Apple AirTag Review: Restricted but with decent tracking [análise/vídeo]

Samsung just presented the Galaxy SmartTag to the apple, finally, launch the AirTag, a smart little tracker that helps you locate lost objects. The gadget hit the market following the “Apple commandments” that are currently working: a focus on privacy, enviable integration with other branded devices and various accessories for the consumer. In Brazil, it is sold for R$369 or R$1,249 per box with four units.

In other countries, AirTags compete with the famous Tile and Chipolo. Around here, the big rivals, even, must be the Galaxy SmartTag and SmartTag+, from Samsung. Does it make sense to bet on Apple’s product? Is accuracy all that? I’ve tested AirTags over the past few weeks and answer these questions in this review.

Apple AirTag Video Review

ethics notice

O Techblog is an independent news vehicle that has been helping people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our reviews are not intended for advertising, so they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each product. No company has paid for, reviewed or had advance access to this content.

The AirTag was provided by Apple on an indefinite loan. For more information, visit tecnoblog.net/etica.

design


Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Coin, tablet, disk. It is impossible not to find references to define the design of the Apple AirTag. Although it has a touch of standard Apple sophistication, the tracker is very discreet, with slim dimensions. It’s 31.9 mm in diameter, 8 mm thick and 11 grams in weight, so it’s a little heavier than a 1 real coin that’s 7.81 grams, and, no, it doesn’t fit in your wallet, Unfortunately.

In its structure, the AirTag has white plastic, stainless steel and IP67 protection, ensuring that this device is resistant to water and dust. What Apple doesn’t say is that this cap with the company’s logo scratches too easily; when I say “very easily”, I mean that the rich will show up as soon as you remove the AirTag from the package.

A lot of people will list this as a downside. I know that, in a way, it’s pretty boring, but the device is “kept” all the time and it wasn’t made to be handled very often, so I won’t classify it as negative in this review. The lid is responsible for protecting the CR2032 battery and, to access the cell, just turn the lid counterclockwise. A high-pitched sound sounds when you insert the battery — yes, there’s a speaker inside.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

In other countries, the white part of the tracker can be personalized with emojis or letters, like the initials of your name, for example. Apple confirmed to the Techblog which does not rule out bringing this type of customization to Brazil, but there is still no forecast for this to happen.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

One thing you might have noticed is that AirTags don’t have a hole to put on the keyring, for example, something Samsung’s tracker already has. But the point here is that Apple has released this gadget along with accessories. In other words, removing the hole was a strategy to sell more. They even sent a leather keyring to the Techblog developed exclusively for this device and, amazingly, the item costs R$ 439 — more expensive than the AirTag itself.

In operation

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Before we get into acting, you might be wondering what objects we can attach AirTags to. Apple itself gives some examples: suitcase, bicycle, key ring and umbrella. So, we are talking here about items that you use on a daily basis and that run the risk of being forgotten somewhere. Some people have used the in-car tracker and it’s a great choice, too. Can you imagine finding your vehicle easily in the parking lot of a shopping mall or in the giant supermarket?

Setting up the gadget is a very simple and, let’s say, magical task. All you need to do, after removing the battery seal, is bring the AirTag closer to your iPhone or iPad and, in a few seconds, a balloon appears on the screen suggesting the pairing. Once this is done, Apple asks to name and register the item, the latter is necessary in case you lose the device. All information and location are available in Search (or “Find My”), a native iOS app, which also helps you locate your Apple devices.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

The area dedicated to the tracker is well organized and intuitive. When you click on the “Play sound” button, the device emits a signal that is not very loud, but enough to help you search for it. There are still the shortcuts “Lost Mode” and “Notifications”, which I’ll explain further on. The “Search around” is one of the most interesting features that promotes games with this product.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

With this functionality, the iPhone itself is able to guide the person to the exact location of the lost object. I did a simulation in the park and put an AirTag inside my backpack; at first, the iPhone showed me that the signal was weak and asked me to walk around the place; after some instructions, the cell phone managed to find the backpack and was showing the distance (at 9, 10 feet to the right / 2 meters to the left) or asking to go ahead when I was close. Apple even lets you turn on the sound for easier searching.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

The magic behind this is the ultra-wideband (UWB) chip that, in Apple’s case, the component was named U1 and is only present on the iPhone 11 and above. If your iPhone is older, unfortunately you won’t have access to Precise Search. In my opinion, it is one of the main negative points of the product.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Still on tracking, let’s assume that the user forgot the object in a place far away from their home. Is it possible to know where exactly he is? The answer is yes and even if he is on the move! Apple explains that the Find Network (the Find My platform) can use the Bluetooth connection of other iPhones to receive the location of your item. The company emphasizes that this is done in the background, therefore anonymously and encrypted.

Here in the Techblog, for example, Paulo Higa sent an AirTag to my address and he managed to track the gadget with the motoboy. In another test, my sister went to the market with the device and I was able to visualize the exact spot where she was. Most of the time, the Find network needs a few minutes to identify your Apple tracker and it doesn’t show the device in motion, like a GPS, for example, so be patient.

And, of course, the company thought of solutions for lost AirTags. In the Search app the owner can activate the “Lost Mode”. By activating it, Apple asks you to add a contact phone number or email address. It is also possible to enable notifications to receive an alert when the device is found. In my tests, this functionality performed very well and the good news is that although it is unique to the Apple ecosystem, Android users are able to identify the owner of the AirTag by the phone’s NFC.

Autonomy

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Regarding autonomy, Apple says on its website that “the tracker was created to work directly for over a year with an ordinary battery that is very easy to replace. And your iPhone lets you know when it’s time to change it.” In the fine print, they consider an accurate search per day and “four episodes of playing sound”. Analyzing this scenario, I can say that autonomy is excellent. Like the Galaxy SmartTag+, the AirTag has a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chip, which consumes less energy.

I unfortunately couldn’t accurately analyze how the equipment drains the battery. Despite showing the icon, Apple does not report the percentage in the Search app. This is simple to fix and I hope the company will display the number in a short update. As I mentioned in this review, battery replacement is relatively simple and it’s very easy to find the CR2032 in physical stores and online. Do not confuse with CR2022 or CR2025, which are identical to 32 but have different thicknesses.

Apple AirTag: is it worth it?

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

AirTag is a very accurate object tracker, with decent integration we’ve highlighted in the past, and remarkably easy to configure, but all that doesn’t mean it will suit most people. Just like the Apple Watch, I see that this product, at least in this first generation, is exclusive for those who are already in the Apple ecosystem, especially if you own an iPhone 11, iPhone 12 or higher. It’s a shame to know that older iPhones won’t have access to Precise Search.

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Apple AirTag (Image: Darlan Helder/Tecnoblog)

Unsurprisingly, Apple focused on privacy and even promised an Android app, in order to prevent unwanted tracking of people, for example. AirTags are great companions for your keys, car, backpack, travel bag and other everyday objects. Which also means they weren’t designed to track pets or people. It’s good to see that Apple makes this clear and tries to inhibit these actions.

Currently, in the middle of a pandemic, I wouldn’t spend R$369 on an AirTag, but it’s an option I can consider in the future, especially when travel returns to normal. As I said, it’s one of the options, because you find models that are more affordable, like the Galaxy SmartTag and Geonav TLKFBK. In Brazil, it is also possible to easily find Tile accessories in retail. Still, if you are immersed in the Apple world, this is most likely the right choice and you will hardly regret it later.

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