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Apple AirTag review (hands on): The key finder I've been waiting for

Apple's AirTag is super easy to set up and uses ultra wideband to precisely track lost items

Apple AirTag
(Image: © Future)

For

  • Very easy to set up
  • Precision Finding works well
  • Compact design
  • Multiple accessories

Against

  • Could be louder
  • Directions can be finicky at times

The Apple AirTag is a device that I was born to review — and not in a good way. I’m so bad with misplacing my keys around the house that my family has turned it into a game, hiding them if I don’t put my keys on the shelf where they’re supposed to go. 

Ironically, using the AirTag feels like a game itself, as its Precision Finding feature can guide you to your lost item using your iPhone, displaying the distance to that misplaced thing and even directional arrows. It's "like your getting warmer" made digital. This feature is what separates the AirTag from some of the best key finders, like the Tile.

I’ve only just started using the AirTag, but here’s what I like and don’t like so far. 

AirTag release date and price

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple AirTag release date is April 30, with pre-orders starting on April 23.

The AirTag costs $29 for a 1 pack and you can purchase a 4-pack for $99. By comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag Plus offers similar ultra wideband connectivity, but sells for $40. The Tile Pro costs $35, while the Tile Mate costs $25.

How do AirTags work?

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

AirTag design and customization

About the size of coat button, the AirTag is quite small, with just a 1.26-inch diameter and a height of 0.31 inches. It weighs just 0.39 ounces.

The AirTag is IP67 rated, which means it can survive being in water for 30 minutes. You can also personalize your AirTag with free engravings with characters or emoji.

AirTag setup

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

This is easily one of the best things about the AirTag. When you get the AirTag out of the box, you simply pull the tag for the battery and then bring the device close to your iPhone. My iPhone 12 automatically recognized the AirTag and then walked me through the setup. Just note that you'll need to be on iOS 14.5.

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

The Find My app took over from there, asking me to name the AirTag by choosing from a list (keys, backpack, luggage, wallet, etc.). After registering the AirTag to my Apple ID I was good to go. The Find My app will display your item and show you the three main options available: Precision Finding, Play Sound and Directions in Maps

AirTag performance

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

Like other key finders and product finders, the AirTag offers Bluetooth connectivity for proximity finding. But it goes one step further with ultra wideband.

If you own an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, both of which have a U1 chip, you’ll be able to use the AirTag’s Precision Finding feature. Your iPhone uses UWB to determine the distance and direction to your lost item, and it analyzes input from your phone’s camera, ARKit, accelerometer and gyroscope.

When you put it all together, this is what enables you to get visual, haptic and audio cues to direct you to your lost item. 

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

I tried placing my keys around the house with the AirTag attached, and overall the device worked well. But I wouldn’t say the AirTag is perfect. 

After placing the AirTag about 30 feet away in the living room underneath the couch with keys attached, I fired up the Find My app. I then tapped Find, and the iPhone 12 displayed a field of swirling dots (I guess to show that it’s thinking) and after a few seconds my iPhone showed how many feet away the AirTag was.

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

As I got closer to the AirTag, an arrow appeared on screen showing how close I was to my keys. I also hit the Play Sound button to see if I could hear the AirTag underneath the couch pillows. I could hear the AirTag’s beeping, but it wasn’t very loud.

This is one of my few complaints about the AirTag. The device only has so much surface area to produce sound, so you definitely need to be on the same floor as the lost item to hear the AirTag if it happens to be underneath something.

As I got closer to the keys, the arrow turned to a circle on my iPhone’s display — like a bullseye — and the phone vibrated. Mission accomplished. 

AirTag privacy

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

Apple has built in a number of safeguards with the AirTag to protect your privacy and prevent tracking. For example, only you can see where your AirTag is and your location data and history are never stored on AirTag. Apple also says that all of the location data is encrypted and that Apple doesn’t know the location of your AirTag.

To discourage the tracking of people, your iPhone can notify you if an AirTag that's not yours is traveling with you. And you’ll even be able to play a sound on that rogue AirTag to locate it and get instructions on how to disable it. Plus, an AirTag that’s separated from its owner for an unspecified period of time will start playing a sound when it's moved, alerting you to its presence. 

AirTag battery and battery life

The AirTag uses a standard CR2032 coin cell battery, which Apple says is rated to last over a year. A rechargeable battery might have been nice, but that would have resulted in a bigger tracker.

AirTag accessories

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

Apple sells a wide range of accessories for the AirTag, including the AirTag Leather Key Ring ($35), AirTag Leather Loop ($39), and AirTag Loop ($29). If you’re feeling really fancy, there’s also a selection of AirTag Hermès leather accessories, which start at $299 and go up to $449.

AirTag accessories will also be available from the likes of Belkin, Nomad, Spigen Moment, Dbrand and others. 

AirTag outlook

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

We’ll need to perform more testing and compare the AirTag with Tile and other trackers to determine just how good it is. But thus far I’m impressed with the AirTag’s super easy setup and the Precision Finding feature. 

I wish the AirTag got a bit louder, but this $29 accessory seems like it could be a winner. Stay tuned for our final rating.