There are two kinds of people in this world: People who have been late to an event because they cannot find their keys or wallet or purse, and people who are liars.
Apple’s AirTag, a tracking device released on April 30, 2021, set out to fix that first group’s problem. Designed to act as a key finder, the tool can also be slapped on an animals’ collar, tucked into a bag, or, yes, even attached to a car or a person.
But what actually is an AirTag?
Apple AirTags are built for your keychain — each unit is 1.26 inches in diameter, which is about twice the size of a quarter. Starting at $29, the water-resistant tool uses Apple’s Find My network and Bluetooth signals to connect your phone with the tag and guide you to your misplaced item. It’s compatible with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device capable of running iOS and iPadOS 14.5 or later. If you’re familiar with other Bluetooth trackers, like Tile or Chipolo, the Apple ones work pretty much the same way.
Is it customizable?
Like most Apple products, the AirTag is customizable. You can get them individually or in a four-pack, and the only thing you can do specifically to the product itself is to engrave it, which is free. But that metal circle will need an attachment if you want to hook it to a keychain or a pet’s collar — in its most basic form, an AirTag really only works to slip into your wallet or purse.
You can get seven different colors of leather key rings, five different colors of a leather loop, or four different colors of the classic loop. If you venture outside of Apple, there are tons of AirTag accessories you can get elsewhere, including Belkin, Otterbox, Amazon, and Neiman Marcus. Apple also has a collaboration with Hermès, if you’re down to drop a few hundred dollars.
How do I use it?
Connect your AirTag with your Apple hardware by following the steps outlined in the Find My section of your device. Once you’re all set up, attach the AirTag to whatever you lose most (keys, wallet, TV remote). Now, if you misplace your item, you can either go to your Find My app or, if you use voice-activated features, say “Hey Siri, find my keys.” The AirTag will play a sound, and you can follow it to your missing item. Your phone can also lead you to it with “precision finding,” which will point you toward your AirTag with a compass-like arrow.
If your item isn’t nearby — like you left your wallet in an Uber or your keys at a friends’ house — you can put your AirTag into lost mode. That way, when it’s detected by an in-network device, you’ll get a notification about its location.
What about privacy
AirTags, or any digital trackers, naturally bring up plenty of privacy concerns. Apple reports that the entire online process of using an AirTag is anonymous and encrypted: You’re the only person who can see where your AirTag is, and your location data and history aren’t stored on the AirTag itself, meaning that even Apple doesn’t know the location of your device.
That opens into the whole concern about unwanted tracking. Theoretically, you could absolutely drop an AirTag into someone’s backpack or slip it onto someone’s car to track them. But there are a few safety features put in place that can potentially keep unwanted tracking at bay. If someone else’s AirTag is in your vicinity and traveling around with you, your phone will notice it and send you an alert. And if you can’t find where it’s hiding, the AirTag will play a noise to help you. Those alerts only get sent if the device is separated from its owner.
If you find an unwanted AirTag, here’s how to disable it