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Samsung Galaxy SmartTag Plus tracker with UWB just beat AirTags to the punch

samsung galaxy smarttag plus
(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag Plus finally has a release date. While the basic SmartTags came out in January, Samsung said that the Plus version would be “coming soon,” but a new listing at B&H has the tracker available for pre-order with a release date of April 12, priced at $39.99.

The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag Plus is, like the basic model, a Bluetooth tracker. Simply attach it to your keys or other valuable and, upon misplacing it, open up the SmartThings app to locate the lost item via a ringer on the tracker. If it’s out of range, the whole Samsung SmartThings community will anonymously hunt on your behalf, and you’ll get an approximate location when another user walks past your lost tag, so you can travel there and pick up the search in person. It’s essentially Samsung's version of the Tile.  

Where the Plus model improves on the original SmartTag is the technology inside. While the original uses Bluetooth Low Energy for detection, SmartTag Plus uses ultra-wideband (UWB) technology which has both a longer range and more accurate tracking, able to locate things to a few inches, rather than a few feet.

The downside is that not all devices are compatible. While all SmartTags require a Samsung phone, SmartTags Plus have even tighter limits, on account of requiring a UWB chip on the handset. That means that only owners of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra need apply – basic S21 owners are out of luck.

Assuming the April 12 release date advertised by B&H holds true, this represents a minor victory for Samsung, as it has managed to beat Apple to the punch. While Apple’s UWB-enabled AirTags trackers are rumored to have been ready since late last year, the company has so far held back on their release, or even publicly acknowledged they exist. The latest rumor is that they will finally emerge at this month’s Apple event, alongside the 2021 iPad Pro and AirPods 3.

Unlike Samsung, Apple has been including support for UWB in its devices for a couple of generations via its U1 chip, starting with the iPhone 11 and Apple Watch 6. So far software implementation has been limited to a more precise version of AirDrop, but a large install base of iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 owners with UWB will certainly be helpful for the community-searching aspect of AirTags. Just compare the number of people with the latest iPhones to the number with the S21 Ultra, Plus or Note 20 Ultra and you’ll see why Samsung owners may prefer to stick with the basic Bluetooth version of SmartTag, even if it’s technically the inferior product.