Can Apple’s AirTags Find Lost Pets?
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Today we’ll hear from Kaitlyn Wells, writer at Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by the New York Times.
The panic that sets in when a pet goes missing is something no dog or cat owner wants to experience. If your best friend gets lost, the Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers that track your pet in real time can help get you reunited, but the devices can be expensive (they average around $ 200), and some require also an expensive annual subscription. So when Apple announced its AirTag trackers in April, you might have wondered what I had done – would the $ 29 coin-sized device work as an animal tracker? ?
How is the AirTag different from a Bluetooth or GPS pet tracker?
Pet GPS trackers use satellite signals and cellular data information to communicate your pet’s location to your phone, while Bluetooth-only trackers only communicate its location if it is within Bluetooth range of your phone. – usually within 30 to 100 feet – or if someone else runs on the same tracker ecosystem happens to wander past.
The AirTag uses both Bluetooth and a more precise positioning technology called ultra-wideband (UWB) to pinpoint the location of the tracker. Like an upgraded version of Bluetooth, UWB will show you the direction of your AirTag with compass-like accuracy if you are using an iPhone near the missing AirTag. If you’re farther away, Apple’s Find My app network and the Bluetooth of other iPhone users can help you find it instead.
This difference – the near ubiquity of Apple devices wherever you are, helping to track your AirTag – is what makes Apple’s tracker much more useful than a Bluetooth tracker such as the Tile Mate, which works within a much smaller user group.
AirTags and Bluetooth trackers both rely on other devices, while GPS trackers harness the power of satellites.
Does Apple approve the use of AirTag for pet tracking?
Technically, no. Although it’s small enough to be attached to a dog’s collar using Apple’s own key chains or buckles (my colleague Brian X. Chen made the hack work), Apple pointed out that the AirTag is intended to locate objects, not people or pets. Nonetheless, the company has a patent on its UWB technology and cites removable tags attached to a pet’s collar or kid’s t-shirt as possible use scenarios on the record.
Don’t be shocked if Apple launches pet friendly trackers in the future, but for now AirTag as a pet tracker is considered improper use.
Is there a reason you wouldn’t want to use AirTags for pets?
AirTag is more limited than dedicated pet GPS trackers. Currently, the Find My app will not immediately notify you if you are separated from an AirTag, although this feature is added in iOS 15. GPS pet trackers do if your pet leaves a designated area.
AirTags also cannot be attached to a pet’s collar on their own, so you have to buy an Apple AirTag buckle (which costs as much as the AirTag itself) or a cheaper third-party holder.
Other Pet GPS Trackers Wirecutter Likes
We’ve tested over a dozen pet trackers over the years, and one of them still leads the pack: the Whistle Go Explore. It costs four times the price of the AirTag, but it will immediately tell you if your pet escapes the house, is more accurate than any other GPS tracker we’ve tested, and works with both Apple and Android phones.
But like most animal trackers we’ve tested, its GPS accuracy can be finicky when cell service is spotty and you pay a $ 100 annual subscription to keep using it. The rechargeable battery also only lasts about three days in “lost pet mode” compared to AirTag’s estimated battery life in months in that mode.
If you’re a price-conscious Apple user, the AirTag is more accurate than a traditional Bluetooth tracker, but it won’t be as responsive as a pet GPS tracker.
The AirTag is much better than nothing, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra, I would recommend the Whistle Go Explore as it remains the most reliable, accurate, and fastest way to alert you if your pet goes missing.
Whichever device you choose, make sure your pets are microchipped and their ID tags are correct. The more ways you have to find your lost pet, the better.
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