Apple AirTag sent in the mail to test tracking — here’s what happened next

AirTag sent in mail
(Image credit: Apple)

AirTags are designed to help you track down your stuff, but just how good is the tracking if you lose something outside of your own home?

Dutch YouTuber AirTagAlex decided to put Apple's tracker to the test. He send himself an AirTag in the mail to see just how good AirTags’ location tracking actually is.

AirTagAlex set up a script that would ping the location of the AirTag every two minutes, and then take a timestamped screenshot to verify its location. Then it was put into a regular Dutch mailbox, just a few hundred feet from his house, and left to do its thing.

It turns out AirTag tracking does actually work, though it’s not without a few snags. AirTagAlex was able to watch the progress of his tracker. He could see roughly when it was picked up from the mailbox, and see it wind up 120km away before heading back to his house.

The snags are that the location tracking doesn’t seem to be up totally up to date all the time. AirTagAlex noted that shortly after the tracker first started moving, it was clocked in at one intersection before suddenly being pinged at a mail sorting office 12 minutes away.

Obviously it’s worth bearing in mind that AirTags are not GPS trackers. So it’s not constantly pinging away at a satellite to give you a precise location. Instead AirTags use iPhones running iOS 14.5, with the devices pinging an AirTag if whenever it’s in range.

Given the number of people who own iPhones, and Apple’s dedication to offering updates to a wide range of its devices, that means the AirTags have the capacity to be a lot more accurate than the best key finders from competitors. As nice as Tiles might be, they do still rely on people having the app installed. If nobody does, your trackers might as well be completely useless.

In any case, minus a couple of hiccups, AirTagAlex’s little experiment shows that AirTag tracking is quite useful. And stuff you put in the mail can go on quite a long journey, even if the thing you’re sending isn’t supposed to go that far.

It’ll be interesting to see how it works on an international trip, though. And we look forward to seeing how AirTagAlex’s tracker fairs on its trip to Norway, which will be the YouTuber's next tracking test.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.