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Today we hear from Kaitlyn Wells, an employee at Wirecutter, a product recommendation site for the New York Times.

No dog or cat owner wants to experience the panic that sets in when a pet disappears. Should your best friend break up Global Positioning System (GPS) pet tracker Real-time following your pet can help you reunite, but the devices can be expensive (around $ 200 on average) and some require an expensive annual subscription as well. When Apple did his AirTag tracking devices in April, you might have been wondering what I did: would the $ 29 coin device work as a pet tracker?

How is the AirTag different from a Bluetooth or GPS animal tracker?

Pet GPS trackers use satellite signals and cellular data to broadcast your pet’s location to your phone, while Bluetooth-only trackers only report their location when they’re within your phone’s Bluetooth range – usually within 9-30 Meters – or if someone else is walking on the same tracker ecosystem randomly wanders by.

The AirTag uses both Bluetooth and a more precise positioning technology called Ultrawideband (UWB) to pinpoint the location of the tracker. Like a souped-up version of Bluetooth, UWB will point you in the direction of your AirTag with compass-like accuracy when using an iPhone near the missing AirTag. If you’re further away, you can find Apple’s app network and other iPhone users’ bluetooth instead.

That difference – the near ubiquity of Apple devices wherever you are, helping you keep track of your AirTag – makes Apple’s tracker far more useful than a Bluetooth tracker like the one Tile matethat operates in a far smaller pool of users.

However, both AirTags and Bluetooth trackers rely on other devices, while GPS trackers use the power of satellites.

Does Apple Approve the Use of AirTag for Pet Tracking?

Technically no. Though small enough to clip on a dog’s collar using Apple’s own Key rings or grind (my colleague Brian X. Chen got the hack working), Apple has emphasized that the AirTag is intended for this Finding objects, not people or pets. Still, the company has one patent on its UWB technology and names removable tags in the tray that are attached to a pet collar or a children’s T-shirt as possible application scenarios.

Don’t be shocked if Apple launches pet-friendly trackers in the future, but for now, the AirTag is considered off-label use as a pet tracker.

Is there a reason you wouldn’t want to use AirTags on pets?

The AirTag is more limited than dedicated GPS animal trackers. Currently, the Find My app does not notify you immediately if you are disconnected from an AirTag. However, this feature is will be added in iOS 15. Pet GPS trackers do this when your pet leaves a certain area.

AirTags also can’t be attached to a pet’s collar on their own, so you’ll need to buy an Apple AirTag loop (which costs as much as the AirTag itself) or less expensive Third party owner.

Other pet GPS trackers that Wirecutter likes

We’ve tested over a dozen animal trackers over the years, and one always leads the way: the Whistle on a tour of discovery. It costs four times as much as the AirTag, but it will instantly let you know if your pet escapes home, is more accurate than any other GPS tracker we have tested, and works with both Apple and Android phones.

But, like most of the pet trackers we tested, GPS accuracy can be tricky when cellular service is spotty and you pay a $ 100 annual subscription to keep using it. The battery only lasts about three days in Lost Pet mode, compared to AirTag’s estimated month-long battery life in this mode.

If you’re a budget-conscious Apple user, the AirTag is more accurate than a traditional Bluetooth tracker, but it’s not as responsive as a GPS animal tracker.

The AirTag is way better than nothing, but if you’re ready to spend a little extra, I would recommend Whistle Go Explore as it’s the most reliable, accurate, and fastest way to alert you when your pet is missing.

Whichever device you choose, make sure your pets are microchipped and that their ID tags are correct. The more opportunities you have to find your lost pet, the better.


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