About a decade ago, I made a “rip the band-aid off” decision to mostly exit the Apple ecosystem. Goodbye, iPhone, hello, Google Pixel. It’s all been largely great, but lately an Apple feature has me itching for some Apple OS. It’s the AirTags, which thanks to truly brilliant product management, are now beyond cool.
As a travel blogger and tech nerd, I can’t help but follow travel related developments fairly closely. For years, I’d been seeing people raving about things like Tile and AirTags, but I never felt heavily compelled to pay for them.
The main drawback to me was always the heavily limited range for tracking. I wasn’t too worried about losing something in my house, or within 200 feet of me, but I was worried about what would happen if my bag became lost in transit, or abroad. Yikes.
When Apple started the ‘Find My’ close proximity feature, which basically helps locate AirTags globally by creating a radar like signal for any nearby Apple devices to pick up, anywhere in the world, it all changed.
Defining The Apple Air Tag Advantage
With the Apple Air Tags I could lose my bag anywhere in the world and and still find it, as long as someone with an Apple device came near. The Air Tag anonymously sends constant pings and any iPhone in range will help find the precise location.
That’s not the case with Tile or Samsung’s alternatives. With both of those products, if a bag goes out of the circa 420 foot range, you lose tracking. If an airline forgets to load it, you’ll only have the last known location. It can’t tell you if it then got on later flight, or is indeed lost.
It never quite registered to me how valuable that was, until I saw it in action. I lazily watched on until I was tagged in a tweet on Twitter. A GSTP reader and blogger of their own right, with the handle AviosAdventurer was showing the airline where his bag was.
The blogger put together one of the most amazing “master class” level web demos for the airline which lost his bag, on where to actually find the bag. With a simple LOOM screen share and selfie mode video running side by side, the aviation blogger showed recent tracking data from the AirTags, and some odd movement.
The rest is bonkers.
Blogger Fights Crime With Air Tags
The airline couldn’t find his bag, but he found his bag. The airline insisted someone had attempted delivery, and he proved they hadn’t. Further, he instructed the airline on where to find it, pick it up and bring it to him. It’s really worth a watch.
As things progressed, the AirTags ended up proving to be priceless. A bad actor along the way had jacked the bags, and the air tags were able to locate a storage shed where the apparent criminals were stashing customers missing bags.
I believe updates stopped flowing once it became an official police matter, but I may or may not have seen a snippet of the end result.
Apple Air Tags And Android
I asked Twitter for feedback on my Air Tag thoughts. I’d heard of Tile, could it compete? Was there a way to use Air Tags with Android devices? The answer to question one is currently a resounding no. The answer to the second question is kind of.
There are work arounds via third party apps and things of that sort, or you can create an iCloud account and gain tracking access. I still use a MacBook for work, and it never occurred to me that it’s a perfectly suitable hub for AirTag tracking.
For people already on Apple systems, these really are a stroke of genius. With all the operational failures, staff shortages and theft in the world today, having air tags in a bag could be game changing. It’s proven to be.
You can quite literally pinpoint the exact location of your luggage at any point, with far greater precision than the airline or hotel. With rises in hotel bag theft, these tags can make police reports and returned items a breeze.
I’ve ordered a few for my travel gear. I hope they never prove useful, but at the price point of (4) for $99, it seems like a really worthwhile investment in travel happiness.