How Far Can Apple AirTags Reach?


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Written By Dinu Sri

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

As someone who constantly misplace my keys, the release of AirTags got me excited. You mean I don’t have to ask everyone where my keys ever again? That is what made me buy the several AirTags I own. But wait, how far can my iPhone track my AirTag? What technology do AirTags use that enable your phone to track the device? 

Apple AirTags use Ultra-wide band technology (UWB) technology which uses Bluetooth connection to send signals to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The signals sent are in form of radio frequency which are precise and accurate. This is what allows you to trace your AirTag when it is lost. 

Since we know Bluetooth is not the strongest of the signals, at what range can your AirTag be detected able.

Apple suggests that your AirTag device will be detected in a range of 100-300feet. So if your device is anywhere further than that, you might not be able to detect your AirTag. 

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Although your AirTag can be detected at that range, there quite a number of factors that can influence if your AirTag will be detected. Keep reading this guide to learn all the factors that affect the detectability of an AirTag. 

How far can Apple AirTag Reach?

An AirTag being the smallest and the most advanced tracking device from Apple has a lot to offer. If you have a number of items that you want to track at all times, you can attach an AirTag which retails at $29 for one AirTag and about $99 for four devices. One thing you should know is that you can only use one AirTag for one item. 

The AirTag is them set by connecting it to your Apple ID through your iPhone, iPad, or iPod with IOS 14.50 and later versions. Once you register the item you want to track I your Apple ID, you can use Find My app to track your item if it get lost. 

If your item gets lost;

  • Go to find my app
  • Tap on the items bar
  • Select the AirTag that you want to track
  • Then tap find. 

On the screen, you will be provided by some instructions which you can follow to get to your AirTag. The instructions involve an arrow indicating the direction you should follow to get to your AirTag. It also includes the exact distance in feet that you will travel towards your item. 

Once you have reached to your AirTag, you will get a signal to stop and you can then retrieve your lost item. If by any chance you cannot find your AirTag even after following the given instructions, use the speaker icon on the screen to activate the inbuilt speaker in the AirTag. You can then follow the sound to retrieve your AirTag. 

If you have an iPhone 11 and latest versions you can take advantage of the precision finding feature to find exactly where your AirTag is. 

In both cases, there is a limitation. If you have ever connected your phone’s Bluetooth to a speaker, you know that the further you move from the speaker, the weaker the signals get. Does the same happen to AirTags since they use Bluetooth? 

Yes. The same happens if it in AirTag devices. You can only retrieve your AirTag if it is in the required range. However, there are a number of factors that play part when it comes to the range. We will discuss all that in the section below. 

AirTag UWB range

Airtags uses a combination of Ultra-wide band technology, NFC, and Bluetooth connection to send signals to your iPhone. UWB sends the about 1billion pulses in a second. The signals might be strong but they can only be detected within a range of 100-300 feet. 

So , if you happen to loose your AirTag inside your house, Find My app will be able to detect where exactly your device is and give you the directions of the AirTag if your device is in range.  If the device is not in range but you are sure you lost it inside the house, you can move around until you find it in range. 

There are times you will receive a notification “ AirTag not reachable move around to find your device error”. This is an error that happens if either your AirTag is not working or there is some thing that blocks the signals of your AirTags. Below are some factors that can block the signal resulting to AirTag not Reachable error.

  1. A wall

If by any chance you misplace your AirTag in a different room, the signals sent might not reach the your iPhone. This might result to AirTag not reachable error.

In such a case, move around from room to room until the AirTag gets detected. You can then go ahead go ahead and follow the onscreen instructions provided to retrieve your AirTag. 

  1. Environmental Factors

Although Apple have put so much effort when it comes to ensuring that AirTags are not affected by some environmental factors, these same factors impact the workability of AirTags.

For instance, the ideal temperature for your AirTag to work is somewhere between -20°C and 60°C. So, if your AirTag happens to find it’s way in a freezer and the temperatures are above -20°C and the AirTag is in the required range of 100-300feet, then Find My app will detect the AirTag. 

Another instance is if your AirTag falls on a pool of water. Let’s take an example of your pet losing its AirTag in a water pool when it is swinging. Your AirTag might still detect the AirTag if it is not more than 100 feet deep inside the pool and has not been in the water for than an hour. 

Once you retrieve the AirTag that has been in this condition, remove the battery and the control board and dry it properly with a lint free cloth. 

Give it 15 seconds before putting everything together again. 

  1. Low battery

Another reason your iPhone might be showing the AirTag not reachable error is if the AirTag battery is drained. If you happen to lose your AirTag and the battery is drained, it will not show the direction. 

To know whether the battery is the issue;

  • Go to Find my App
  • Tap on the items bar
  • Select the AirTag you want to check 
  • Tap on the battery icon to see the charge. 
  • You will get a notification telling you low battery if your AirTag battery is depleted. 

You can still find an AirTag whose battery is depleted using the location history provided your AirTag was in close proximity to your iPhone at one time. 

  • Go to Find my app.
  • Tap on the items bar
  • Select the AirTag you want to find
  • Choose find. 
  • If you get AirTag not reachable but you know the battery is the issue, go to the map. 
  • Check if the AirTag is visible in the map. 
  • If it is visible, select the direction and follow the directions to get to where your AirTag was last seen. 
  1. Out of range

There are times when you might think you lost your AirTag inside your home only to find out you left in the bus or at the park. If you try using Find my app, the AirTag will give you the notification AirTag not reachable. 

 Luckily, AirTags can still utilize Find My Network feature available in all iPhones to find out where exactly your AirTag is.

Find My network might be useful but it also comes with it’s limitations. We will discuss how you can find an AirTag out of range in the section below giving the limitations that you are likely to encounter on the process. 

How to retrieve a lost AirTag?

It is not uncommon for you to lose let’s say your keys or wallet in public. Before the creation of AirTags, it would be impossible to get your AirTag back. Luckily, Apple introduced a device that can connect to other Apple devices through Bluetooth connection to send signals to the owner of the device. 

So long as your AirTag is in range of someone who uses Find My Network and the Bluetooth is on, your AirTag location will be uploaded on iCloud and you can use this information to access your AirTag. 

  • Go to the map
  • Check where your device was last seen. You can also follow the track if the AirTag is in the move provided there is someone with an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with IOS 14.50 and any latest versions. 
  • Tap on the directions from your map. 
  • You will be provided with the exact distance, and the direction to follow if you are using iPhone 11 and any latest versions. 
  • You can therefore follow the directions until you get in range of using Find My app. 

If by any chance your AirTag finds itself in someone’s pocket, the AirTag will start producing a sound which will notify them of a lost AirTag. They will also get a notification from their phone telling them they are in possession of a lost AirTag. 

Despite of the amazing work done by Find My network, it comes with some limitations.

  • Your AirTag might find itself far across the world if you lost it in the Airplane. Retrieving such an AirTag might be impossible. 
  • Find My Network is only useful if the AirTag get lost in a populated place with people who have iPhones. If you lose your AirTag in a forest or isolated places, you might never retrieve your AirTag. 
  • There have been cases of people using AirTag find my network to stalk other people. However, Apple denies this allegations. 

Apple created AirTags in a way only the person who has connected them to their Apple ID can access the location history. They have also come with new firmware updates that ensure that there is no way someone else can access your location history. 

Since Apple is still improving their products, I will be on the lookout and give you all the new information from Apple. Keep in touch by subscribing to this page. 

Conclusion

Although AirTag can be retrieved within a range of 100-300 feet, Apple has created other alternatives you can use to retrieve your AirTag even when it is out if range. 

The guide above has all the information you need when it comes to retrieving lost AirTags. You can follow them and subscribe to this page to always stay ahead when it comes to AirTags and other home and life improvement technology. 

References

  1. Leu, P., Camurati, G., Heinrich, A., Roeschlin, M., Anliker, C., Hollick, M., … & Classen, J. (2021). Ghost Peak: Practical Distance Reduction Attacks Against HRP UWB Ranging. arXiv preprint arXiv:2111.05313.
  2. Heinrich, A., Bittner, N., & Hollick, M. (2022, May). AirGuard-Protecting Android Users from Stalking Attacks by Apple Find My Devices. In Proceedings of the 15th ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (pp. 26-38).
  3. Mesquita, G. P., Mulero-Pázmány, M., Wich, S. A., & Rodríguez-Teijeiro, J. D. (2022). A practical approach with drones, smartphones, and tracking tags for potential real-time animal tracking. Current Zoology.