Despite what one might think, it is not often that Apple introduces a whole new product line. As early as 2019 there were rumors that Apple was working on their own item tracking service. Apple did not say anything about any type of service or possible product. Apple has never been a company to announce future products. However, they did just that in September of 2017 with the pre-announcement of AirPower; a product which would ultimately never see the light of day and would be officially cancelled in March of 2019.
I think the sting of having publicly announcing a product that never ended up coming to fruition contributed to Apple not wanting to unveil a product before it was ready.
There were some speculations with the announcement of iOS 13 that Apple was working on a new product category, an item tracker. The first of these was when Apple combined two apps, “Find My Phone” and “Find My Friends” into a single app, called “Find My”.
Even though Apple never announced anything, there were some indications throughout the betas of iOS 13 and iOS 14 that Apple was looking to expand the Find My app to track more than your iOS devices and friends. With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple is finally releasing this into the world. Specifically, you are able to track items with a new product called AirTag.
An AirTag is used to keep track of items such as wallets, keys, laptop bags, or various other items.
You can purcahse an AirTag as either a single AirTag or in a 4-pack. A single AirTag costs $29 and a 4-pack is $99. You can customize your AirTag with characters or emoji. You can also order an AirTag, or the four pack, without any engraving.
AirTag is not physically large. In fact, they are 1.26 inches, or 31.9mm high and the same size wide. The reason that these are not large is so that they will fit in small items. Each AirTag is actually two pieces, a top piece, which is white, and the cover metal cover.
Much to the surprise of many, AirTag has a replaceable battery. You might expect that it would be a proprietary battery, but they are a standard CR2032 battery, like the ones that you can buy at almost any store, including many convenience stores.
Replacing a Battery
As mentioned above, AirTag has a replaceable battery. Replacing the battery is not something that you will need to do that often. According to Apple, the AirTag battery should last about a year, so you should not need to replace the battery for a while.
When you do go to replace the battery is a somewhat straight-forward process. To replace an AirTag battery perform the following steps:
- Hold the AirTag with the metal cover facing you, with the Apple Logo facing up.
- Press on the left and right sides of the AirTag, you should feel the edges depress a bit.
- With the edges pressed down, twist the edges so the metal cover turns.
- Remove the metal cover.
- Take out the CR2032 battery.
- Place the new CR2032 battery with the positive side, the side with the +, face up.
- Place the metal cover back on the AirTag.
- Twist the cover until it sticks.
Here is a video of how to replace the battery:
You have now replaced the AirTag battery. There is one additional way to be sure that the AirTag’s battery is working. When you replace the battery the AirTag will make noise. This is possible because the AIrTag has a speaker in it.
As noted earlier, the AirTag is quite small and due to the limited space the speaker cannot be that big. Even though, the AirTag is not very big, and the speaker is not large, the sound coming out of the AirTag is still noticeable.
Even though the speaker will make noise when you replace the battery, the primary purpose of the speaker is to help you find your items. However, in order to find an item, you need to add them to your iCloud account. Let us look at how to do that next.
Adding an AirTag to your iCloud Account
Each AirTag comes wrapped in a plastic wrapper, much like Apple’s other devices. A slight different aspect for the AirTag is that there is a pull tab that needs to be pulled to activate the battery. If you do not remove the wrapper, the AirTag will not function.
After you have removed the wrapper, place the AirTag near your iPhone. When you do this, a popup will appear, just like if you were to be connecting AirPods.
Next, you can choose a name. There is a set of pre-configured names. This includes:
If none of the pre-configured names matches what you are looking for, there is one last option, “Custom Name”. If you choose Custom Name the next screen will allow you to enter in a custom name.
After you have selected the name you will be able to select the Emoji that will represent the item. You are able to use any available Emoji using the Emoji picker.
Once you have selected the emoji, you will get a confirmation screen to verify that you want to register your AirTag with your Apple ID. Your avatar, Apple ID, and phone number will be shown to verify that you want to register it with that information.
That is all that is required to register an AirTag with your iCloud account. When you register an AirTag with your iCloud account, it cannot be registered with another iCloud account. There is a limit to the number of AirTags that can be registered with an iCloud account. That total is 16. 16 may seem like an odd number, but you can purchase AirTags in single packs or a 4-pack, so 16 would be 4 packs of 4 AirTags.
Having an AirTag registered on your iCloud account is great, but next let us look at how to find an item.
Finding an Item
Now that you have registered your AirTags with your iCloud account, the item, or items, will appear in the Item tab of your Find My app. Under the Items tab all of your registered AirTags will appear. Each item has its own row, with its last known location. If the item is nearby, it will also indicate that it the item is “with you”.
When you tap on the item, it will provide you with some actions. This information page provides two ways to find items that are “with you”. These are “Play Sound” and “Find”.
The entire purpose of having an AirTag on an item is being able to locate an item should it go missing. There are two possible scenarios for missing items. The first is when they are missing in your home. The AirTag is equipped with bluetooth as well as Apple’s U1 chip.
Bluetooth is needed to be able to find the item within a small area. Bluetooth has a range of approximately 30 feet. As is the case with all radio-based technologies, this is in ideal conditions. For many houses, you may not be able get nearly as much range, particularly if you have stucco or metal or wire lathe in the walls and ceiling.
The “Play Sound” option will, as the name states, play a sound through the speaker on the AirTag. The AirTag is a small device, so you might think that the speaker will not be that loud. However, it is quite the opposite. The sound is quite audible, even if the AirTag is in a drawer or somewhere hidden. Playing a sound is only one way of locating an item. The second is with the “Find” option.
The “Find” option will use Bluetooth, and the U1 chip, to try and help you locate the AirTag. This is done by looking for the signal of AirTag. Once it has located it, it will give you a distance of approximately how far away the AirTag is from your device. On the Find screen, there is a speaker icon which will allow you to play sound. As you get closer, or further away, to your AirTag the distance will change. Once you get within approximately 15 feet, a slightly different feature will take over, called “Precision Finding”.
Precision Finding utilizes the the U1 chip to be able to find exactly where the AirTag is located. Once Precision Finding has taken over, the background of the Find screen will change to be a green color and the circle that was there will change to an arrow to provide you a direction to move. As you get even closer your iPhone will begin to vibrate faster as you get closer.
Setting an AirTag as Lost
AirTags are one of those items that you hope to never end up having to use. What I mean by this is that you hope to never lose the items that your AirTag is attached to, but it possible that it may happen. If you do happen to lose an item somewhere you are able to indicate to others that your item is lost. In order to set an item as lost, perform the following steps:
- Open the “Find My” app
- Tap on “Items” to bring up the Item list.
- Tap on the item that you need to set as lost.
- Swipe up to show all of the options.
- Under “Lost Mode” tap on “Enable”. A “Lost Mode” screen will appear.
- On the “Lost Mode” screen, tap on the “Continue” button.
- Enter in the Phone Number where you want to be contacted if your item is found.
- Tap on the “Next” button in the upper corner. This will bring up the confirmation screen.
- Tap on the “Activate” button in the upper corner to enable Lost Mode.
When you go to activate Lost Mode, there is an option “Notify When Found”. This option is only available if the item with the AirTag has not been with you for at least two minutes. Enabling this option will send you a notification that your item has been found. The notification will provide an address near where the item was located.
Disabling Lost Mode
If you no longer need to have Lost Mode enabled on an AirTag you can disable it. To disable Lost Mode follow these steps:
- Open the Find My app.
- Tap on “Items” to bring up the item list.
- Tap on the item that you want to disable Lost Mode on.
- Tap on “Turn Off Lost Mode”. An alert will appear.
- Tap on “Turn Off” to confirm that you want to turn off Lost Mode.
Once you have tapped on “Turn Off” Lost Mode will be disabled on the specified AirTag.
Identifying a Lost Item That is Not Yours
Even though you may not lose anything, it is possible that someone else might and while you are out and about you may come across an item with an AIrTag. If you do happen to come across an AIrTag follow these steps to indicate that an item has been found.
- Open the Find My app.
- Tap on “Items” to bring up the item list.
- Tap on the “Identify a lost item” at the bottom of the page. This will bring up the “Searching for Items” screen.
- Once the “Searching for Items” page appears, hold the found AirTag near the top of your iPhone. If a match is found, a website notification will appear.
- Tap on the notification to bring up the “found.apple.com” website.
On the found.apple.com website, information about the AirTag will be shown including the phone number to contact
AirTag and Privacy
As much as we would like to think that everyone is admirable in their intentions. However, that is not the case.. There are many cases where individuals need to be wary of others. This could be because the individuals have stalkers, could be in a problematic living situation, or another similar situation. With the AirTag being so small you might think that someone could slip an AirTag into a bag, purse, pocket, or another place.
Apple has taken these type of scenarios into account with the AirTag. As an example, if your iPhone detects an AirTag that is not registered with your iCloud account, you will get a notification indicating that an unknown AirTag has been found.
Additionally, if you find an AirTag in Lost Mode, there is a link at the bottom of the page that shows you how to disable the AirTag; specifically how to remove the battery. This information is available at https://found.apple.com/airtag/disable. (As a note, this link does not have a serial number specified).
AirTags themselves cannot be stored on a keychain, without a holder. As you might expect, Apple has a variety of first-party holders for the AirTag. Apple has two different types of holders, the AirTag Loop, and the Key Chain. Besides Apple, third-party companies are able to create their own accessories. In addition to selling its own accessories, Apple does sell two Belkin accessories, the “Secure Holder with Strap” and “Secure Holder with Key Ring”.
I purchased a 4-pack of AirTags and I needed enough holders for all of them. The accessories that I purchased are two AirTag Leather Key Rings, one AirTag Loop, and one Belkin Secure Holder with Key Ring. The reason I purchased three accessories with key rings is because I put three of my AirTags on each of the key rings that I have. The fourth AirTag is one that I am using for testing on another account. I may eventually put it on or in something, but I have not yet done so. Now let us look at each of the accessories that I have purchased.
AirTag Leather Key Ring
When I ordered my AirTags I knew I was going to put them on my keys, so the purchasing the Apple Leather Key Rings made sense. I could have gone with the same type for each key ring, but I opted to go with different colors. Specifically, I purchased one AirTag Leather Key Ring in in Baltic Blue and another one in Saddle Brown.
The Apple Leather Key Ring is made of two parts, the holder and the key ring. The holder has a metal clasp that holds the AirTag as well as the key ring. The actual key ring portion can be removed and replaced with another key ring, should the included one not work well with your existing key ring.
There is one issue that I have seen with the AirTag Leather Key Ring. The actual AirTag holder does not fully seal around the AirTag. The clasp does stay in place, but it seems as though the leather of the AirTag holder is not the same dimensions as the AirTag itself.
The Airtag Loop is a single piece that, as the name suggests, can create a loop. This is done with a slot on the top of the Airtag Loop that you use to slip the AirTag holder into, in order to create the loop.
This type of AirTag holder would be useful when you want to attach an AIrTag, but do not necessarily need to use a key ring. For instance, this could be used on the outside of a bag, or even the inside of a bag, should you want to attach an AirTag securely.
You could, in theory, attach the Airtag Loop to a keychain, it would be secure enough. However, the Airtag Loop would hang down quite a bit from the keychain and could cause issues removing it from a pocket. However, I could see this working really well for a bag, suitcase, laptop bag, or other similar device.
The Airtag Loop suffers from the same issue as the AirTag Key Chain, in that the clasp does not fully enclose all of the AirTag.
Belkin Secure Holder with Key Ring
You might think that Apple would be the only company to create accessories for the AirTag, it is not. There are a variety of companies that have created accessories. Apple has partnered with Belkin to provide some additional accessories that are sold both in stores as well as the online Apple Store.
Belkin has two accessories, the “Secure Holder with Strap” and the “Secure Holder with Key Ring”. Knowing that I was going to put the AirTags on my keys, I ordered the Belkin Secure Holder with Key Ring.
The Belkin Secure Holder with Key Ring is a two piece plastic holder. The two pieces are designed to snap together and then the two pieces are designed to twist together so that the key ring holes line up. Once these are lined up the key ring is connected to secure the two pieces together and keep the secure holder closed. With the twisting of the two pieces, the holder will stay secure The hard plastic should provide some protection for the AirTag.
All of Apple’s AIrTag holders actually cost the same, if not more, than an AirTag itself. While many can afford the extra cost, many cannot. The Belkin accessories are about $13 each, as compared to the Apple Accessories.
The AirTag is the type of accessory that you hope to never use. However, if you are ever in a situation where you managed to lose something, you have the option to enable “Lost Mode” on an AirTag. When you do this, you can provide your contact information in the event that someone comes across your lost item, they are able to contact you to inform you that your item has been found.
If you need to find an item that is somewhat near by you can play a sound to help find the item’s general location. Once you get close enough “Precision Finding” will take over and provide directions to exactly where the item with the AirTag is located.
With hundreds of millions of iOS users in the world, it is possible that you may come across an item with an AirTag attached. f you do find yourself in this situation, you are able to identify the item. The owner likely put the item into Lost Mode and with Lost mode they provided their contact info so you can return their item.
There are those who may be concerned about unknown AirTags being placed into their bag, coat, purse, or other item. Apple has taken this into account by notifying you if an unknown AirTag is near you for an extended time. If you do find an AirTag that is not associated with your iCloud account. If you do feel as though you are being tracked, you can remove the battery
AirTag can be customized in a couple of different ways. You are able to engrave an AirTag with up to four characters or emoji. This has to be done when ordering the AirTag. The second way to customize an AirTag is with one of the available accessories. This includes Apple’s Leather Key Ring, AirTag Loop, or the AirTag Leather Loop. Alternatively, you can use one of the Belkin AirTag accessories, or one of the other third-party accessories.
Attaching an AirTag to an item can be helpful should you ever lose an item. AirTags are more of an insurance policy than anything else, but should you really want to be able to find something that could get lost, it is an inexpensive solution to do just that.