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Apple AirTag review: Expensive, but potentially useful

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One of Apple’s smallest and most affordable devices, the AirTag is also interesting for a number of reasons. This small, disc-shaped tracking device is built to work within the Apple ecosystem, giving you an easy way to keep tabs on small objects such as keys, wallets, backpacks, handbags, and cameras. There are similar products, including the Tile range of trackers and Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag, but the AirTag is smaller, looks better, and is designed to work well if you invest in Apple’s products and services.

3,190 for an Apple AirTag, or Rs. 10,900 for a pack of four, this product serves a very specific purpose – helping you keep track of your belongings. Is it good at what it does? Find out in this review.

What is Apple AirTag and what does it do?

The Apple AirTag is a tracking device that can be attached to a small personal object such as a bunch of keys, or placed inside a backpack, handbag, or suitcase. The device uses Bluetooth for connectivity, and draws power from the replaceable CR2032 button cell. The small, disc-sized tracker can be linked to your Apple ID using an iOS device, and controlled using Apple’s Find My app.

Each AirTag can potentially be tracked using Apple’s crowdsourced ‘Find My’ network. An AirTag can ping any nearby supported iPhone, no matter who, which can then anonymously share its location with the user of the account it’s linked to.

It’s easy to add and link your AirTag to your Apple ID; Simply bring it close to your iPhone to get started

Of course, this method isn’t perfect, and in fact airtags work best when used within a small and known range. They are there to efficiently help you find something you lost in your home or office, rather than getting lost on the road.

Each AirTag runs on a replaceable battery that is said to last up to a year before the device needs to be replaced. For connectivity, they use Bluetooth Low Energy. AirTags are compatible with any iPhone, iPod touch or iPad running iOS 14.5 or later. There’s also an Exact Search feature that takes advantage of Ultra Wideband via the U1 chip on compatible iPhones (all iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 models). Each AirTag has a built-in ringer that emits a sound to help you locate it at close range. The device is rated IP67 for dust and water resistance.

It’s worth pointing out that the AirTag is very prone to scratches on the metal exterior, and I already had a few scratches within a few days of using it. These did not bother me much as they did not affect the performance of the device; It’s something you set up and forget, until the unfortunate point of needing you to activate its tracking features.

Apple sent me a pack of four AirTags for review, along with Rs. 3,590 leather key ring and Rs. 2,990 loops. Each airtag can be installed separately, and accessories, although expensive, will help attach them to the items you want to use, such as keys or bags. It’s worth pointing out that you can buy more affordable third-party accessories for AirTag, with plenty of options available at e-commerce stores.

Apple airtag review keyring Apple

Apple leather key ring for AirTag is priced at Rs. 3,590 in India

How do I use Apple AirTag?

Apple makes the setup process simple with its products, and setting up Apple Airtags is incredibly easy. It took me less than a minute to get ready for one use; It was detected by my iPhone shortly after activating it, and it took just a few steps to register it to my Apple ID with an editable electronic label. There are a handful of options for labeling each AirTag, such as keys, backpack, and bike, to name a few, but you can also choose a custom label for your AirTag and change it at any time.

Once done, I was able to keep track of the AirTag — and the personal item attached to it — with the Find My app on iOS. The app allows you to track devices such as the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and Apple Audio products, and others such as family members (when location sharing access has been given to you). For AirTags, the ‘Items’ section is important, as it shows the location of your ‘Airtagged’ personal items, and lets you access controls and functions for specific items.

The first thing you’ll see is a map view (powered by Apple Maps), which shows the last known location of your tagged item. Pulling up the item list shows you specific information about those items – in my case, all three showed an ‘with you’ sign, indicating they were in the immediate vicinity of my iPhone.

Tapping on a specific item lets you view that particular AirTag’s battery status, play a sound to help you quickly locate it in your immediate surroundings, along with on-screen cues and vibration feedback. Can locate it directly using ultra wideband signal, and choose notification. settings for this. If that item is left behind, you can choose to be notified, select location exceptions for notifications, rename or delete an item, and enable ‘Lost Mode’.

Notifications work well when an item is left behind, letting me know if I was no longer near an item with an airtag. Also, having an AirTag on my scooter worked, too, as it gave me the last known location, which was updated occasionally – possibly when someone with an iPhone was nearby.

apple airtag review find my app apple

Find My App on iOS Lets You Access AirTag’s Functions and Features

When ‘Lost Mode’ is activated, the Find My app will attempt to locate the airtag using anonymous location sharing from its network and other users and tell you where it is. I didn’t activate this mode because I didn’t lose my items at any point during my review, and it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t an easy way to find what you’ve lost.

The system relies on AirTag being able to ping nearby iOS devices using Bluetooth, which may not always be possible. However, if it works, it will notify you that the device has been found and provide you with a location.

In countries like the US where a lot of people use iPhones, the ‘mesh’ of users contributing to Find My Network is huge, which makes such a device more effective even in remote locations. It’s also worth noting here that you can opt out of Find My Network altogether, and users who have done so won’t contribute to the network and the ability to help locate lost AirTag.

In India, it’s a little less reliable for this functionality, as it relies on your lost AirTag being close to someone with a supported iPhone who hasn’t opted out of Find My Network; The number of iPhone users is already low, before you have to exclude some of the people who have opted out. Naturally, this would also mean that it is more effective in urban areas, where there are likely to be more iPhones to work with.

Within my home, the AirTag worked well, producing a chime sound as needed, helping me identify where it was. However, the sound wasn’t very loud, and I often needed to silence everything else to be able to hear it. The on-screen precision finding feature also worked well, showing me the distance to the airtag, with an arrow and circle showing me the direction to go in. There’s even a vibration response that got stronger as I got closer.

It may also be important to bring up potential privacy and security concerns here. It’s a small, easy-to-conceal device, and could potentially be used to track someone else down through a personal item or vehicle without their knowledge. Apple has built features into the product to counter these exact concerns, but researchers and tech journalists suggest that they don’t work as well as they should.

apple airtag review loop apple

Apple AirTag wears out easily, scratches appear within days of opening my review units

Decision

The Apple AirTag is about as niche product as it gets, but it is one that fits very well into the Apple ecosystem and does its job reasonably well. This is great at finding lost items in a known location, and can potentially work as well for items that have been lost or stolen, although the latter system is not guaranteed to work. Especially in India where Apple devices remain out of reach for many. Although you will have to replace the batteries from time to time, the AirTag uses a widely available CR2032 cell and will be easier to maintain in the long run.

While Apple claims the battery will only need to be replaced once a year, that depends entirely on how it’s used—features like the ringer and ultra wideband detection will speed up battery drain.

Though susceptible to mayhem, the Apple AirTag gave me little to complain about — other than its price, and the price of original Apple accessories. It’s expensive for the features it offers, and it only makes sense if you invest heavily in the Apple product ecosystem and often lose your personal items around your home or office.

Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Small, easy to install and use
  • Find My App works well with Airtags
  • Up to one year battery life, easily replaceable battery
  • Works great for finding items in a known location

Shortcoming:

  • costly
  • Scrambles easily with normal use
  • Works only with iOS devices
  • the bell is not very loud

This week on the Orbital, Gadgets 360 podcast, we discuss the iPhone 13, the new iPad and iPad mini, and the Apple Watch Series 7 — and what they mean for the Indian market. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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