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After years of whispers and speculation, Apple has finally decided to jump into the Bluetooth tracker arena. AirTags were announced during the company’s Spring Loaded event on April 20th, along with new and improved editions of the iMac, iPads and plenty of other gadgets.
A single AirTag costs $29, while a four-pack will run you $99. Don’t forget to buy a key-ring or strap to secure your naked AirTag to whatever you’re trying to track — they’re Apple products and naturally, they are sold separately. These accessories will run you anywhere from $35 to $449 on the Apple website, but third-party options will crop up soon if that sounds a bit steep.
With 6-packs other name-brand Bluetooth tracker’s selling for under $10/unit, we decided to dig in and find out whether Apple’s AirTags do enough to merit their (relatively) high price.
Get to Know the Apple AirTag
Apple’s AirTag is a lightweight disc-shaped device with a glossy finish similar to the Apple seal on the back of an iPhone. Clocking in at just 1.26 inches in diameter and a lithe 0.39 ounces, it’s a good thing that AirTags have trackers built into them. Each tag can be customized with up to four engraved letters or (tastefully arranged) emojis.
Most of an AirTag’s size and weight is comprised of a single-charge CR2032 battery. A single battery is reported to last around one year before it needs to be replaced. Fortunately, you can do that yourself by twisting the back panel off of your AirTag.
AirTags are tracked and managed using the Find My app on a device running iOS 14.3 or later. Using Bluetooth and Ultra-Wideband spatial awareness, you can track each AirTag’s location on the map like any other tracked item. If you have an iPhone 11 or later, you can take advantage of Precision Finding, which uses Apple’s new U1 chip to provide real-time directions towards your AirTag’s location.
It’s easy to identify and return a lost AirTag, be it your own or someone else’s. You can scan a lost tag with any smartphone with an NFC reader and it will bring up contact information and/or ping the owner.
You can have up to 16 AirTags on a single Apple ID, but you can only share a tag’s tracking abilities with someone in your Family Sharing Group. There are privacy features that prevent AirTags from being used as an unwanted tracking device — if someone else’s AirTag makes it into your bag or onto your person, your iPhone will alert you to its presence until it is disabled. This only happens when the AirTag strays too far from its owner, so you don’t have to worry about constant interference with other people’s devices.
How Do AirTags Compare to the Competition?
Until this point, Tile has maintained a stronghold on the tracking device market. There are other worthwhile competitors out there, such as the Chipolo One and Cube Pro, but Tile still offers the widest array of different products and features. It’s worth noting that the company has been in deep antitrust-suit-laden rivalry with Apple for years, making the AirTag’s release a contentious topic.
In terms of price, AirTag’s $29 price point is average compared to the competition at full price. The similar Tile Pro costs $34.99 for a single unit, but both brands sell a four-pack for around $99. Chipolo One trackers cost between $20 and $30, and a Cube Pro costs $29.95.
The curious exclusion of a key loop or lanyard strap catch puts AirTags at a disadvantage, as most competitors don’t require an additional $30 accessory purchase to use their product. Batteries that hold a charge seem to be a gamble in the arena of tracking devices, but AirTags report a one-year battery life similar to the Tile Pro and the Cube. Chipolo One batteries can last as long as two years, but results seem inconsistent.
The main point of comparison boils down to whether you have other iOS devices and which ones you have. Like any other Apple product, AirTags are streamlined for effortless and intuitive use in an Apple ecosystem. If the Precision Finding feature is important to you, you’ll need to own (or buy) an iPhone 11 or later to use this UWB spatial awareness feature.
AirTags rely on a network of nearby iPhones to pinpoint your object’s location, which is ideal for devices with the Find My app. This puts Android users at a disadvantage right off the bat, especially since the other brands have cross-platform compatibility. Tile, Cube, and Chipolo don’t have the expansive iPhone network to draw from, but they are likely a better fit for non-Apple users.
Are AirTags Worth it?
As is the case with most Apple products, your AirTag experience will vary depending on whether you use devices that rely on iOS. Activating and tracking an AirTag is effortless for an iPhone user, while there are a few extra steps for those who prefer Android. Apple’s Precision Finding tool gives AirTags an edge over the slightly less intuitive interface found in similar products, but access is limited to those with the shiniest and newest iPhones.
Aesthetics play a role as well. While everyone may feel differently about their appearance, AirTags are slightly smaller and more stylized than most Bluetooth trackers’ utilitarian physiques. If the difference between “losing your keys every day” and “not losing your keys every day” is a matter of whether or not your keyring looks cute, the customizable appearance of the AirTag might be a good solution.
Tile Pro – Sale Price: $29.99 | Reg. Price: $34.99
IP68 water resistance rating
Internal speakers peak at 128dB
$2.99/mo Premium service available
Cube Pro – Reg. Price: $29.49
IP67 water resistance rating
Internal speakers peak at 101dB
Activates phone ring or vibrate without having to use the Cube app
Chipolo One – Reg. Price: $24.90
Internal speaker peaks at 120dB
IPX5 water resistance rating
Compatible with virtual assistants
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