How To: 18 Surprisingly Practical Uses for Apple AirTags

18 Surprisingly Practical Uses for Apple AirTags

Apple's new $29 Bluetooth beacons definitely drew some inspiration from Tile's lineup of trackers. But just because AirTags are designed like existing smart trackers doesn't mean you can't find other useful ways to use these little homing tags. In fact, we've thought of more than a dozen fun ways to get the most out of AirTags.

Apple sells these new smart trackers standalone ($29) or in packs of four ($99). The latter is definitely the better deal if you think you'll need a bunch of these, as it brings the individual AirTag cost down to $24.75 a pop. Maybe you only need one, but remember — there are at least 18 ways to use Apples's new smart trackers, so you might want to stock up!

How AirTag Works

To be clear, an AirTag is not an iPhone, so it has no way to communicate with the Find My app or network or on its own. Instead, it connects to other devices on the Find My network using Bluetooth. To get a hit on Find My, a connected device needs to be within Bluetooth range of the missing AirTag.

But that's the beauty of AirTag. Unlike, say, AirPods, it's not just your devices AirTags communicate with. Any NFC-enabled iPhone (i.e., iPhone 6 and newer) or smartphone can connect to your AirTag. That means all an AirTag needs to do to refresh its location on Find My is connect to a close-by device also on the Find My network. Think about how many millions of iPhones, iPads, and Macs there are that can do that.

You can even place the AirTag in Lost Mode so that if someone finds it, all they have to do is tap and hold the top of their smartphone to the AirTag and wait for a notification that takes them to a webpage with your phone number and other information. That works for both iPhone and Android devices, so you'll have the help of virtually the entire smartphone community.

Image by Marques Brownlee/YouTube

Apple does all of this with a focus on privacy, as well. All of the communication between your AirTag and strangers' products is completely encrypted and anonymous. No location data is stored in the AirTag. The AirTag's Bluetooth signal identifiers frequently rotate to prevent unwanted tracking. So there's no risk that your security will be compromised.

If you're looking for your AirTag on your own, it's a similar experience to tracking down an item on Find My, unless you have an iPhone with the U1 chip (iPhone 11 and 12 models) with Ultra Wideband technology. These devices support Precision Finding with AirTag; you'll actually see an arrow appear on your iPhone's display, letting you know exactly how close you are to that AirTag and in what direction it's in. That's a feature we think will come in handy in more than a couple of the scenarios below:

1. NFC Contact Cards

You don't need to lose an AirTag for them to be useful to strangers. AirTag can act as an NFC contact card, sharing your phone number and any other information you want to provide with whoever interacts with it.

They would tap the top of their NFC-equipped smartphone (iPhone or Android) on the white side of the AirTag, then hold until a notification appears. Open that, and they'll be redirected to a webpage that displays the information you added. It's not quite the same as an NFC business contact card that can help import contact details, but it's fun to play with.

To set it up, your AirTag must be in Lost Mode. Open the Find My app, tap the "Items" tab, and select the AirTag in question. Under the Lost Mode section, tap "Enable," then hit "Continue" on the splash page. Enter your phone number, hit "Next," then enter your message, which can contain your email, business, etc. Continue with the directions and hit "Activate" to turn on Lost Mode.

2. Secret Message Dead Drops

Espionage tradecraft utilizes dead drops to pass information between two people without those two people having to meet. One person hides the dead drop in a secret location, and the other person picks it up. In the digital age, dead drops can take the form of an anonymous offline communications server over Wi-Fi, where people can chat locally in secret and even drop files to each other.

For AirTag, you can utilize the same Lost Mode concept mentioned above to drop secret messages to whoever might know the location of the AirTag. Have a friend put an AirTag in the same location, and you can both scan each other's AirTag to see any message updates that have been added in Lost Mode.

3. Lifesaver Beacons

If you or a loved one is severely allergic to anything, put an AirTag with your EpiPens. The same goes for any other life-saving medication you may need to take at a moment's notice. If someone else needs to find the medicine for you (or vice versa), they can use your Find My app (or their own if they are a part of your Family Sharing group) instead of frantically upending the house.

4. Location Trackers for Pets

If you don't want to go through the process of microchipping your pet, there's now a much less invasive option to keep track of it: AirTag. Apple's Bluetooth trackers are a perfect pet companion since they're IP67 water-resistant and small enough for a cat's collar, and hardly noticeable on a dog's. AirTag doesn't come with a way to attach it to a collar, so you'll need to buy a case with a keyring, loop, or small carabiner. Some companies, like FollowPaw, make pet collars specifically for AirTag.

5. Location Trackers for Children

Like pets, children have a mind of their own and can go running off at a moment's notice. Put your attention elsewhere for half a second, and you'll spend half your afternoon looking for your kids.

If you want an easy way to keep track of your kids and they're not old enough for smartphones yet, think about pairing them with an AirTag. You could have them keep it in a backpack or in their pocket, maybe with a keychain or key ring accessory to secure it.

Your children should return home every day, so the built-in anti-stalking feature won't activate since it only plays a sound when the AirTag is away from your iPhone for three days and starts to move. However, you should definitely let your young ones know they have an AirTag tracker. Just make sure to get a protective case since kids tend to destroy things.

Image via Apple

6. Location Trackers for Yourself

Maybe you've listened to one too many true crime podcasts and want a little extra security in your life. You can pick up an AirTag for your bag or pants pocket to keep yourself on other people's radar, whether they are on Family Sharing with you, share an Apple ID account, or have your AirTag set up from their device.

Another layer of security never hurts when you think you might be walking into a dangerous situation. Emergency SOS might not be good enough, 911 on your Apple Watch can easily be stopped, custom panic buttons in Shortcuts might not be usable in time, and your iPhone can be shut off to disable tracking. But an attacker or assailant might not even realize you have an AirTag on you, and their own Apple devices might even help in tracking you down.

7. Location Trackers for People with Dementia

People with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia can lose their ability to recognize familiar places, so it's not uncommon for them to wander off and get lost and confused. There are GPS trackers for people with special needs and dementia, but they cost more than AirTag, so why not try an AirTag and save money? Just make sure they know they have an AirTag, just like you should do with kids.

8. Location Trackers for Your Stuff

AirTag was designed specifically to track your belongings. Like other smart trackers before it, AirTag helps you find things you easily misplace daily. But have you considered everything in your life that an AirTag can keep track of?

  • keys
  • remote
  • AirPods (even better with a case)
  • wallet
  • purse
  • employee badge
  • student ID
  • laptop bag
  • many other things
Image by The Verge/YouTube

9. High-Tech Scavenger Hunt Clues

Have some cash to spend? Looking for some high-tech fun? Consider picking up a four-pack of AirTags and using them as scavenger hunt clues. Your contestants can use their iPhones — especially ones with the U1 chip — to tell if they're getting warmer to an AirTag, and, subsequently, to the next clue. This probably works best for the first clue in a scavenger hunt, as the players might get confused seeing multiple AirTags on the map.

Image by Marques Brownlee/YouTube

10. Beacons for the Visually Impaired

The Find My app supports various Accessibility settings that are built right into the iPhone. Those include VoiceOver, invert colors, larger text, and compatibility with braille displays. VoiceOver is possibly the best Accessibility feature to use with AirTag since an iPhone (with a U1 chip) can give step-by-step instructions out loud with Precision Finding, which gives blind or low-vision users with spoken directions like "AirTag is five feet away on your right." It's definitely a faster way for people with visual impairments to find items faster.

11. Underwater Item Locators

AirTag is IP67-rated for water resistance. That doesn't mean it's waterproof, but it does give you some leeway when it comes to a liquid encounter since AirTag should continue to function at a maximum depth of one meter (about three feet) for up to 30 minutes.

Given that, consider attaching an AirTag to any items you're concerned about losing when in water. If you're going boating, swimming, or any other activity that could result in a wallet, backpack, or other possession falling into shallow water, an AirTag might be what gets it back to you. You'll need an iPhone with a U1 chip since Ultra Wideband technology will be better at penetrating water than Bluetooth.

12. Luggage Locators (When the Airline Loses It)

If the airline can't find your bag on its own, maybe it can locate it with a beeping AirTag inside it. Use this tip at your own discretion, of course, since some airlines might not take too kindly to demands to listen for a chirping noise inside their luggage area. That said, it isn't the only time an AirTag can help you with your luggage at the airport....

13. Luggage Locators (When Coming Around the Carousel)

It's a universal struggle to watch endlessly for your luggage on the airport carousel, wondering if that bag that looks like your bag really is your bag (spoiler: it probably isn't).

Stop waiting and guessing by popping an AirTag in your bag before you hand it off to the airline. When it comes time to pick up your luggage, you can use your U1-equipped iPhone and Precision Finding to know exactly when the bag has entered the area from the back.

14. Toy Locators

No more flipping over couch cushions or ducking underneath the bed looking for that lost stuffed animal, race car, or security blanket. If you can find a way to attach an AirTag to your kids' favorite toys that always go missing, you should. Of course, make sure it's hidden and not removable by the kid. An AirTag could pose a choking hazard depending on their age, but an AirTag sewed into a teddy bear or wooby won't even be accessible to them.

15. Anti-Theft Trackers for Your Bike

If you take your bike out and about town, you likely have a lock or chain for it to keep it safe. That said, if a lock or chain were able to stop all bike thefts, we wouldn't be here, would we?

To add a little extra security to your bicycle while left unattended, hide an AirTag somewhere inconspicuous. That way, if it ever is stolen, all you need to do is track the AirTag to find your bike — with or without the thief. Moment has AirTag holders with adhesive backs that can mount to flat and curved surfaces, so you can hide one under the sear or even on one of the bars.

Some bikes even have tracking technology built-in that works with the Find My network, if you're worried about an AirTag being seen.

Image by VanMoof/Apple

16. Anti-Theft Trackers for Your Car

As with bikes, AirTag is perfect as a cheap anti-theft device for your car or truck. There are plenty of places you could sneak an AirTag in your vehicle so an unsuspecting thief would never notice. Glove box, under a seat, in the center console, with the spare tire in the trunk, you name it. They think they just got away with the perfect crime, but little do they know you can track their every move.

Of course, there are GPS trackers you can buy specifically for vehicles, but they're expensive and usually require a monitoring subscription.

17. Parked Car Locators

You don't need a thief in the picture for your vehicle to go missing. You're perfectly capable of misplacing your car or truck all on your own, thank you very much.

To avoid a Seinfeld parking situation, just entrust your location to that hidden AirTag! Your U1-equipped iPhone with Precision Finding will lead you right back to your car, so you no longer need to worry about memorizing garage floor numbers, remembering cross street names, or trying to get "Show Parked Location" in Apple Maps to work.

18. A Reason to Buy Those Flat Batteries from the Store

The batteries in AirTag last around one full year, but once they're dead, you don't need to buy a whole new AirTag. In a very un-Apple move, AirTag batteries are user-replaceable, running on the CR2032 coin cell battery.

CR2032 batteries are essentially the AA battery of coin batteries. They're in every grocery and convenience store, but the chances are that most of the products in your life don't take them, aside from your old-style Apple Remote, of course. With AirTags, you finally have a reason to.

Bonus Use: Flex Your Wealth

This isn't a practical use by any means, but it's certainly something you can do with an AirTag: show off how much money you have to blow. If you're a real baller, don't get the standard $35 leather keychain holder like a pleb. Instead, drop the cash and get a status symbol from Hermés that serves the same purpose but costs ten times more!

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Cover image via Apple

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