As a long time user of Tile, it pains me to realise that my fancy trackers are not as useful as they used to. Years ago, I could always rely on my tracker to find my keys. Lately, ringing my tracker became a hit and miss effort. 50% of the time it won’t connect to the tracker despite being less than 10 m away. The Bluetooth connection is just not as stable as it used to.

When Apple announced AirTag, I was excited. First party tracker means I don’t need to worry about an app running in background and consuming battery power. First party tracker means I could expect much higher reliability. Native connection to iOS means it already have more than 1 billion devices in its network, easily one of the largest on the planet.

I first ordered one, just to try it out. A single AirTag arrived and it does look Apple-ish. Smooth, simplistic and does not fuss about sacrificing important aspect of usability: it does not have hole to attach to keychain or to anything really. Another Apple-like move: it needs us to put on some case for it to be really usable in real world scenario. And the cases cost almost as much as the tracker itself, if not more.

Luckily, we do not need Apple-branded case for an Apple-branded tracker. Cheap third party plastic or silicon cases from Amazon or eBay would do the trick without impacting the performance. I found one model particularly interesting because it’s transparent and it covers both sides of the tracker.

Setting up Apple AirTag is easy. There is no button on the tracker. All we need to do is bringing it close to our phone and follow on-screen instruction. After setup, we need to give it a name and an emoji. Yes, an emoji. The name itself can contain emoji. But there is one icon that will represent the tracker in map and the icon is chosen from standard set of emoji.

The tracker device itself can have engraving, up to 5 characters. We can type standard alphanumeric character, or we can choose from a selection of emoji. This set of emoji selection is different from standard emoji in our iPhones. We can only choose from 4 smiley faces, thumbs up, victory fingers, rock on fingers, fist bump, heart, star, some animals, alien and robot, numbers from 1 to 50 in circle, A-Z in circle, numbers 1 to 50 in black circle and A-Z in black circle. In a way, this is a good way to differentiate our trackers. Reasonably useful because I imagine most people will have more than 1 trackers.

In the “Find My” app, trackers will appear in a tab called “Items”. This tab will also show third party devices compatible with Find My network, which I hope more will arrive in the market soon. Initial tests are showing good results. Tracker works as expected and playing sound from the app works reasonably quick. I could not try the “Notify When Found” yet because the option is disabled when the tracker is too close to me and not many places I can go to during Covid lockdown. Maybe later.

After successful first test, I ordered another set of 4. Thanks to user-replaceable battery, I can expect to use these trackers for at least a few years. Opening the battery compartment can be done without any tool, which is good and bad at the same time. It is probably too easy and will make it a danger for young kids. That is why I opt to put my tracker inside a case that protect both sides. I actually glued the bottom side of the case with transparent super-glue, and the upper side is attached to my key-ring. In my setting, the AirTag needs to be taken off keychain first before the case can be opened, which should increase the difficulty level quite significantly for young kids.

Simple accessory with simple function. Does what it promises to do. Happy with these trackers, but would probably look at other alternatives once third party trackers compatible with Apple Find My network arrive. For now, it is time to say goodbye to my Tile trackers.