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Apple AirTag review: this is going to be huge


Apple’s AirTags cost £29 each and can be personalised with an engraving (Apple)

The AirTags had been rumoured for years before Apple finally unveiled them during a virtual keynote last month.

Bluetooth trackers are nothing new, but the circular little AirTags have an ace up the sleeve: they’re made by Apple.

As such, they can leverage the billion plus Apple-made devices out in the world to cast an unrivalled geographical net to help owners find their lost stuff.

AirTags are water-resistant and contain a small speaker to emit a sound to help locate them. They cost £29 each or £99 for a pack of four.

And, in my humble opinion, Apple is going to make a killing here.

Just like the AirPods before them, these little discs are affordable enough for the majority of customers and, because they can be personalised, will make for excellent gifts.

Apple users could buy one for their keys, a couple more for some of their bags and then perhaps a few more for their parents or kids. These are going to be huge.

The AirTag has a shiny reflective cover that protects the battery (Metro.co.uk)

Connecting to the Find My app on a user’s Apple devices, each individual AirTag contains a unique identifier and is linked to a specific AppleID.

Once you give the AirTag a designation – such as ‘keys’ or ‘backpack’ – it shows up on the map in the Find My app.

Then things start to get pretty clever.

Let’s say you’ve left your bag on the bus, with an AirTag inside it. Once the device passes out of range of your iPhone, it uses any nearby iOS device to locate itself.

So, if another passenger has an iPhone, the AirTag can piggyback off that device and relay its location to you inside the Find My app. All the information sent through the network is anonymous and end-to-end encrypted to protect everyone’s privacy. Only you can see the location of your bag.

If someone else finds the bag and discovers the AirTag, they can use any phone (iOS or Android) with Near-Field Communication (NFC) capacity to tap the AirTag and reveal your contact details – name and phone number – so they can return your belongings to you.

Because of the encryption, not even Apple can know the location of your AirTag or the identity of any device that helps find it. The Bluetooth signals used to connect the tags change frequently so nobody can track the item by following them.

Each AirTag will show up on a map inside the Find My app (Apple)

In order to stop people misusing the AirTags to deliberately track others, Apple has included a safety feature.

An iOS device can detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner and notify you if it is traveling with you over time. Such as if someone has slipped it into your pocket.

You’ll then be able to play a sound on the unknown AirTag to locate it and view more information, like its serial number and instructions on how to disable it by removing its battery.

Apple says that an AirTag separated from its owner for a period of time (around three days) will also start playing a sound when it is moved to alert somebody to its presence, even if they don’t use an iOS device.

How do they work in practice? As you might expect, they’re simple to set up and just do their thing in the background.

About the size of a coin, each AirTag measures 1.26-inchers in diameter and is 0.31-inches thick.

The AirTags are small, inexpensive and likely to be a massive hit (Metro.co.uk)

A small chime played when I pulled out the plastic divider, signifying the AirTag was activated.

Then, I simply brought the tag close to my iPhone, which immediately picked it up and paired with it.

Once you pair an AirTag with your iPhone, it’s locked to an AppleID (Apple)

I was glad to see Apple adopted the CR2032 disc battery for the AirTags, which should deliver over a year’s worth of power and is easily and cheaply replaced.

Moreover, if you’ve got any of the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 models you can take advantage of the U1 ultra-wideband chip for ‘Precision Finding’. This turns your entire screen into a directional arrow that guides you exactly to the location of your AirTag. It’s a real life game of hot-and-cold.

My testing (on an iPhone 12 Pro) worked without a hitch. I was very quickly able to locate a few things stashed around the house.

If you have an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 you can enable ‘Precision Finding’ to lead you straight to your lost item (Apple)

Of course, there are other options available when it comes to trackers. Tile devices will work whether you use Apple or Android devices. And Samsung’s SmartTag+ system is also up and running.

But it’s very hard to compete with the dominance of the Apple ecosystem. Even though the company has opened up the Find My network to third parties in recent weeks, this just makes Apple’s system stronger.

If you’re an iPhone user and you’re in the habit of losing things, then picking up an AirTag or two is a no-brainer.

The true uses (and inevitable controversies) of Apple’s newest product likely haven’t even been conceived yet. But I fully expect that within a few years AirTags will become one of Apple’s most important accessories.


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