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AirTags for tracking - its not very good

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  • AirTags for tracking - its not very good

    I thought I would get an Apple AirTag, put it in my car and have a rudimentary tracker.
    Both as a cheap theft tracking, but also as an assist to locate the car after a long walk in a new city or a hike, just as someone I know asked me to find a tracker for her cats.

    TLDR: its useless for anything but finding the keys in your own house.

    The AirTags works by sending a signal to an iPhone (any iPhone) and then relaying that information to yours.
    This is unlike a "real" tracker that has a GPS and sends a SMS using the cellular network, and then this is sent either directly to your phone, or to an app that shows a GPS location.
    Obviously, this makes a real tracker bigger, makes it require battery (or hook up to car battery), and a phone subscription or similar.
    The AirTag is just powered with a small cell battery, and is a install (as in drop it into a pocket) and forget type thing. Quick and easy.

    However, because the AirTag requires an iPhone to be in range, and it only sends its information once in a whole (to save battery) its very slow to update.

    If you park your car in a large car park, someone has to walk past with an iPhone in their pocket in order to resend the location. If you park in an underground car park, its even worse.
    I parked the car in an underground car park while visiting a new town, and when I checked the App, it appeared that the car was still on the motorway. So the idea of sending the location of the car to someone (honey, where did you park...) is impossible.
    So, as a theft thing its no good, and as a pet tracker it is also not so good, as if a cat gets itself stuck in a field somewhere, it will need the assistance of a iPhone carrying fox to be located.
    You can report the tag "lost" and it will then give a live location (if there is an iPhone nearby) but it will also beep continuously, which may not be an advantage as it is very easy to just throw out the window.

    To be fair, it advertised as a way of keeping track of your belongings in the sense of "where in my house did I leave my keys" etc. but that is a rather limited use case, just as the discussion about it has strangely turned to "OMG its a tracking device to be used by abusive husbands and stalkers" which is a bit strange carry on as there are other trackers out there that do the same thing, leading Apple to incorporate not only the beeping of the device, but also to notify the iPhone it is next to (so potentially not yours) that there is an unknown AirTag near it. (again alerting a potential thief that he is being tracked). Just as it randomly beeps after being offline for a while. (So every Monday morning as I drive out of my parking basement it beeps, as it had no connection to the outside for one-two days)

    So, apart from being a thing for distracted people to find their keys and wallet etc., its not particularly useful.
    Better to save money and find something better.

    Mind you, the privacy discussion is at least somewhat validated. While Apple does not sell data, or indeed does not keep it for itself, Tile (a AirTag competitor) sells its user location data to just about anyone:
    https://www.pocket-lint.com/apps/new...data-to-anyone
    "This is a non-contact sport but then so is ice hockey" - Roberto Giordanelli on Irish FIAT Punto racing but applies to all Irish racing..
    "Tailgaters have small dicks" - Me

  • #2
    TLDR - you are wrong

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    • #3
      It's interesting to read your first-hand user experience hi-rev.

      Being honest, what you've written is pretty much what I expected when reading about these when they were launched. Fine if they're very closely surrounded by iPhones every hour of the day. Useless if even a few feet out of range from normal people traffic. And once you move beyond North America and Western Europe a dud because there's not enough iPhones in circulation to ping them.

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      • #4
        Except it's not correct. I'm not going to show how it works in practice or discuss details of how I'm using it but it works just like you would expect it to work. As in very well. It's obviously not real-time and if your item is in a place where nobody ever goes then it's not going to work but any normal public place will get a ping quite frequently. It's actually an amazing thing and probably one of the coolest things Apple have made in quite a while.

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        • #5
          Are Apple using other iphones as a network? Ie not just the air tag owners iphone?

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          • #6
            Yes, that's it explained in its simplest form.

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            • #7
              https://arstechnica.com/cars/2021/12...cars-to-steal/

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              • #8
                Do iphone owners have to give permission or is it just something apple expects from it's customers

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by DMZ View Post
                  TLDR - you are wrong

                  Originally posted by DMZ View Post
                  Except it's not correct. I'm not going to show how it works in practice or discuss details of how I'm using it but it works just like you would expect it to work. As in very well. It's obviously not real-time and if your item is in a place where nobody ever goes then it's not going to work but any normal public place will get a ping quite frequently. It's actually an amazing thing and probably one of the coolest things Apple have made in quite a while.
                  What in the actual flying feck.

                  Do you think I just invented this whole thing?
                  Do you not think that I tried and tested this for more than a month and that what I wrote is what happened and is happening?
                  Is there anything that I wrote that is technically incorrect in regard to the AirTags function and setup?

                  You are free to come down here and look at my phone to see how often this thing updates or not and tell me when I was wrong.
                  "This is a non-contact sport but then so is ice hockey" - Roberto Giordanelli on Irish FIAT Punto racing but applies to all Irish racing..
                  "Tailgaters have small dicks" - Me

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                  • #10
                    I have no idea but it works just fine. You are more than welcome to rant away but it does work.

                    I’d say you’re putting the AirTag in a place that shields the Bluetooth signal. It doesn’t work miracles. You can’t put it inside of a bicycle frame as an example. You can test this easily by seeing how far you can see the tag with your phone.

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                    • #11
                      And there you have it.
                      As a car tracker, or pet tracker it is not very good, because the car acts like a Faraday cage. Phone, GPS and even WiFi signals can get through, but Bluetooth signals are to weak to both penetrate the steel car, and also do the necessary handshake/pairing needed to transmit data before it is is out of range again.
                      And if its in a sparsely populated / traversed area, its even worse.
                      "This is a non-contact sport but then so is ice hockey" - Roberto Giordanelli on Irish FIAT Punto racing but applies to all Irish racing..
                      "Tailgaters have small dicks" - Me

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hi-rev View Post
                        And there you have it.
                        As a car tracker, or pet tracker it is not very good, because the car acts like a Faraday cage. Phone, GPS and even WiFi signals can get through, but Bluetooth signals are to weak to both penetrate the steel car, and also do the necessary handshake/pairing needed to transmit data before it is is out of range again.
                        And if its in a sparsely populated / traversed area, its even worse.
                        I would agree that using an AirTag as a car or pet tracker is not a good idea (as stated before, GPS is the way to go) but I would disagree about the BT comment - there are times when I get in the other half's car and the BT module connects to her phone while she's inside the house and I can hear her TikToks (or whatever) come through the car speakers nice and clear so don't think BT is that weak...

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                        • #13
                          For fear of repeating myself, it works just fine in a bunch of different scenarios. They’re not perfect but if somebody lifts something you have a shot at getting it back. There are solutions for bicycles that Google will explain.

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                          • #14
                            I find them very good for my use case - better than Tile.
                            sigpichttps://mingshitters.wordpress.com/

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ming View Post
                              I find them very good for my use case - better than Tile.
                              Ah crap.

                              Is the Tile particularly bad?

                              I just bought a pair of their Pro trackers for my Dad's sets of keys as well as a Skim for his wallet as his Christmas present.

                              I went with these because of their Android compatibility, he uses a Samsung phone.

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