to 16 onto your AppleID. 

Apple Airtags 4 pack

Apple Airtags Leverage The Power Of Billions 

As simple as they look, and the rather pedestrian industry category they exist in, they do in fact have a hefty dose of Apple Magic. These devices contain an accelerometer as well as Apple’s Ultra-wideband  U1 chip. Ultra-wideband uses high frequency, low range, radio signals, using a time-of-flight system to accurately locate other devices.  This precision tracking is available through Apples Find My app and uses an interactive interface to give you the range and direction to your AirTag. Whereas before you could get a rough GPS location of your lost device then rely on the audible ping, you can now actually get pointed in the right direction and locate your lost item down to the inch! 

Apple Airtags

Now, this feature alone makes them special, but not “Apple Special”. The real magic is when you are out of range of the Airtag. Let’s say you get home from shopping and you discover your wallet is missing. You are out of range of the U1 chip, so you can’t get a location on it, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be YOUR phone actually. 

It can be ANYONE’s iPhone. ANY of the BILLION or so iPhones in the world in fact. 

There is the Apple Magic, the ability to securely rely on the vast army of iPhones to find your wee, lonely lost AirTag. You see, the AirTag emits a BlueTooth signal that is compatible with practically any Apple iPhone, and when a passing iPhone detects this signal, it silently passes on its location to Apple’s servers, which in turn, updates the AirTags location on your FindMy Map. Once you see this, you can run on back to the rough location you lost it, then use the U1 technology to precisely track it down!

Losing anything tied to an Airtag is nigh impossible due to several other layers of features. It all starts with association; the first time you get your AirTag you need to associate it with your AppleID and name it. Using the same Activation Lock technology, that AirTags becomes locked to your AppleID, making stealing them as useless as stealing an iPhone. When you discover your item is missing, you login to the Find My app and report it lost. Once this is done, you can specify a phone number to be displayed. Let’s say another shopper finds your wallet and notices the AirTag, they can simply tap it using the NFC equipt phone.. including any Android phone… to get your provided contact information.

Let’s say it’s good and lost LOST. What if your wallet has fallen in behind a shelf? After 3 days (a time span that will soon be able to be customized) the AirTag will begin to emit an audible ping noise. The idea being that someone hopefully will hear it, be able to retrieve and then NFC taps it to get the contact info.

With all these features and technologies, the AirTags are incredibly powerful and infinitely useful.  But with great power, comes great responsibility. 

Privacy & Nefarious Tracking Concerns

AirTags sound like a great tracking device… so what is stopping someone from hiding an AirTag in your bag and tracking YOU? When these devices were first announced the immediate concern was these would be a boon for stalkers! But Apple has thought of that. Again, it’s the association with your AppleID, which also happens to have a list of your devices. Your iPhone knows what AirTags are associated with your AppleID, and if it detects an AirTag that is NOT associated with your AppleID and happens to be moving with you, it will let you know! It will actually display a message stating that there is an unknown AirTag moving with you! This feature is initiated only when an AirTag is separated from its owner, so riding on a bus or hanging with a friend that has an AirTag won’t trigger the following alert. 

This is a feature Apple is happy to have its competition copy and Samsung did in very short order. Due to companies like Tile simply not having the required resources, it’s not possible for them to match Apple. 

The device itself never contains your location data or history, and any and all data transmitted is encrypted end to end. Not even Apple themselves can access the identity of the phone reading the AirTag or the location of it. Furthermore, Bluetooth Signal Identifiers rotate frequently to prevent tracking as well. Apple details some of these security measures here

Set Up And Locating

When you first open up your AirTags box, the unit is covered in protective plastic, removing it pulls a tag and allows the battery circuit to close. Once the unit has turned on initially it will emit an alert tone, then you just have to place it next to your iOS 14.5 enable iPhone or iPad. Your iOS device will automatically detect it and bring up a widget to pair it with the AirTag. You must name it and register it with your AppleID at that time. Then you are set to go! Just put it on the thing you want to be tracked and don’t worry for a good while as the battery won’t need replacing for a good year. 

In the event the item gets lost, all you have to do is sign into the Find My app and scroll till you find the particular AirTag. Just like with an iPhone, you have the immediate option to play a sound, or if you are within range, you can start the U1 chip assisted find feature. 

If it happens to be far away… like even on another continent… you can enable lost mode. Once you tap lost, you’ll be prompted to put in a contact phone number. You can also specify it to notify you when it’s been found. Apple has some additional information here

Once you get your stuff back you can turn off the lost mode and you’re good to go!

Accessories And A Couple Negatives

Apple is by no means perfect, and the AirTag is not perfect. The most glaring issue with the Airtag is that it lacks any sort of lanyard hole. Pretty big oversight, one that the accessory market is already leaping upon. The shape is pleasing, but since it’s not flat, it can be awkward in some deployments, say for instance a wallet. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll get some additional form factors like Tile offers. Initial reports also indicate it’s pretty easy to scratch and scuff it, disappointing but honestly not a big deal to me. You would think Apple beyond such oversight, but they failed to put the same tracking technology in their new AppleTV remote!! WHY?? As a result, Macosrumors came up with this brilliant solution.

It should be noted AirTags are also incorporate Accessibility controls, including VoiceOver. This would enable your iPhone to actually speak and tell you the Airtag is 6 feet away to your left, this could be great for visually impaired people. 

The accessory market is going to be big, with all sorts of holding solutions being introduced. Of course, there are various straps and lanyards available, including a glasses lanyard so you don’t lose your specs. True to form, Hermes has introduced a luggage tag that is more valuable than my entire luggage collection, get 4 or 5 here for $579.00 a shot. For that amount, that leather damn well have better come from a Wagyu beef critter. You can order skins for them, and a case with a lanyard hole. One of the smarter ideas I saw an all-encompassing fabric holder that has an adhesive so you can stick it to the inside of bags or backpacks.  The same company also has a silicon version to stick to curved surfaces as well as a hard case

Airtag Accessories

A few folks out there have come up with the brilliant idea of an AirTag dog tag! Though Apple will never take on the responsibility of tracking your pet, it’s a brilliant pet tracker. Don’t forget though, it is NOT a GPS, so if you lose your dog out on the farm, it probably won’t help to track them down. But, if you live in the city and your dog or cat runs off, any iPhone they pass will light up with your best friend’s location! Also, should they be found, the person just has to tap their phone to your critters tag to get your contact info. 

If you have young kids that lose their coats, shoes, or such, AirTags are a great solution that may help you retrieve those expensive jackets they left on the playground. Inadvertently, this would also be a way of tracking your kids themselves. though most parents will opt for a full-on GPS solution if they are worried about this. 


By looks of it, AirTags are going to sell out very fast, so get your hands on a set soon as you can. These simple products contain that special Apple Sauce that makes them an incredible addition to your Apple ecosystem and sets themselves ahead of the competition. Do you have any unique applications for Apple Airtags? Contact us!

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Ryszard (Rick) Gold, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada has over 20 years of experience working with Apple products in a technical capacity. Passionate about technology in general, his natural troubleshooting abilities, curiosity and appreciation of good design lead him into working exclusively with Apple Computer products.
Ryszard Gold
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