Woman pulling wallet from handbag with Apple Airtag bluetooth tracker attached.
August 2021

First Look: Apple AirTag

We trialled Apple’s new Bluetooth tracker, but is it really one out of the box?

Apple has released the AirTag – its first Bluetooth tracker. The small device can be attached to belongings, like keys and bags. If they then get lost, you use an app on your iPhone or iPad to locate them.

We gave an AirTag to four Consumer NZ test team members to trial for a few weeks. Here’s what they had to say.

Results

Paul Smith, Product Test Manager

“The AirTag looks good and connects faultlessly to my iPhone. With no sharp edges or flat surfaces, it’s lovely to hold. But its shape, like a small river pebble, makes it frustratingly awkward to use. I put it in my wallet, but it was like carrying a pebble in my pocket. I could buy an accessory tag to attach it to keys or a bag, but those cost as much as the AirTag itself. So my AirTag ended up rattling around in the bottom of my daily backpack. But, I’ve never lost a backpack. It’s now tracking my bicycle. The rounded shape again makes it awkward, so I’ve hidden that lovely-looking form under a mass of duct tape to keep it attached.”

James le Page, Product Test Team Leader

Photograph of Apple Airtag saddle brown leather loop.
Apple AirTag

“I always lose my keys somewhere in the house, so the idea of an Apple AirTag really appealed. Setting up was seamless and easy, and required little know-how. I placed the $55 tag inside the $65 – $65! – Apple-branded leather key ring and attached it to my keys. It’s worked really well – I haven’t misplaced my keys since or even had to try track them down using the AirTag’s features (maybe for fear of losing the most expensive keyring I’ve ever owned). Would I buy one? Nope. It’s way too expensive for the small amount of value it’s brought to my life. Perhaps if I could fit the bulky disk in my wallet, I’d be more on board.”

Deb Lindsay, Test Verifier

“It took me 30 seconds to set up from start to finish – it was super easy. I simply removed the battery tag from the battery compartment to activate the AirTag. My iPhone 7+ instantly detected there was a new device to add, via Bluetooth. It was just a matter of confirming I wanted to set up an AirTag. I then named the AirTag and confirmed that I wanted it to start working immediately. I left the AirTag in my car on Wednesday, as it was getting serviced in the next suburb along, and I just wanted to see what the range was like. I was able to locate it from my house (about 1.5km away), so I was quite impressed with that. I could also see that my car didn’t leave the premises! I wanted to know how this was possible as the Bluetooth range of my iPhone only detects connected devices up to 10m away. I found out that because the AirTag uses Apple’s Find My network, it can be detected whenever it’s within the Bluetooth range of anybody’s Bluetooth-enabled iPhone. The AirTag passively communicates with that device and essentially sends you “piggy-backed” data to help you locate it!”

Julia Addison, Product Test Writer

“If you have an older or bottom-of-the-range iPhone, you’re probably going to be disappointed. My SE doesn’t have an U1 (Ultra Wideband) chip but tapping “Directions” within the Find My app gave greater accuracy, although it still wasn’t spot-on (I couldn’t tell if my keys were upstairs or downstairs). It’s not just about obsolescence, though. Attaching an AirTag to your keys requires a key ring (and Apple’s official accessories don’t come cheap). Tile-branded trackers, however, come pre-drilled. They have another advantage, too: double-pressing any one of your Tile trackers will make your phone ring (because sometimes it’s your phone that’s lost).” 

Verdict

We weren’t overly excited by the AirTag. While the test teamers found it very easy to set up, the shape was impractical, and the accessories needed to fix that were too expensive. While Apple’s specs state the AirTag is compatible with devices running iOS 14.5 or later, that’s not the whole story. You’ll have to read further in the product description to discover that the Precision Finding feature – which makes the AirTag most useful – won’t work on phone models older than the iPhone 11.

In comparison, the Tile Mate ($49.95) and Tile Slim ($59.95), which Julia has investigated, offer more versatility. They can be attached to your belongings without the need for expensive accessories. The reverse-calling feature, which can be used to find your phone, is also super handy.

Specifications

Price: $55 (single), $189 (4-pack)
Dimensions: 31.9 x 31.9 x 8mm
Weight: 11g
Water and dust resistance: IP67
Battery: User-replaceable coin cell CR2032
System requirements and compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad models running iOS 14.5 or later

First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. The AirTags were loaned to us by Apple.

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