Apple AirTags worked well when we tested them and earned two thumbs up for tracking items like keys, purses, and luggage. They can also be used to track kids, pets, and cars, but that’s where things get a little sticky since AirTags don’t do a good job of tracking things in motion. We’ll explain what to expect from Apple AirTags no matter how you want to use them.
Two women have filed a class action lawsuit against Apple with the claim that AirTags made it easier for them to be stalked and harassed. There have been a slew of headlines since AirTags launched about bad actors using the devices for nefarious purposes.
Earlier this year, Apple instituted new safeguards to alert people when AirTags are near them, and the company is also working with law enforcement on crime issues related to the devices.
Learn more about the risks of AirTags and how to keep them safe on our YouTube channel.
Video: Are Apple AirTags Safe?
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Most affordable tracking device
Apple AirTags are incredibly affordable, especially compared to GPS trackers. Bluetooth trackers always cost less than GPS trackers anyway, but AirTags go a step further with no monthly fees, period.
Even the one-time purchase price of $49 is as good as it gets.
You do need an iPhone to set up an AirTag, and those don’t come cheap. But if you’re already an iPhone user, AirTags are super budget-friendly.
How Apple AirTags track things
Apple AirTags anonymously connect to any nearby Bluetooth-enabled device that’s also part of Apple’s Find My network—about 1.8 billion devices worldwide.
The AirTag’s location is estimated based on the GPS location of those devices. It shows up in the Find My app as a pin on the map.
You’d be able to see that you left your wallet in your car, for example, and not at your friend’s house. But if you still couldn’t find your wallet in your car, you could use the Find My app to make the AirTag beep. The sound would help you know which part of the car to rummage through.
And if that still didn’t work—and you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone 11 or later—you could use the Precision Finding tool to turn your phone into a compass. Just follow the arrow until the distance reaches zero, and you should be right on top of the lost item.
Bluetooth is too slow for items in motion
Bluetooth tracking technology is a catch-22 for AirTags. On the one hand, it’s the reason these compact little gadgets are so affordable and can run for nearly a year on one battery. On the other hand, Bluetooth connections are relatively slow—and that means an AirTag can’t reliably connect to devices in the Find My network when it’s moving 100 kilometres an hour down the freeway, for example.
Other uses for Apple AirTags
You’re not at a total loss if you’re hoping to use AirTags to track cars, pets, or kids. You just need to understand the limitations of each use.
Tracking vehicles with AirTags: Okay for short trips
AirTags aren’t set-it-and-forget-it devices for tracking your teenage driver or trucking fleet, but they work okay for shorter trips in urban areas.
For starters, AirTags beep when separated from your iPhone for more than 8 to 12 hours. That’s a safety feature to prevent people from being tracked without their knowledge. But even if the driver gives you permission to use an AirTag, that beeping can’t be turned off. And it would be pretty annoying—but you could try putting the AirTag in the boot and see if it’s tolerable.
Then there’s the issue of tracking things in motion. You’ll get location updates when the vehicle slows down or stops and is around other slow-or-stopped Find My devices. So you might get location updates at each red traffic light or whenever the car stops to get petrol. But if the car doesn’t stop for hours or gets stranded in the middle of nowhere, you’re less likely to get an update.
Tracking pets with AirTags: Good in most cases
AirTags should work well for tracking pets as long as you don’t live in a remote area or on a huge farm. For example, if your farm dog decides to camp out with the cows for the night, there’s probably not a Find My device nearby, so the AirTag couldn’t send a location update.
AirTag’s long battery life makes it ideal for attaching to your pet’s collar—you won’t have to take it off to charge, which could leave your pet vulnerable if they choose that moment to wander off. And the beeping shouldn’t be an issue since your pet probably hangs out within 10 metres of you within an 8-hour time span.
The only other time an AirTag would let you down is if your pet gets scared and runs off in a panic. The AirTag might not send a location update until they stop for a breather. You wouldn’t be able to track them in real-time, but it would be better than nothing.
You can find all kinds of colourful silicone collar attachments for Apple AirTags to keep them snug.
Tracking kids with AirTags: Good complement
We consider AirTags a secondary layer of protection for kids. GPS trackers have fewer limitations than AirTags but can have a margin of error of about five metres. Imagine all the hiding places your child could find within a five-metre radius—especially in a crowded area.
That’s when it would be helpful to use the Find My app to hone in on your child’s location. Otherwise, AirTags lack safety features like geofences and emergency buttons, so we don’t recommend them as your primary kid tracker. Check out our list of the best kids GPS trackers instead.
Apple AirTags work well for tracking items and pets, but they’re not the best option for tracking anything that moves too fast or could end up in a remote area. Otherwise, you can’t beat AirTag’s price.
How we reviewed Apple AirTags
For our Apple AirTag review, we conducted hands-on testing from setup to tracking to dismantling. We also compared its technical specs to other trackers on the market and researched safety concerns. Learn more on the SafeWise methodology page.