Do Airtags Have GPS?


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Written By Dinu Sri

Dr. H. T. D. S. Madusanka is an electronic enthusiastic, involved in research and development.

Who knew a tracking device could be this popular and used by so many people legally before Apple Airtag came into the market. Since the release, people have been using this cheap device to locate stuff like wallets, keys, etc.

But this is not like any old tracking device. Apple used the latest communication technologies and features in making this tracker. Besides, its privacy and security are up to the mark.

But what’s inside Apple Airtag? Does it use GPS for tracking? In this article, I’m going to answer all of these questions. On top of that, you’ll get to know whether you can use Airtag with an Android device. So, let’s get into the business.

Do Airtags Have GPS?

Apple Airtag is a new tracking device. With this tiny tracker, you can keep track of your stuff, but it does not have any GPS built into it. Airtags use a secure Bluetooth connection that sends its location signal to iCloud. From there, you can locate your lost items.

On April 30, 2021, Apple released a new tracking device called Airtag. Its primary purpose was to track personal belongings like wallets, keys, backpacks, etc. Since the release of this cheap and small device, people have been using it for the very purpose it was built to serve.

But the idea of Airtag is not new. But Apple has brought some new development to make it more secure and user-friendly. Instead of old tracking technology Airtag uses a more reliable approach.

That’s why it does not use GPS in it. Instead of this old tracking technology, Airtag uses a secure Bluetooth connection which is more reliable and easily accessible. However, both GPS and Bluetooth connection is available in all modern smartphones.

An Airtag will send its location directly into your iCloud. You can access it through the ‘Find My’ app. So, in a word, Airtags do not have any built-in GPS; instead, it uses a Bluetooth connection.

How Do Airtags Get Tracked?

At this point, you already know that Airtag uses a Bluetooth connection to send location data. But how does it really work? Well, this device uses Ultra-Wideband Technology to show real-time location.

Here’s how you can track the Airtag that is somewhere near you:

  • Firstly, you have to ping the Airtag with your stuff and set it up in your iPhone so that when they are lost or misplaced, you can easily track them down with it.
  • Now, if you cannot find your stuff, go to the Find My app. Your Airtag will send its location data to your iCloud using Bluetooth. You can see that through that app.
  • In the Find My app, you can see the location on a map. This map will give you directions to the Airtag.
  • Airtag has a built-in speaker, and you can easily play sound on it to find your lost stuff.

This process is for items around you, but what about those a very long way from you? Airtag has features for that too.

Here’s how you can locate an item with an Airtag which is far away from you:

  • Firstly, you will have to put your Airtag on the Lost Mode. You can do it from the Find My app.
  • After that, you have to set the notification so that anyone who finds the Airtag can contact you.
  • Then anyone near the Airtag can detect the device. You’ll get a notification when someone does. They will get your contact info by tapping the Airtag using the NFC of their smartphone.
  • Finally, the person can contact you and give your items back.

So, I guess now you have a clear idea of how Apple Airtag works and how you can find your lost or misplaced items with this small device, be it near you or far away.

Apple Airtag Range

You might be wondering how far Airtag can send its location data. It’s a legit question. I was curious how far it can send notifications about the location using Bluetooth when I first heard about it.

An Airtag can send location information from an infinite amount of distance as long as it is not dead, and an iPhone can locate it. So, no worries if you lost it somewhere far from your location. Someone can always track it down and send its location information.

Apple uses secure NFC technology to show your contact information to anyone who has the Find My app by tapping on the Airtag. Then they can contact you and tell you the location of your lost Airtag or items. But of course, you’ll have to depend on another person in this case.

However, you can track it down itself when the Airtag is within 30 to 33 feet range. At this distance, the Airtag will send its location data directly to your Find My app using the Bluetooth connection. And Bluetooth is a LAN or Local Area Network that works as far as 30 to 33 feet.

So, if you lost something within 33 feet, your Airtag will transfer its location data into your iCloud, and you can access it with the Find My app and find your items pretty quickly.

Can You Track Someone With Airtags?

Airtag is developed for tracking items. But you can track people with it too. But for that, you will have to attach it to that person’s body or keep it in their pocket. Then you can see their location from your Find My app. You can see the live location for up to 33 feet.

But I must warn you that it’s against the law and violates the privacy right of a person. So, if they find you tracking them, they can hand you over to the police and prosecute you.

However, it has some good use as well. You can use it on your pet. Just attach it to your pet’s collar while taking it for a walk. In the same way, you can use it for your children as well.

If you are out of your home, say in a shopping mall or a new place, you’ll have peace of mind- knowing your children or pets won’t get lost.

How Do You Know If Someone Is Tracking You With An Airtag?

The same way you track something with an Airtag, someone can track you too. Be very careful about it. You can find out if someone is tracking you with an Airtag in the following ways:

  • The first step is to find it manually. Check your pocket, bags, and any belongings. See if there is any Airtag. This is not a tiny chip you can’t see with plain eyes. If there is any, you should find it.
  • Then check your car if there’s any Airtag. Some car theft incidents happened in Canada where the thieves used Airtag to locate the cars. So, check under the seats, the dashboard, the hood, and the trunk before leaving your car.
  • If you do not find any Airtag and are still not convinced then the next step is using a scanner. Now there are many apps available for iPhones and Android phones that can detect any tracker.
  • So, if you think someone is following you or tracking you with an Airtag, or any other tracker, use the app to detect it. Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store and install it on your phone.
  • After that run the app and try to locate the tracker. Move your phone around your car or room. If it is an Airtag, you will be able to make a sound from it.
  • Finally if you see any signal for 10 minutes or more, you should locate and destroy it or call the police and ask for help.

Airtags have very high security and strict encryptions, yet people might try to use them to harm you. So, being careful is the right approach here.

Can Airtags Be Tracked Anywhere In The World?

Yes, an Airtag will work anywhere in the world, and you can track it down from any part of the world. Thanks to the massive iPhone community and NFC users. As I’ve previously said, if you lost your Airtag anywhere in the world, anybody with Find My app can track it down.

Then they can get your contact information by using their Phone’s NFC and tapping on the Airtag. But you will have to put your Airtag on the Lost Mode. You will get a notification as soon as someone taps on your Airtag. So, yes, Airtags can be tracked anywhere in the world.

Does Airtag Use Other iPhones?

You can run, locate, and detect your Airtag using your iPhone. You will have to use the Find My app for that. But there is no defined range for Airtag to work within. You can directly locate it within the Bluetooth range of your phone, which is generally 33 feet.

But if your Airtag is lost and you put it in the Lost Mode, any iPhone with the Find My app can locate your Airtag. Airtags have this feature so that if you somehow lost it, other users can find it and send you the coordinates. In that sense, you can say Airtags use other iPhones.

Airtag For Android

Airtag was primarily designed for Apple users only. But with an excellent response from people, Apple has decided to allow Android users to use Airtags. So, Android users can also use this tracking device with their phones and tablets. But they will have to use an app for that.

Apple has made an app called Tracker Detect in the Google Play Store for Android users. You can use this app to locate Airtags using your Android device. But the app has many limitations, and it’s not nearly as good as the Find My app.

But it does the basics, which is tracking and locating Airtags. Hopefully, Apple will keep upgrading the app with time and make it more user-friendly for android users.

Final Thoughts

Apple Airtags do not have GPS; instead, it uses more advanced technologies to track and send location data to its parent device. Bluetooth is a more secure and reliable connection, and because of the right encryption, you do not have to worry about your privacy.

However, there are always risks being tracked or followed by this Airtag device. But apps like Facebook can also track you down and sell your data. So, be careful and maintain your digital footprint.

References

Haskell, P. (2021, May 17 ). How Apple’s AirTag turns us into unwitting spies in a vast surveillance network. Retrieved from The Guardian:

Heinrich, A., Stute, M., Hollick, M. . (2021). OpenHaystack: a framework for tracking personal bluetooth devices via Apple’s massive find my network. ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks. Researchgate.