How do Airtags update location?


We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us

Photo of author
Written By Dinu Sri

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

Location history and updates are some of the most important aspects of a working AirTag. Without either of the two, it would be impossible to trace where your AirTag is at all times. Since AirTags are used to track items that lack smart features and they do not have a screen of their own, how do they update their history? 

AirTags cannot be used without the presence of an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with IOS 14.50 or latest versions. The first step is to connect your AirTag to your iPhone and then location update will be happening periodically every time the phone is closer to the AirTag. 

The information provided above is not sufficient to help you learn about history update in AirTags. You can therefore stick around and keep reading this guide as I continue giving you information on how you can use location to find a lost AirTag.

How do Airtags update location?

Apple AirTags have been in existence for the last 1 year and a two months and they have played a significant role in keeping track of important items that lack smart features. Some of the items that you can track using AirTags are your car keys, your wallet, and other important stuff at home. 

Once you have your AirTag, you will need to connect it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and then attach it to the item you want to track. Since these items lack smart features and the AirTag do not have a screen of their own, how does the whole tracking process happen?

Apple AirTags come with an U1 chip, NFC chip, and Bluetooth chip found on the control panel which is right under the AirTag battery compartment. The U1 chip uses Ultra-wide band technology which sends about 1 billion pulses in a second. 

Since your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or other Apple devices have an U1 chip which also uses Ultra-wideband technology (UWB), they can connect to an AirTag. 

In most cases, devices that uses UWB to send and receive data use the internet as the connection. Unfortunately, AirTags do not have a screen and cannot be connected to the internet. This is where the Bluetooth chip comes in play.

If you remember correctly, you need to turn on your Bluetooth connection when connecting your AirTag to your iPhone. Doing so allows the pulses sent from the U1 chip to reach the U1 chip found in your iPhone which then creates a connection. 

When a connection is created, anytime your AirTag is in the required range which is about 100 feet, the location is updated and stored into your iCloud storage. You can then use the location to trace the item attached to an AirTag. 

Remember that you can also track an AirTag that is out of range. How is this possible?

All iPhone devices have a Find My Network feature which allows you to track your device using the community of Apple device users.

If your AirTag come in close proximity to an Apple device that has the feature enabled, the location will be updated in the iCloud and a notification sent to you about your AirTag. You can also use the map to see where exactly your device is. 

If your AirTag is in the move, you will keep getting notifications until you retrieve the AirTag thanks to the large community of Apple device users. 

How often do AirTags update location?

Your AirTag location will be update periodically provided there is an iPhone with enabled Find My Network. This is what enables your iPhone tell exactly where your AirTag is Incase you misplace it.

The location update happens at least after every 2 minutes. This way the data provided by Find my App is precise and accurate. 

All the location history is then stored into your iCloud device which is connected to your Apple ID. The history is only available to you. Therefore, there is not a single chance that someone will use your AirTag location history. Even Apple the creator of AirTag cannot access your AirTag location history.

On your iPhone, go to find my app and check if your AirTag is in range Incase you lose it. If it is not in range, then go to the map and check is you can see the location of your AirTag. 

Your AirTag location will be updated, provided your AirTag is in a working condition and it comes on close proximity to an iPhone with enabled Find My Network.   

AirTag not updating location?

Although Find My Network is helpful when it comes to tracking your lost AirTag device, it might have some limitations if you live in a sparsely populated area. If the AirTag does not come in close proximity to an iPhone, then the location will not update. This might lead to you losing your AirTag. 

Your AirTag being lost in a less populated area is not the only reason your AirTag location might not be updating it’s location. The AirTag might be in very close proximity to an iPhone and still indicate AirTag location not updating what might me the reason for this error?

A defective AirTag

If there is any issue with your AirTag, there is a likelihood that the location update might not happen. 

For instance, if you happen to misplace your AirTag at home and the battery of the device did, Find my app might give you the common AirTag not reachable error”. You can check it the error is as a result of a drained battery which will also be shown in Find My app.

Suppose the problem is the battery, a replacement of the CR2032 battery will make your AirTag work again. If you change the battery and the AirTag does not still update the location, then their might be another issue with your AirTag. 

Bluetooth connection

AirTag uses Bluetooth connection to send signals to your iPhone device. If by any chance you switch off your iPhone Bluetooth, then there is no way your AirTag location history will be updated. So, if you check for the location of your AirTags and it keeps telling you nit updating, then check if Bluetooth is on. 

Apple ID

Every AirTag should be connected to an Apple ID for it to work. One Apple ID can handle a maximum of 16 items.

 If you are using a managed Apple ID, some restrictions might cause your AirTag not to update it’s location. Again, if your Apple ID is not managed, there are some restrictions that might affect Find My app which is responsible for finding lost AirTag devices.  

Compatible devices

Another reason your AirTag location history might not be updating, is if one of your do family members or you are using an Apple device that is not compatible to Apple AirTag. 

Apple AirTags are compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or any other Apple device with IOS 14.50 and latest versions. Trying to setup your AirTag with Apple devices with older versions than 14.50 will not work. 

Two- factors Authentication

Your AirTag location history might not be updating because you have not enable the Two-factors Authentication. To enable the feature;

  • Go to your phone’s settings
  • Tap on your name
  • Select security and password
  • Turn on Two-factors Authentication
  • Type your contact and then answer a few security questions to ensure your account is set. 

Ultra-wideband

AirTags used Ultra-wideband to send signal to go our Apple device. Despite of Bluetooth, and Near-field communication, you cannot use an AirTag if the U1 chip is not available in your AirTag. 

Unfortunately, there are regions that have set restrictions against the use of Ultra-wideband technology. If your AirTag is not updating the location while everything is as it is supposed to be, then you should check it UWB is restricted in your country. There is nothing you can definitely for this matter. 

Updating the firmware

If you keep in account of all the factors a over and yet your AirTag device is not updating the location, then your AirTag Firmware might be outdated. 

Apple has released a new firmware update that ensures that no one else can use the information from your AirTag to stalk you. Not updating the firmware will lead to your AirTag also not updating the location with the aim of keeping off stalkers. 

To check the firmware your AirTag is using;

  • Open Find My App
  • Tap on the items bar
  • Select the item you want to check it’s firmware
  • Tap on the AirTag and the serial number and the Firmware version will appear

You can forcefully force your AirTag to update to the firmware. Firmware update will happen periodically when your AirTag comes in close range to an iPhone device with Bluetooth connection turned on. 

Factory resetting your AirTag

Of you have tried to fix all the above factors and the location of your AirTag is still not updating, then you will have to hard reset the AirTag device. 

First, you will need to disconnect the AirTag from the Apple ID, then perform the hard reset

  • Remove the AirTag battery by pressing the cover down and then rotating it anticlockwise until it cannot rotate anymore. 
  • Remove the cover and then remove the battery. 
  • Return the battery and press it down until it produces a sound. This sound is to indicate that your battery is connected. 
  • Remove and replace the battery four more times. 
  • The fifth time will produce a different sound from the rest which will indicate that your AirTag has been reset. 
  • Place the cover back and rotate clockwise until the cover cannot rotate anymore. 
  • Set up the AirTag to your Apple ID again. 

Hard resetting an AirTag will fix almost all issues in your AirTag including the AirTag location not updating. 

And since you are going to encounter quite a number of issues that can cause you some mental breakdowns trying to fix them, it would be better you subscribe to this page to learn more about AirTags.  

Conclusion

AirTag location update is one of the most crucial part of a working AirTag. You will use the location history to track a lost AirTag even when it is out of range. Unfortunately, sometimes your AirTag might face issues that will hinder the updating of the location. 

Luckily, my guide above have given you some of the most effective solution to that issues. Read it thoroughly and subscribe to this page for more information about AirTags and other smart technological devices.  

References

  1. Hübner, J. (2022). Improving Indoor Location Awareness using Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons (Doctoral dissertation, RWTH Aachen University).
  2. Lee, S. H., Moon, J., No, H. W., Lee, S. Y., Kim, H., & Joung, K. B. (2014). Prototype development of an App for Choong-Jang-Ro activation based on augmented reality. International Journal of Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering9(2), 187-198.
  3. Classen, J., Heinrich, A., Reith, R., & Hollick, M. (2022, May). Evil Never Sleeps: When Wireless Malware Stays On After Turning Off iPhones. In Proceedings of the 15th ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (pp. 146-156).