Review: How to Travel with Apple’s New AirTags

By Anna Breuer on 30 April 2021
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Apple AirTags, which became available this week from Apple as well as a limited number of retailers, may very well be one of the most useful travel accessories to come to market in recent years.

Simply place the AirTag on or in your wallet, bag, keychain, or another object you wish to track and the Find My app will locate the item when required.

Priced at $29 per tag or $99 for a set of four, the small button-shaped tag has a glossy white front that can be engraved, when purchased directly from Apple, and a silver backing.  AirTags utilize CR2032 batteries and require separate accessories in order to attach a tag to an object.

SETTING UP AND USING APPLE AIRTAGS

AirTags are 1.26” (32 mm) in diameter, with a height of 0.31”  (8 mm).  A single tag weighs 0.39 ounces (11 grams).

AirTags will trigger the installation process when placed near an iPhone with the current operating system and the installation involves choosing a name and emoticon for each tag and takes approximately 30 seconds.

For what amounts to a fairly smart button – it has a built-in speaker and boasts a U1 chip on board – there is a lot of tech under the hood. The U1 chip is an ultra-wideband chip that uses the technology for spatial awareness, allowing U1-equipped devices to locate each other. This is known in Apple parlance as Precision Tracking.

In the event the object associated with the AirTag is misplaced, lost, or stolen, Apple’s Find Me app and network can help locate it, provided the tag hasn’t been separated from the object it’s intended to help track.   Precision Tracking will be useful to find something nearby but, in the event that isn’t the case, Lost Mode will use the Find Me network’s millions of iPhones to help locate it and, in testing, I was able to add my contact details so that anyone being notified of the lost object could easily contact me.

APPLE AIRTAGS AND PRIVACY CONCERNS

Apple currently supports associating 16 AirTags with one Apple ID.  While 16 may be a daunting number, so was 80 MB of storage in 1986 on an 80386 Windows computer.  Each AirTag is linked solely to the registered Apple ID and cannot be tracked by anyone else.

In addition, the AirTag itself does not store any location data including location history and any devices that relay the location of a lost AirTag remain anonymous. Location data is fully encrypted and, because of the end-to-end encryption, Apple and third parties cannot see a tag’s location.

Apple has also taken steps to limit the AirTag’s usefulness in surveillance of a device or person. If you were to plant an AirTag in someone else’s bag, the AirTag, once separated from you, the owner, would alert the subject of the surveillance of its presence.

Finally, an AirTag separated from its owner for over three days will play a sound each time it is moved, so as to announce its presence.

AIRTAGS OUTSIDE THE U.S.

While the Precision Finding feature will work in most places one might visits, it won’t work in 16 countries, namely Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Travelers who are searching for an item that is likely nearby should be able to find it using Bluetooth and it’s possible using Bluetooth to trigger a sound on the lost AirTag via the Find My app or ask Siri to find the AirTag by having it play a sound. Otherwise, it’s possible to locate the missing object via the Find My network but that is wholly dependent on the presence of nearby iPhones to  assist in the search.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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