AirTags explained: Everything you should know before buying one of Apple's new trackers
The new AirTag tracking tiles that Apple unveiled last week arrive as the iPhone maker is showing a growing interest in helping you track items outside of its Apple devices. Apple began this month allowing its Find My app to locate lost items made by third-party companies.
Rumors of a Tile competitor from Apple stretch back to 2019, and the pieces began to fall into place for Apple watchers after AirTag tech was hinted at in the iOS 13 code and when the iPhone 11 was found to have incorporated ultra wideband, or UWB, technology. The groundwork for the gadget was laid even farther back, in 2014, with the iBeacon, a small, inexpensive Bluetooth transmitter that aimed to provide location-based information and services to iPhones. While Bluetooth can track items to within about five meters, UWB can pinpoint them to within 5 to 10 centimeters.
Now that the Apple tracking tag has arrived, here's everything you need to know about the AirTag, including how it works, can you get accessories and how to buy AirTags.
Read more: AirTags vs. Tile vs. Samsung SmartTag: Here's how Apple compares to the competition
What's an AirTag?
The AirTag works similarly to the Tile tag in that you can clip one of the small devices onto keys, a bag or whatever using a separate keychain. The tag can be used without the keychain as well and slipped into a wallet or bag. The AirTag can be paired with items like your iPhone, and it works with the Find My app. (Here's how AirTags compare to Tile trackers.)
The AirTag is a small, lightweight, stainless steel disc with the Apple logo on one side. You can personalize the other side with a free engraving. The new device is also water and dust resistant, with a removable cover designed to make it easy to change the CR2032 battery, which promises a year's worth of battery life with everyday use.
How much do AirTags cost and when can I get one?
If you want to order an AirTag, preorders opened up on April 23 -- here's where you can preorder AirTags. General sale of the tags begins on April 30. The new tech costs $29 per tag, or $99 for a four pack (£29 or £99 in the UK and AU$45 or AU$149 in Australia). And though it's not required, you can more easily attach AirTags to your items with the keychain accessory, including from Hermès. Here's what Apple is offering:
In addition, Apple and Hermès created AirTag Hermès, which features a line of handcrafted leather bag charms, key rings and travel and luggage tags:
How does the AirTag work?
After you set up the AirTag (here's how), a process Apple says works the same as pairing AirPods, it'll appear in the new items tab of the Find My app. You can name your items as well, with suggestions from the app or names of your own.
From there, you can see the item's last known location if you've attached an AirTag to it. If the item is within Bluetooth range, you can use the Find My app to signal the AirTag's built-in speaker to play a sound. AirTags also have Siri-support, so your iOS assistant can help you locate the lost item.
The tags and the Find My app take advantage of Apple's U1 chip with Ultra Wideband technology to use Precision Finding, a feature that relies on camera input, ARKit, accelerometer and gyroscope to guide you to your AirTag using sound and haptic and visual feedback. With the Find My app, you'll get helpful notes like how many feet away your AirTag is and in what direction. Precision Finding also has a voice-over option to help low-vision or blind users.
If you're out of Bluetooth range, you can put your AirTag into Lost mode and get a notification when it's within range of the Find My network. If someone else finds your AirTag, she or he can use an iPhone or NFC-capable device (even an Android phone) to view your contact number, if you've listed it.
Do AirTags keep my information private?
During its AirTag announcement last week, Apple touched on privacy. The company said people can participate in the Find My network without having to share their location with anyone, including Apple. Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada, an engineer at Apple, said safety features are in place that discourage unwanted tracking.
"AirTag is designed to track items, not people," Wolfman-Estrada said during the Apple spring event.
AirTags don't store any location data or history, and communication history through the Find My app is end-to-end encrypted, according to Apple.
What can I get engraved on my AirTag?
Apple will engrave one side of your AirTag for free after you purchase. When you reach the order screen, you can use the letters of the alphabet, numbers (zero through 50), and any of 31 different emojis. Because the tag is small, you can choose up to four characters to engrave on the back. As you choose your emojis, letters and numbers, you'll see a preview of what the tag will look like engraved.
What do I need to use AirTags?
AirTags will need a device running iOS 14.5 or later. Users will also need an Apple ID to sign in to their iCloud account. Here are the compatible devices:
What accessories are available for AirTags?
AirTags don't attach to anything straight out of the box, so you'll need to find a way to stick the devices on your stuff. Several third-party manufacturers like Belkin, ESR, Nomad and Hermes are selling accessories such as keychains, eyeglasses straps and hard shell mounts that will hold your AirTag.
Alison DeNisco Rayome contributed to this report.