What is and how does Apple’s AirTag work?

What is and how does Apple's AirTag work?

AirTag is a device that helps to track other objects: keys, backpacks, suitcases, etc. The accessory was announced by Apple in April 2021 and is sold for $29 (or $99 in a pack of four). Understand how AirTag works to find other objects offline, even if it’s out of range of the iPhone.

What is AirTag?

What is and how does Apple's AirTag work?

Similar to the Galaxy SmartTag of Samsung, the AirTag promises to be a locator for other objects: the user attaches the accessory to another item and gets to know the location of both using the Search application (Find My), even if it is out of reach Bluetooth iPhone.

How Apple Can Locate the Lost AirTag

AirTags are tracked by the Busca network, a shared network that uses other nearby Apple devices to locate the lost one.

It works like this: when an AirTag is lost, it starts sending Bluetooth signals to other nearby Apple devices (iPhone, Watch, iPad, Mac). This communication spreads until it is delivered to the owner of the AirTag, revealing the accessory’s whereabouts or last known location.

That way you can find the object even if it’s offline and away from the connected iPhone. Of course, it will also depend on how many Apple devices are around to help spread that signal.

Once the AirTag is within Bluetooth range of the owner’s iPhone, it can receive notification of the accessory’s proximity and then activate the beeps to locate the object.

If the user has an iPhone 11 or later, which has the U1 chip built-in, it is possible to receive exact directions from the AirTag as soon as it is within range of the iPhone. Earlier iPhone models only work with Bluetooth and beep.

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And what about privacy when using AirTag?

Touch the Search network’s Bluetooth communication is done in the background and with end-to-end encryption. Apple guarantees that no one will know the location of another person when using the feature:

AirTag was developed to ensure the privacy and security of location data. It does not store location data or history. Communication with the Search app’s network is end-to-end encrypted. This way, only the owner of the AirTag can access its location data, and no one, not even Apple, knows the identity or location of the device that helped to find it.

AirTag cannot be used to track people

Apple emphasizes that AirTag should only be used for tracking objects, not other people or pets, for example.

When AirTag is separated from its owner for a long time, it will start issuing alerts to nearby people, warning that the device is lost or moving with the wrong person.

Both iOS and Android users (with NFC technology) can bring the AirTag closer to the device to receive instructions on how to contact the owner or how to disable the accessory.

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