Apple’s new AirTag location tracker uses ultra-broadband technology and a robust device network to enable precise searching with an iPhone 12.
During their ‘Spring Loaded’ event, Apple announced the long-rumored AirTag, an advanced article tracking beacon based on ultra-wideband technology combined with Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC). Along with Apple’s existing Find My network, which has been useful for locating an iPhone and other Apple devices, AirTag extends functionality to any item with a place to attach an AirTag. Apple did not share the dimensions of its tracker, but based on images, it appears to be less than 1.5 inches in diameter.
Apple’s spring event loaded, as promised in the title, revealing a new color for the iPhone 12, an iMac M1 available in seven colors, an iPad Pro M1, an updated Apple TV, and AirTag. The spring event had never seen so many new products and throughout the event, Apple talked about environmental responsibility and how many of the components involved recycling and reducing materials to limit the impact on the climate. In fact, the company is currently carbon neutral and plans to achieve net zero climate impact, including supply chain, by 2030. The AirTag, for example, uses 100% recycled tin in the motherboard solder and is claimed to be free of harmful substances. The packaging uses recycled wood fiber or from responsibly managed forests.
New from Apple AirTag It is a location beacon, similar to what Tile and other trackers offer, although it incorporates new technology based on the U1 ultra-wideband chip found in the iPhone 11 and 12, the Apple Watch Series 6 and the HomePod mini. This means that any of those devices can help locate an AirTag with even greater precision, while Bluetooth can be used to locate an item when using an older iPhone or other device that is not equipped with a U1 chip. Using a network of approximately 1 billion devices around the world, Apple’s Find My app and iCloud tool can pinpoint the location of an AirTag almost anywhere. Apple noted that privacy was paramount in the development of its tracker. For example, location data and history are never stored within AirTag, and communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted. This means that even Apple will not know the identity or location of an AirTag or any device that helps to find it. That information is strictly for the owner of the device, as it should be.
How Apple AirTag works
When searching for an AirTag with the Find My app on an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12, a method that Apple calls Precision finding is employed. This uses ultra-wideband to display accurate heading and range information on the screen, pointing directly at the AirTag and estimating the distance. This updates in real time when you are on the move, providing haptic vibration, sound, and on-screen information to guide the searcher to the AirTag attached to the lost item. If you use a device without a U1 chip, it uses Bluetooth and works similar to a Tile tracker, with the AirTag making a sound to help locate the lost item, but without the directional ability of ultra-wideband technology. Both ultra-wideband and Bluetooth have a limited range, so when an AirTag is out of range of the search device, the Find My network is used, mining billions of devices around the world to find luggage, keys or other lost item. This is a very low power technology so it will not affect battery life for iPhone users. While the Find My network is quite large, there are some countries where it is not allowed, especially in much of the Middle East region. Apple says Find My will work in those locations when AirTag is nearby, but the network can’t help track items over a wider range.
The AirTag is IP67 rated for water resistance up to one meter of water for 30 minutes, so it can still work if dropped outside in the rain. Apple notes that this may change over time and indicates that care and handling instructions will be provided with the device. It is also dust resistant and made of stainless steel with a removable cover. The battery is expected to last at least a full year and can be replaced by the owner. Priced at $ 29 each or four for $ 99, Apple seems to have another winning product on its hands. Along with the AirTag itself, Apple announced several accessories, including loops that can be wrapped around handles and key rings. The large number of iPhone owners in the United States alone is likely to make this new Apple product an almost guaranteed success.
Next: How Apple’s AirTag and Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag + Compare
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