Real-World Testing Shows AirTag Safety Features Are Better Than Other Trackers

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 11 Feb 2022

Earlier this week, Apple announced changes to the Find My app and new security features for AirTag to address stalking-related concerns. A New York Times report put the changes to test to see how the AirTag security features stack up against rival offerings and work in the real world.

NYT reporter Kashmir Hill (consentingly) planted three AirTags, three Tile trackers, and one GPS tracker on her husband and his belongings to see which trackers relayed location data accurately and which ones were easy to detect if used with malicious intent.

She said the AirTag didn’t send her location data accurately when her husband went outdoors. She attributed the inaccuracy to the “sparsely populated area” she lives in because AirTag relies on Apple’s Find My network to get location data. Her husband — an iPhone user — was alerted of the planted AirTags within two hours. He was prompted to make the AirTag play a sound so that it could be found easily. However, the iPhone couldn’t connect to the AirTag, and when it did, it was nigh impossible to locate the tracker because the location of the sound could not be pinpointed.

The Tile trackers rely on a network similar to Find My, but “far fewer people have the Tile app,” Hill noted. So, the location data relayed to Hill was inaccurate, and her husband could not locate the trackers due to the absence of AirTag-like safety features. Scott Coriell, a Tile spokesperson, said the company’s product is designed to help people find their things, “not for tracking people.” He added that using Tiles for such purposes could lead to a permanent ban from the service. Essentially, the AirTag blew the Tile out of the water regarding location accuracy and safety. You can also dive into our detailed comparison of the two trackers.

The report also mentioned that the $30 LandAirSea GPS-based tracker was the most precise of the lot. However, activating the location service costs an additional $20 per month for location updates every three minutes and $50 per month for updates every three seconds. The tracker also needs a cellular plan to relay the GPS data. Based on Hill’s account, this tracker was more accurate than the AirTag. However, it is also considerably more expensive to use.

Our Take

Hill’s testing showed that although Apple has some work to do, the AirTag has the best privacy features among the object trackers tested. It was also reasonably accurate in relaying the location data without an additional subscription. Apple would have to make rogue AirTags easier to locate. The company has already set the ball rolling and says Precision Finding for rogue AirTags will debut later this year.

Are you convinced the AirTag is a safer object tracker than its rivals? Has your experience been different? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.

[Via New York Times]