How does the AirTag Bluetooth tracker work?
The AirTag is a tiny, round device that uses Bluetooth technology to help you track and find items that are easily lost. You can attach the AirTag to anything – slip it into a wallet or suitcase, put it in a backpack, or even attach it to your dog’s collar.
Contrary to some people’s belief, AirTags do not use GPS tracking. Instead, they rely on the extensive network of iPhone owners. The Apple AirTag sends a Bluetooth signal to nearby Apple devices and connects to Apple’s Find My network. Devices that receive the signal calculate the AirTag’s position based on signal strength and indicate the location on a map. The AirTag’s owner can then locate their lost property.
In other words, if you have an iOS device with Find My enabled, nearby AirTags use your device to calculate their position. This is, of course, secure, and all connections are anonymous.
Apple AirTags can also make beeping sounds. This feature is useful if you misplace something that has a tag attached. You can use Apple’s Find My app to toggle the beeps to find your keys, wallet, or anything else you’ve misplaced.
Are Apple trackers safe?
Tracking devices are small, unobtrusive, and designed to, well, track. Unfortunately, not everyone uses them correctly. They have been infamously used by stalkers, who have planted them in their victims’ cars or belongings. However, Apple has attempted to address AirTag’s unwanted tracking and made adjustments. If the user is traveling with an unknown Bluetooth accessory using the Find My network, their device with iOS 14.5 or newer will notify them. Users can also force the unknown device to make a sound or disable the tracker remotely via Find My app.
As for Android security, Google also announced an update to the Find My Device function, which includes an option to detect any unknown Bluetooth trackers nearby. The update works with Apple AirTags. Google continues to cooperate with other manufacturers to address customer safety concerns.
What to look for in an AirTag alternative
To use Apple’s tracking ecosystem, you must have a device running iOS 14.5 or later. What’s more, the Precision Find feature, which allows you to precisely track AirTags using on-screen instructions, requires an iPhone 11 or later. It’s easy to see that this method isn’t an ideal choice for everyone, because it requires a device of a certain brand and is a bit expensive. That’s why we took a look at some of the AirTag competitors.
If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to Apple AirTags, here are some key features to watch out for:
- Technology. Depending on the brand, a Bluetooth tracker may use different networks to calculate its location. Some devices use Apple’s Find My service, while others may rely on their networks.
- Range. Bluetooth range plays a key role, especially in sparsely populated areas. Remember that Bluetooth trackers rely on other people’s devices and cannot calculate their location if they have nothing to connect to.
- Sounds. Most Bluetooth trackers can make sounds, but it’s a good idea to double-check that the device you choose also does so. Sounds make it easy to locate a misplaced tracker.
- Battery life. Apple states that its AirTag has a battery life of about a year. Some trackers last longer, others shorter. Choose a device that meets your needs.
The best AirTag alternatives for iPhone and Android
An Android AirTag equivalent doesn’t require a specific smartphone brand, but it’s worth considering the circumstances before buying. For example, Apple and Android devices battle for popularity, and while Apple is winning in countries like the US and Japan, Android is winning in others.
Both the Apple AirTag and Android-compatible trackers may be less useful in some places than in others simply because of the user bases. Nevertheless, no matter which OS manufacturer you prefer, the market has something for you.
Chipolo ONE Spot
The Chipolo ONE Spot shares the most similarities with the AirTag. So if you’re looking for an almost one-to-one alternative – this might be the choice for you. It uses Apple’s Find My network, too.
According to the manufacturer, the Chipolo ONE Spot’s range, measured as a clear line of sight from the mobile device to the tracker, is 200 feet. It plays sounds to help you locate it, and the standard CR2032 is replaceable and readily available.
|Splash resistant (IPX5 standard)||Only compatible with iOS devices|
|Uses Apple’s extensive Find My network||No NFC like in AirTag|
The Tile Pro is probably the most popular AirTag alternative for Android users, but it’s also compatible with Apple devices. It has a range of up to 400 feet (the longest on our list!) and can ring to indicate its position. The Tile uses its own app and crowd-finding network.
|Compatible with iOS and Android devices||Slightly more expensive than an AirTag|
|Replaceable battery||Rectangular shape; bigger and not as unobtrusive as an AirTag|
If you’re looking for the thinnest, least obtrusive tracker, look no further. The Cube Shadow can easily fit into your cardholder or wallet. It rings if pinged via a smartphone app, and it can trigger the phone to ring after pressing a button to help you locate it. The phone rings even when it is in silent mode.
The Cube Shadow’s range, measured from mobile device to the tracker, is 200 feet. Cube uses its own app and network to view the tracker’s last location on the map and crowd find.
|Available for iOS and Android devices||Not compatible with Google’s or Apple’s networks|
|Chargeable; no battery replacements needed||Only three months of battery life after charging|
The Samsung SmartTag is the perfect choice for Samsung smartphone owners. Samsung uses its own network to crowd-find and locate people’s tags. You can view tracking history on the app.
Samsung’s SmartTag is also compatible with Samsung SmartThings – a system designed to gather and remotely control IoT devices.
|The AR Finding function enables users to locate their SmartTags with on-screen instructions||Only compatible with Samsung phones|
|Compatible with Samsung SmartThings; can be used for remote device access with Internet of Things||Uses Samsung’s ecosystem; not compatible with other networks|
Which Apple AirTag alternative is right for you?
Tracking devices have their advantages and disadvantages. So which one should you use? It’s up to you. Different Bluetooth trackers have different applications and work best in certain circumstances, so we’ve prepared a short comparison table to help you choose.
Is there a better alternative to AirTag?
Various brands offer Bluetooth tracking devices that have similar or the same functionalities as AirTags. Examples include the Chipolo ONE Spot, Tile Pro, Cube Shadow, and Samsung SmartTag.
Can AirTags work with Android phones?
Apple’s AirTags are only compatible with iOS devices. However, there are alternatives compatible with other phones.
Does Google have an AirTag equivalent?
Google doesn’t have its own tracking device yet, but various brands offer trackers that use its networks. These devices are often compatible with both iOS and Android phones.