The lost and found services of Apple and Android haven’t really got their due. But these are conveniences that really use technology to help the user.
I have been a beneficiary more than once. The one incident that is top of mind for me was losing my iPhone 4 after a conference in Saigon about a decade back. I had just interviewed someone and had moved to another part of the large hotel when I realised I did not have my phone with me. Then it struck me to use the iPad to see if I could find the phone and it told me it was almost where I was sitting last. I was using it to record the interview and realised I would have left it on the sofa when I finished the chat. Within minutes I could secure my phone.
That was a decade back and the technology I’m sure has only improved. In fact, Apple is now taking its technology out of its devices, to small AirTags which literally can tag onto anything and help them be tracked and found.
The AirTags are small, shiny, metal pods slightly thicker than coins. They can be bought as singles, or as a pack of four which works out cheaper though you might need to spend time thinking of the items you want to tag.
The AirTags can be slipped into your wallet or handbag. Or you could use the keyrings and luggage loops from Apple to show the world that you possess these.
The best thing about the AirTags is that as with other Apple accessories they just connect out of the box. As you remove the cover of the AirTags and bring it near the iPhone they are immediately recognised. You then need to name it depending on how you want to use it. Apple throws up options like keys, wallets, bikes, etc and you can also write your own.
Once set up, these start showing as items in the Find My iPhone app. The items are plotted on a map like Apple does with its devices. You can use the Play Sound option if you want to quickly find them in a bag or draw. In case you are not sure of the location, use the Find option and the screen will tell you how far away the AirTag is and how to get there. Once you are nearby the screen turns green, showing you are close. I hid my keys in many places inside the house and there was no issue finding them.
If you lose the item and don’t know where it is, say when you went to the mall, you can switch to the lost mode. In this, Apple will start using the network of iOS devices to listen to pings from the lost AirTag and then relay it to the owner so that you get to know where the item is. All this is done without compromising the data in anyway way and just using Bluetooth technology.
To try this in a situation where you are hardly stepping out of the house is hard. But when I put the AirTag in lost mode, within a few minutes I got a notification on my phone, maybe because my wife also uses an iPhone.
So who should buy AirTags? With all of us literally lost at home these days, I don’t find a strong use case for the AirTag till things are back to normal and we are up and about. But yes, once we are travelling and doing enough things in a day to start misplacing luggage and wallets the AirTags will be a good addition to our tech repertoire.
Also, let’s not forget that there are other options for the same like Tile, though they don’t benefit from tapping the Apple ecosystem when an item is really lost. However, that could be a bit of a problem in India, where iPhones are not really as ubiquitous as they are in the US or Europe.
The pricing also makes this an elite product with a single AirTag selling in India for Rs 3,190 and a pack of four for Rs 10,900 — what you use these on has to be precious enough to justify the price. If you are buying, it might make more sense to get the four-pack for the entire family.
Also, the leather key ring (Rs 3,590) and silicone loop (Rs 2,990) from Apple will add the style quotient, but at a price. Options like RAEGR are at a fraction of this with its key ring priced at Rs 799 and loop at Rs 599.
Still for those within the Apple ecosystem this is a good investment and also a visible way to show the world your love for Apple.