How Do They Work? AirTags
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
If ‘Find My’ were hardware, it’d be an AirTag.
The AirTag is the simplest standalone device Apple has ever made. And that’s solely for tracking purposes.
AirTags use ultra-wideband technology and Apple's existing network of devices to help you track down lost or stolen items. Here's what you need to know before you attach them to everything you own.
You can use it:
as a keychain to keep track of your keys,
as your pet’s locket to track your pet
(Apple doesn’t recommend you doing this! Keep reading for more information),
in your baggage to avoid losing it in public places,
or in your child’s school bag for their safety.
It not only tracks things, but can also play loud sounds so you can find it if it’s nearby.
The AirTag is a small, button-shaped tracking device with a glossy white front that can be customized with an engraving and a silver backing. AirTags are designed around the CR2032 batteries that are inside AirTags keep my information private?
Apple is big on privacy, and the company says people can participate in the Find My network without having to share their location with anyone, including Apple. Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada, an engineer at Apple, said safety features are in place that discourages unwanted tracking.
"AirTag is designed to track items, not people," Wolfman-Estrada said during the Apple spring event when the company introduced AirTags.
However, reports emerged earlier this year that the devices were being used for stalking. State officials also warned the public that AirTags can be abused and misused as a tool for stalking others.
Apple has since added a few extra security features to help prevent its AirTags from being used maliciously. These features include a shortened time period in which a nonowner is notified of an AirTag's presence, improved warning sounds, a tracker detection app for Android devices, and an alert at setup stating that the AirTag is linked to your Apple ID and is designed to enable law enforcement to request identifying information on the AirTag's owner.
There are additional things you can do to protect yourself from being tracked.
AirTags don't store any location data or history, and communication history through the Find My app is end-to-end encrypted, according to Apple. de, and need additional accessories to attach to an item.
What do I need to use AirTags?
AirTags will need a device running iOS 14.5 or later. Users will also need an Apple ID to sign in to their iCloud account. Here are the compatible devices:
1) iPhone SE, 6S or later 2) iPod Touch 7th generation or later 3) iPad Pro, 5th generation or later 4) iPad Air 2 or later 5) iPad Mini 4
So if you’ve lost your AirTag, not only you but all the Apple devices in the world will be helping you find it.
This clearly means:
If you’ve lost your AirTag in the middle of a lonely desert, you might not find it (unless an Apple user tours there). But if you lose it in the middle of an American city, where approx. 47% of smartphones are iPhones, you have a high chance of finding it.
Do that iPhones tell their users they’re looking for an AirTag?
An AirTag doesn’t let the stranger know his Apple device helping the owner find it. The whole process is completely secure, anonymous, encrypted, and can’t be read even by Apple.
Furthermore, if your AirTag’s location hasn’t been updated for long, you have the option to put it into ‘Lost Mode’, which notifies you if it’s located by an Apple device.
Don’t they incur cellular data costs for helping users? 💲
Now, you might be afraid to go to public places — As all the AirTags out there might suck up your iPhone data for updating their locations.
Relax… They don’t. Apple designed AirTags to be data efficient. While they do use your data for updating their locations, it’s very very small, to a level you don’t even notice it.
Another great feature…
You can even set up your AirTag to show your contact info to the person who finds it. Then,
If an Apple user finds it:
He can go to Find My < Items < Identify Found Item to scan it and get your contact info to contact you. And by the way, the AirTag location also gets updated.
If an Android user finds it:
Yes, fortunately, Android users can also help you. If they tap their NFC-enabled smartphone to your AirTag, it will open up a link giving them the info to contact you.
Can an Android user own AirTag? 🤖
Why not? It’s just $29, but he can’t use it with his Android.
Also, Android phones even can’t help in updating the “real-time” location of AirTags too. They can only help if their owner finds an AirTag with his eyes (as explained above).
How long can an AirTag stay alive? 🔋
AirTags are so power-efficient that they can work for up to 1 year before the battery needs to be replaced.
Why are they so power-efficient?
They use Bluetooth 5.0, which is a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) protocol, which uses less energy and gives a large range.
They don’t use GPS, as it drains the battery quickly. Instead, they rely on the large network of Apple devices worldwide.
Can someone stalk me with AirTags? 🥷
Of course. There are a lot of privacy issues with AirTags.
Ashley Estrada, a woman from LA, said in a viral TikTok, “I’m literally shaking”, after her cousin and she found an AirTag behind the license plate of their car after a trip.
This put a lot of responsibility on Apple’s shoulders, which, if not addressed, might potentially lead to the discontinuation of AirTags by legal concerns.
Now, how can you know if you’re being tracked?
If you’re an Apple user, your device will notify you if an unknown AirTag moves with you for a period of time.
If you don’t have an iPhone, but an Android, Apple put its app ‘Tracker Detect’ in Play Store, which could do pretty much the same job.
Or else, if an AirTag is separated from its owner, it beeps at a random time between 8 to 24 hours (previously 3 days), alerting people nearby.
“But, what if I’m traveling with my friend who’s carrying an AirTag along? Does Apple think he’s stalking me?”
Nope. As long as the owner (i.e., the possessing Apple device) is near the AirTag, Apple doesn’t perceive it as stalking.
What should you do if you find an unknown AirTag?
First, separate the battery from the AirTag. Now you can either crush the AirTag and throw it far away, or hand it over (without battery) to the police.
Apple has paid plenty of attention to privacy to ensure the location trackers can’t be misused, too. However, there’s no denying that they’re a costly accessory, especially if you want to attach one to keys or bag straps.