Who makes them? Are they secure? How do they work?
You can find a tracking gadget from a few companies, but the most popular two come from Tile — which is one of the original brands — and Apple, the latter of which makes the AirTag and uses Apple’s “Find My” network to monitor not just AirTags, but other gadgets built by Apple and Beats. Both are similar, and yet also different, and even though they rely on similar concepts and technology, they also work a little differently.
Each tracker comes with its own identifier, and when they link up with your phone, they use Bluetooth LE to make the connection and keep tabs on the position. From there, the tracker is also actually talking to the tracking software of other people’s phones, but not in the same way that you are. Other devices track yours in the background, sending that position to a server, even though they can’t see yours at all.
No. GPS trackers are different because they’re built to maintain a persistent connection to a satellite and run out of power quickly. A Bluetooth tracker uses different technology and keeps its power for weeks and months, not hours or days. However, because a Bluetooth tracker is always being tracked by having its signal picked up from devices around the place, it is having a GPS location pin-pointed, just not in real-time.
Unfortunately yes. Some people have taken to using trackers to stalk and harass, and that opens up a whole can of worms. However, Apple has adapted the AirTag to make sounds when an unfamiliar AirTag is somewhere away from its owner, and will provide the details of an AirTag account holder to the police, which is also tied to that person’s iPhone, their bank or credit card, and all the purchases they have previously met.
The strength of a tracker can come back to just how many other people are using the service and tracking your things in the background, which may explain why Tile and Apple have the edge. Tile is easily the strongest finding gadget on Android, while Apple’s AirTag is the strongest on iPhone. Make of that what you will, though we think that will guide you into working out which tracker is right for you.