Three Months With Apple AirTags Leaves Me Wanting More

Finders not keepers?

Key Takeaways

  • I’ve spent three months testing the Apple AirTags, and they aren’t as useful as I hoped.
  • The design is beautiful, but it’s bulky in practice.
  • The Precision Tracking feature of the AirTags doesn’t work reliably.
Closeup of Apple AirTag on a set of keys being hold in the palm of someone's hand.

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

I was among the earliest buyers of Apple’s AirTags, and I envisioned them revolutionizing my life, but the last three months have been sobering. 

It turns out that the AirTags are not quite the panacea for lost items that I had envisioned. I have dutifully attached the tags to some essential things, and they have come in handy a few times. There are a few features that I wish Apple would improve on with this product. 

"Precision Tracking has turned out to be the biggest disappointment. In my tests over the last three months, I never found this feature to be helpful."

Lost and Found?

AirTags seemed like a perfect Apple product when they were released. They promise to track lost items by attaching them to some of the tag holders that Apple sells for nearly the price of a tag itself. 

I marveled at the beautiful design of the AirTag when it first arrived. They are beautifully crafted and shaped with smooth plastic and metal curves. The AirTag is a pleasure to hold in your hand and seems like a modern-day talisman with mysterious powers.

When the AirTags were released, I ordered a three-pack. I also bought two tag holders, one for my house keys, one for my car keys, and the third Tag I put in my wallet.

It turns out that while you couldn’t call the AirTags bulky, they are big enough to get in the way. With the tags attached, my keys don’t slip nearly as easily into my pocket. My wallet also bulges with the weight and shape of the AirTag inside. 

I’m starting to regret putting the AirTags on my possessions. It’s nice to know that they are there if something gets lost, but I’m not sure about the effectiveness of the tags’ finding ability. 

Weak Sounds

The AirTag lets you play a sound on the built-in speaker by going to the new Items tab in the Find My app or saying, "Hey Siri, find my wallet." Supposedly, if the item is nearby, such as under a couch, you can just follow the sound, and your search is over.

However, in practice, the sound that emanates from the AirTag is so weak that it’s barely functional. The other day, I was looking for my wallet when I activated the sound, and I couldn’t hear it through a thin layer of cardboard. I hope that Apple makes the speaker louder on the next model. The ability to play different sounds also would be handy. 

You are also supposed to be able to track the AirTag using the Find My app on your Mac or iOS device. This feature works pretty well. When I want to know where my keys are, it’s easy enough to look up the general location of the tag they are attached to, and it’s always reliable within a hundred feet or so.

Closeup of someone holding an Apple AirTag outdoors.

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

The problem is that it’s usually not enough to know that the item you are looking for is in your house. You want to know precisely where your missing keys are so you can quickly retrieve them. 

Apple claimed to have solved this problem. iPhones equipped with the U1 chip (iPhone 11 or later, excluding the iPhone SE 2020) can use "Precision Tracking" to supposedly provide direction to and precise distance from an AirTag. The Precision Tracking feature uses ultra-wideband technology to pinpoint the location.

The Precision Tracking feature was what I was most looking forward to using when I bought the AirTags. I imagined that missing items would show up on my iPhone, and I would be pointed to the third sock drawer on the left with a kind of radar-like precision. 

But Precision Tracking has turned out to be the biggest disappointment. In my tests over the last three months, I never found this feature to be helpful. Invariably, I would get a notification that my item wasn’t near enough to use the Precision Tracking, or it would lead me in the wrong direction. It was easier just to root around my apartment most of the time without bothering with the AirTag when I needed to find something. 

I still enjoy using the AirTags, and the $29 price is reasonable. Just don’t count on your AirTag to find your missing stuff with pinpoint accuracy.

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