Apple unveiled the long-awaited AirTags at its "Spring Loaded" virtual event today, introducing them as accessories that join the company's Find My service. The fobs can be customized with engravings of characters, letters and emoji. A Hermes edition will also be available, and the regular versions will cost $29 each when they arrive on April 30th. A four-pack will cost $99.
You'll use the Find My app to locate your AirTag and any Apple phone with a U1 chip (like the iPhone 11 and 12 series) can give you AR overlays to direct you to your lost item. The company is calling this feature Precision Finding and it uses a combination of camera, accelerometer, gyroscope and ARKit data along with ultra wideband technology to locate your stuff down more accurately.
Your device will use sound, haptics and visual feedback like "Two feet to your right" to guide you to your belongings. For users who are blind or have low vision, this also works with Apple's VoiceOver accessibility tool and will read out the instructions. Setting up an AirTag should also be simple, with a similar process to AirPods. When you bring your AirTag close to your iPhone, it should just connect and you can choose a name for the fob.
Those who aren't using an iPhone 11 or 12 will still be able to use the AirTags via Bluetooth LE, just without the Precision Finding tool. You'll need to be running iOS or iPadOS 14.5 or later, and both those software updates will be available starting next week.
When your belongings are far away from you, Apple says it will use the Find My network, which is approaching a billion devices, to locate it. It will detect Bluetooth signals from lost AirTags and "relay the location back to its owner, all in the background, anonymously and privately." You can also enable a "Lost Mode" to be alerted when your AirTag comes back within range or has been located by the Find My network. When a tag is in Lost Mode, people who come across it can tap it using an iPhone or an NFC-capable device (including Android phones), and they'll be taken to a website showing your phone number (if you chose to provide it).
If you're carrying your fobs on your person while you travel, Apple wants to reassure you that no location data or history is physically stored inside the devices. When you use the Find My network to hunt down your missing item, Apple says the communication is end-to-end encrypted so only you have access to your AirTag's location data. Plus, no one, including Apple, will know "the identity or location of any device that helped find it."
During its event, Apple said the AirTag is designed to track items, not people, so there are features built in like unwanted tag detection, rotating identifiers and audible alerts from unknown tags. Though it says this "set of proactive features that discourage unwanted tracking" is an industry first, it's worth noting that Samsung recently unveiled a similar feature with its SmartThings network, too.
Apple's system does seem more sophisticated, using rotating Bluetooth signal identifiers to prevent unwanted location tracking, as well as detecting when unknown AirTags have been traveling with you from place to place over time. Even if you don't have an iOS device, you'll still be alerted to any AirTag near you that has been separated from its owner for an extended period of time. If you come across an unknown AirTag, you can use an iPhone or NFC-capable device to tap it and follow the instructions to disable its tracking.
The AirTags are rated IP67 for water and dust resistance so you won't have to worry too much about them getting damaged if you leave them outside, and Apple promises the removable battery will last over a year. There's a built-in speaker so the tag can ring to let you know where it is. You can ask Siri to find each fob by its assigned name, and it will play a sound if it's within range.
You can buy AirTags for $29 each starting this Friday at 8am ET on Apple.com, in the Apple Store app, in Apple Stores or retailers.