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Apple AirTags: 4 undeniable ways the mainstream tracker destroys the competition

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Released back in 2014, the once popular item tracker called Tile sat largely unrivaled until Apple debuted AirTags in 2021. Stealing much of Tile’s market share among owners of Apple devices within the last year, AirTags offer a number of notable first-party features and expanded functionality compared to Tile trackers.

1. Precision Finding

While all Tile devices suffer from the close-range tracking limitations afforded by the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, Apple’s AirTags feature ultra wideband connectivity. The ultra wideband chip or U1 chip present inside all AirTags enables a feature called Precision Finding.

Working in tandem with an iPhone’s gyroscope, accelerometer, and U1 chip, AirTags offer more precise spatial tracking data. With ARKit and haptics built into the tracking experience, AirTags offer near-exact distance and directional info that can help users narrow their search for a lost item.

This is an area where Tile simply cannot compete. It’s important to note that the Precision Finding feature only works on select models of the iPhone including the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro lineup, the iPhone 12 lineup, both models of the iPhone 12 Pro, all models of the iPhone 13, and the entire iPhone 13 Pro lineup.

2. Built-in separation alerts

After pairing a Tile tracker, users are prompted to pay US$2.99 per month or US$29.99 annually for a subscription to Tile Premium in order to enable a feature called “Smart Alert Notifications”. The feature allows Tile Premium customers to designate one Tile Mate device as a primary beacon capable of sending a push notification to your smartphone in the event that you leave an item behind.

AirTags offer this feature right out of the box for free, and it even works on multiple AirTags at once. AirTags users can even configure a list of “trusted locations” to avoid receiving separation notifications for items that they routinely and purposely leave behind at any given location.

Why pay a subscription to use a feature on one Tile device when you can access the same feature for free on as many AirTags as you'd like? (Image source: Tile)
Why pay a subscription to use a feature on one Tile device when you can access the same feature for free on as many AirTags as you'd like? (Image source: Tile)

3. Unparalleled location accuracy

Both AirTags and Tile trackers communicate with other devices of their kind via Bluetooth pinging to pinpoint location data. However, Tile’s network of 35 million devices pales in comparison to Apple’s astounding 1.8 billion active devices across the globe according to its Q1 2022 earnings report.

Even more notable is the fact that Tile users must have the Tile app downloaded on their smartphone and remain signed in in order for their device to act as a Bluetooth beacon capable of tracking the location of other Tile devices. By contrast, every single Apple device on the planet serves as a Bluetooth location beacon for AirTags, enabling unrivaled tracking precision and extensive tracking coverage.

The only thing that the AirTags have going against them is their lack of a dedicated key ring hole. The AirTags 2 cannot come soon enough. (Image source: Unsplash)
The only thing that the AirTags have going against them is their lack of a dedicated key ring hole. The AirTags 2 cannot come soon enough. (Image source: Unsplash)

4. NFC “Lost Mode”

Apple users can toggle a button inside the Find My app to trigger “Lost Mode” on AirTags allowing them to be found (and hopefully returned) using NFC (near-field-communication) technology on both Apple and Android smartphones.

AirTags do not require those who may find a lost AirTag to have any additional software installed on their smartphone in order to obtain contact info for the AirTag owner. As with location tracking accuracy, Tile trackers struggle in the lost-and-found department as well, requiring smartphone users to install and sign into the Tile app in order to be notified of lost Tile trackers nearby.

AirTags will even automatically let users know if an AirTag has been found to be moving with them, while Tile leaves it up to the user to manually scan for nearby Tile trackers to determine if the same one has been following them. Tile's lack of support for the Find My app is even more of a missed opportunity considering that Apple opened its Find My network to third-party customers early last year.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 08 > Apple AirTags: 4 undeniable ways the mainstream tracker destroys the competition
Brahm Shank, 2022-08- 3 (Update: 2022-09-15)