AirTags: Helping you find your items

If you commonly misplace items, you can purchase technology to help you find them. While this technology was designed for the mass market, it could be a game changer if you have a vision impairment.
This blog gives an overview of the AirTag, Apple’s answer to item tracking. Discover how the AirTag works and how it compares with Tile, another popular item tracking solution.

What are AirTags?

AirTags are item tracking devices that use Bluetooth and GPS to enable you to find lost or misplaced items. The AirTag is circular shaped and smooth in texture.

You can buy a singular AirTag for £29, or a pack of four AirTags for £99. The AirTags also contain a battery which you will need to replace around every 12 months.

You can also purchase additional accessories so that you can attach your AirTag to an item. These accessories include keyrings and holders.

Mark holding out an AirTag

How does the AirTag work?

Setting up an AirTag

When you first use an AirTag, you will need to firstly remove the covering. Once this is removed, you will hear an audible tone which indicates that the AirTag is ready to be paired with an iPhone.

To pair an AirTag, unlock your iPhone and if the AirTag is nearby, the pairing process will initiate automatically – you do not need to install any apps; you just need to ensure that your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 or later.

To set up your AirTag, follow the instructions on your phone. You will be asked to name your AirTag based on the item you want to track using it – you can either pick from a list of pre-set items, or enter a custom name. If using VoiceOver, the list of items is presented as a picker so to scroll through the options, swipe up and down with one finger.

Once you have completed set up, you can track your AirTag.

Tracking your AirTag

The AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in Apple’s ‘Find My’ network. These devices send the location of your AirTag to iCloud. There are various ways to locate your AirTag:

  • Find My app: Using your iPhone together with the ‘Find My’ app you can make the AirTag emit a sound. If your Airtag is close by you can just follow the sound. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can use the ‘Find’ feature to get directions to your AirTag. Please note that the Find feature, which uses precision finding, only works on the iPhone 11 or later (not including the iPhone SE 2020). Find My will also be coming to Apple Watch as part of Watch OS 8.
  • Siri: If you don’t want to use the ‘Find My’ app, you can ask Siri to locate your item, for example you can ask Siri to ‘find my handbag’ and if a connection is established, Siri will tell you it’s nearby and the AirTag will emit a sound. If the connection with your AirTag cannot be made, Siri will inform you of its last known location and how long ago it was last seen.
  • Find My network: If your AirTag has moved from its last known location and is not in range of your iPhone, you can enable ‘notify when found’ using the ‘Find My’ app. If someone with an iPhone walks past your AirTag, it will anonymously let Apple know. Then Apple will tell you its location, via a ‘Find My’ notification.
  • Somebody else: If you lose your AirTag,you can enable lost mode, and programme in a contact number or email address. If someone finds your AirTag and has an iPhone, or Android phone, they can connect to the lost AirTag, which will let them know the AirTag is lost, together with the contact number and/or email address that you programmed in when you reported it lost. You can then arrange to get your AirTag back.

When can you use AirTag?

You can use AirTag to locate a lost or misplaced item. Some of the items that Apple suggest when you initially pair an AirTag, or rename it, include handbag, jacket, keys, luggage, and umbrella. You can also add a custom name, so you could attach an AirTag to your mobility aid, magnifier, or TV remote control, to give some other examples.

Watch our video about AirTag to learn more and see it in action.

How does it compare with Tile?

As mentioned, there are other options for Bluetooth item tracking. At Henshaws, we’re huge fans of Tile. Watch our video to find out more about how Tile works.

Below we outline some of the pros of both AirTag and Tile:

Pros of AirTag

  • Apple integration: As the AirTag uses the Find My app and network, there is no need to install external apps onto your device. The pairing process will automatically start as soon as your iPhone comes into contact with an AirTag, so you do not need to initiate any pairing processes manually.
  • Precision finding: If you have an iPhone 11 or later (not including the iPhone SE 2020), you can use Precision Finding to locate your AirTag. This will guide you to the exact location of your AirTag using directions (which VoiceOver can speak out loud), haptic feedback and visual cues on-screen.
  • Lost Mode: If you lose your AirTag, you can enable Lost Mode and provide a contact number or email address, so that you can be contacted if your AirTag is found. While Tile offers the ‘notify when found’ feature, it does not offer the features that Lost Mode offers.
AirTag and Tile side by side

Pros of Tile

  • Call your phone: If you know where your Tile is but cannot locate your phone, then you can press a button on the Tile which will call your phone if it is in Bluetooth range.
  • Keychain attachment: The Tiles have a keychain attachment built in, the Apple AirTag does not. The AirTag itself currently cost £29 if you purchase a single unit. Apple sell a silicon strap which can hold your AirTag, which is priced at £29 too, or if you opt for a leather strap that costs £39. Apple also sell a leather keyring holder at £35.
  • Texture: The AirTag feels like a smooth button, just over 3cm across. A solution to give your AirTag is to place an elastic band around it. The smooth texture may also make it difficult for you to replace the battery. The Tile has a rough texture so is easier to handle without needing to customise it.

Final Thoughts

Mark from our Digital Enablement Team tested the AirTag, and compared it with Tile. Read what he had to say below:

Will I be replacing all my Tiles…? Nope, not just yet! However, I have swapped out my Tile for the AirTag and placed it in my wallet (with my elastic band modification). Why? Because Apple have nailed the precise way (using their latest phones, Find My and VoiceOver) to find your stuff and how their massive network can use ‘others’ to help you find your stuff too. It really is the best I have ever used.

I’m sure they will bring out the AirTag 2 at some stage and if they include some of the features my Tile has, then I will swap them out, once they eventually go faulty.

If you would like to know more about AirTag or Tile, you can call our Digital Enablement Team on 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk.

We also have lots of content in our Knowledge Village about living independently if you have a vision impairment.

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Alice
Alice is the Digital Communications Officer and is responsible for producing blogs and EBooks for Henshaws Knowledge Village.