You could have Note Apple AirTags in the headlines lately – as newer Apple products tend to be – but these little tracking discs are just the latest in a long list of options for keeping tabs on the location of your phones, tablets and laptops.
The location tracking features built into our devices come with confidentiality issues, and the more advanced they are, the more problematic they can be (see this article on how Apple AirTags can be a gift for stalkers and stalkers) but they also mean that our precious gear can report their location around the clock making it much harder to lose something.
With AirTags – and Galaxy SmartTags, tile trackers and all the like – this type of location monitoring can extend to all kinds of items, from bags to key chains. Even if something doesn’t report its location, it may be connected to a device that is.
If you’re determined to always know where your most valuable items are, you have more options than ever before.
Let’s start with Apple, because it just launched AirTags. These little trackers work through the Find my app which you can find preinstalled on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It is also available through the iCloud portal, so you can access it through any computer with a web browser.
Most modern Apple products can report their location through Find My, not only phones and laptops, but AirPods and laptops as well. Apple Watch. The Apple Pencil cannot be located through this app, but when it comes to Apple devices, it is in the minority. To make sure your devices are being tracked, tap your name and then Find my in Settings on an iPhone or iPad, or select Security and confidentiality then Privacy in System Preferences on a Mac.
You’ll see your devices on a map when you launch Find My, and you’ll be able to see details, including the battery charge level, if applicable. Select a device and you can remotely erase it, lock it to protect it from unauthorized access, or make it play a sound (very handy if it has fallen on the back of the sofa).
AirTags work a little differently. They don’t report their location directly, but communicate using short-range connections with your other devices (via Bluetooth and most accurate Ultra wide band). As long as they’re nearby (Apple hasn’t given an exact range), they can be found through the Find My app on your devices.