AirTags hands on: Apple’s impressive Bluetooth trackers will get an Android app

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Despite its tiny size, the Apple AirTag has Bluetooth, ultrawideband and NFC to help you find it and your items its attached to.

Sarah Tew/CNET

An Apple  is a tiny Bluetooth tracker that attaches to an object like your keys and can be located with your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Bluetooth trackers aren’t new, but the biggest selling point for the AirTag is , which is made up of hundreds of millions of Apple devices. The , like bikes and headphones that have built-in Find My support. This will only increase that number of devices on Find My and make it even more robust. And that’s important, because let’s say you lost your keys and they had an AirTag attached. As soon as someone with another device on the Find My network, like an iPhone, crosses its path, the AirTag will communicate securely with the iPhone in the background to update the location of your lost keys.

AirTags showcase the strength and reach of Apple’s Find My network. But it also offers a level of security and privacy unmatched by other Bluetooth trackers. Apple includes alerts to notify a person if an unknown AirTag is traveling with them, but some suggest those unwanted tracking deterrents don’t go far enough. In May, to play an alert once it’s <a href=" on iPadOS 14.5. A single AirTag costs $29 (£29, ohiocentralintake AU$45) and a four-pack is $99 (£99, AU$149). They lack any kind of adhesive or a keyhole so you’ll likely need  to attach an AirTag to your keyring for example.

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An AirTag is a bit bigger than a Junior Mint

I can’t emphasize enough how tiny an AirTag is. It weighs roughly the same as two quarters. It’s bigger in diameter than a Junior Mint, a Milk Dud or a Mento, but not by much. One side is white, the other is stainless steel. And it feels well made. In fact, it’s rated for dust and water resistance and can survive being submerged up to 1 meter (about 3 feet) for 30 minutes. 

The Apple AirTag is just a bit bigger than some popular candy.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Behind the stainless steel back is a replaceable CR2032 battery, which Apple claims will last a year. Each AirTag comes with one already installed. When it starts to get low, your iPhone gets a notification. And CR2032 batteries are common. I like that Apple decided to make the battery replaceable and easy to access.

The Apple logo on the stainless steel side already picked up a few scratches, just a few days in. I have the AirTag in Apple’s leather key ring holder on my key ring. The scratch marks are not deep. In fact, the metal itself doesn’t appear to be scratched at all. I’m not sure how the logo is applied to the stainless steel, but the only way I can describe what has happened is that it looks like a scratch-off lottery ticket. 

After a day, the Apple logo has a few scratch marks. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

Getting an AirTag setup with your iPhone

Setting up your AirTag is easy. You just pull the battery tab, bring it close to your iPhone, and tap the Connect button. It’s similar to . I had to update my iPhone to iOS 14.5, sign into my iCloud account and verify the lock code on my iPhone. But even with the extra steps it was a straightforward process.

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From there, you’re prompted to name it. For example, I named my AirTag “keys” because I attached it to my keys. I know, original. (We’ve got .)

Locate an AirTag by playing a chime

Once the AirTag is tied to your Apple ID, you can use the Find My app and interact with it under the Items tab. To help you find your item, you can ping the AirTag attached to it and play a sound. The AirTag uses its surface as a sound actuator to produce sound hence the absence of any tiny speaker grills.

Even if you don’t have the Find My app open on your iPhone, you can say, for example, “Hey Siri, where are my keys?” The AirTag will chime in response.

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The AirTag uses Precision Finding to guide you to it

But it gets better. If you have an iPhone 11 or 12 you can use Precision Finding to locate your AirTag. And that’s because the AirTag, like the iPhone 11 and 12, has a to determine the exact distance and directions to get you to it. A really cool interface pops up on your iPhone to guide you to the item and AirTag. It uses the iPhone’s cameras, its ARKit software, its accelerometer and gyroscope, along with data from the AirTag to create a visual guide that, with haptics and sound, directs you to your lost item. Precision Finding works within Bluetooth range of the AirTag.

Precision Finding can lead you turn-by-turn until you end up at your item and AirTag.

Apple/Screenshot by Patrick Holland/CNET

If someone finds a lost AirTag, they can interact with it using NFC

If your AirTag is far away, you can put it into Lost Mode, which allows you to enter a phone number. If someone comes across the AirTag, they can tap it with an NFC phone (iOS or Android). This will take them to a website with information on how to contact you.

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