Apple released one of the most popular tracking devices, the AirTag, in April 2021. Although there are other portable trackers on the market, features such as IP67 water resistance and ultra-wideband connectivity set it apart from the competition. AirTag works seamlessly with iPhones. To pair them, simply remove the device’s battery tab and place it near your iPhone. Within seconds, a dialogue box should appear on your iPhones screen: tap connect, enter a name, and you’re ready to go. This connects the device to your Apple ID and makes it visible in the “Find My” app
Because of the size of AirTag, you can attach one to your keys, slip it in your handbag, conceal one in your wallet, or place one in your travel bag, and presto, you have a personal radar on whatever you choose. However, how far can an AirTag travel? That is a question that arises. Apple does not explain an AirTag’s maximum tracking range, but the AirTag has connectivity options. Apple has outfitted the device with Bluetooth for proximity detection, its in-house U1 chipset for Precision Finding, and NFC for interacting with iPhones.
To use an AirTag, you must first enable Bluetooth on your iPhone, so the tracking device will rely on Bluetooth connectivity at all times, at least when in proximity. This means that the AirTag must be within 33 feet (10 meters) of the iPhone’s maximum Bluetooth range. However, keep in mind that Bluetooth connectivity is affected by a variety of factors, including the distance between the devices. With a clear line of sight, the iPhone’s Bluetooth connection works perfectly in the previously mentioned range.
Class 2 Bluetooth chips, which are commonly used in Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, and even trackers, now have a range of 33 feet (10 meters). To summarize, if your AirTag is 10 meters or closer, you can track it using Bluetooth technology, which should track items indoors. For example, if you have an AirTag attached to your car keys, your iPhone can communicate with the AirTag via Bluetooth. Then, if you have an iPhone 11 or later with an U1 chip, Precision Tracking is available in the Find My app as the “Find Nearby” option.
If your AirTag is within Bluetooth range, you can use the Find My app to play a sound to help you locate it (via osxdaily). The AirTag has an in-built speaker that is loud enough to attract your attention indoors, unless I hid it beneath a pile of clothes or sofa cushions.
But what if you misplace a tagged device and it is no longer in Bluetooth range? In that case, AirTags rely on the ever-expanding Find My network of Apple devices. According to TheVerge, there are over 1.8 billion Apple devices worldwide as of Jan. 28, 2022, which can communicate with one another and help locate lost devices. As a result, if you misplace a tagged device or it is stolen, you can use the Find My app to mark it as lost and wait for another Apple device to locate it.
When an Apple device comes within Bluetooth range of the AirTag, it updates the AirTag’s estimated location on the Find My network. The Find My app also displays the device’s location. Then you can go to the location and use Bluetooth and Precision Finding to locate your device. Because of the global presence of the Find My network, AirTags can be located even if they are on the other side of the world, as long as other Apple devices are nearby (via Apple).
Apple also allows other users to locate a misplaced AirTag using Bluetooth and Precision Finding. When someone comes across your AirTag, they can tap their iPhone on it to receive an on-screen message via NFC. This message includes your name and contact information.
If the AirTag is in a remote location with no Apple devices nearby, the Find My network will notify you of its most recent tracked location, along with a timestamp. However, you will be notified when the location becomes available again. Precision Tracking is not available in certain countries, including Armenia, Belarus, Nepal, Russia, and Ukraine. The complete list of countries where ultra-wideband is not available can be found here.
AirTags are great for tracking personal belongings, but they lack GPS functionality, unlike other Apple devices such as iPhones and Apple Watch (via safewise). Furthermore, AirTags do not support SIM cards or eSIM. This means that an AirTag can’t figure out where it is. The nearby Apple device aids in the tracker’s tracking. Expect an AirTag to provide a real-time location for a misplaced item. Choose GPS-enabled trackers for a more comprehensive tracking solution.
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Are their trackers with a longer Bluetooth range than AirTag? Yes, there is called Tile Mate that has a Bluetooth range of 250 feet (76 meters), which is over seven times that of an AirTag. Samsung, a South Korean technology company, has also developed small trackers called SmartTag, which have a Bluetooth range of up to 400 feet, or 120 meters. However, none of these devices support the Apple Find My network.