Apple’s $ 29 AirTag is perhaps the best tracking device ever invented. It’s good for your things, not so good for people.
These tiny little labels are likely to help millions of people around the world find their keys, backpacks, lost luggage, and more. Or, their good-natured tracking could easily be used in ways we haven’t even thought of.
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For starters, the AirTag is a small device that contains a user-replaceable battery that Apple says will typically last about a year.
You can link up to 16 of them with an Apple ID. The process is very simple: just hold it next to an iPhone and give it a name.
You can now see the location of your item on a map using the Find My App option.
There are no monthly fees, and while they do not offer a way to attach yourself to keys or backpacks, there are already many equipment to help you with this.
There are three ways an AirTag can help you find your item.
First, with just one sound. You can ping the device when it is nearby. The sound is pretty loud and this will likely be enough to help you locate the little label when it’s around.
If that’s not enough to get you there, a precision find feature on iPhone 11 and 12 can better guide you to the device. Your phone screen can give you a rough idea of how far away it is and which direction to turn to find it. Again, this works when you’re around.
The other way to find an AirTag is to call the network. The Find My network, harnessing the power of nearly a billion Apple devices around the world. If either of them recognizes your AirTag, they will anonymously update their location in your Find My app.
According to Apple, the whole process is private, anonymous and encrypted. I am sure they did their homework here.
The part where it gets a little tricky is when you want to track someone with an AirTag. Apple knows some will try to do this, so it has put some safety precautions in place.
If an AirTag is nearby but its owner isn’t, your iPhone will notify you of the suspicious tag. The problem is, this requires an iPhone with the latest software. Android users are excluded from the mix.
In this case, the AirTag will chirp out so that you are aware of it. The problem here is that this notification can take a while. By this point, a person with shameful intent might already know where you live, work, go to the gym, and more.
The bottom line is that users will test the limits of these devices, and Apple will learn and update these safeguards over time.
Overall, however, AirTags have the potential to be a really helpful ally against losing all sorts of things.
Their strength lies in crowdsourcing, simplicity, long battery life, and a solid network to locate them.
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