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Apple AirTag - 4 pack

9
£99.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Genuinely innovative solution to tracking your bike without the challenges of GPS trackers
Cheaper than other tracking systems
Easy to mount and hide
Long battery life
Less accurate than GPS
Less useful in rural areas
Weight: 
11g
Contact: 

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Apple AirTags are a relatively cheap and effective way to track your bike and subtly add an element of security. They don't promise the kind of highly accurate GPS tracking of others, but in my opinion the benefits of this comparatively low-tech system outweigh that.

I have tried quite a few bike trackers over the years, with varying degrees of success. They generally tend to fall into one of two camps: unpredictable, or thirsty. Either the battery is rubbish and charging is so frequent that unless you set calendar reminders, you'll spend 50% of the time with it off, or the GPS signal is so unpredictable that something as dastardly as putting the bike in a building makes it unreachable.

> Find your nearest dealer here

The AirTags remove both of these issues by doing something very simple: not using GPS.

This means they don't need to be big, they don't need to have an amazing battery, and they don't need to be completely accurate. Instead, you sacrifice constantly knowing where your AirTag is with the convenience of not having to charge or even touch it for a year or more.

Mounting

AirTags aren't bike specific, so they don't come with a mount designed for that job. I used the most popular one I could find on Amazon, which was essentially an oval shaped piece of plastic that could either be zip-tied under the saddle or screwed into the bottle cage holes on the frame. I ended up hiding mine under a bottle cage and subsequently using security bolts to make it even more difficult to remove. This cost around £7 on top of the AirTag itself.

In this position it is subtle enough that only a really hawk-eyed thief would notice it, and even if they did, the security bolts would act as a fairly significant deterrent.

I mounted it in a few other places, such as under the stem and under the saddle, but that meant using zip-ties that could be cut easily, rather than bolts, so I preferred to mount it beneath the bottle cage.

2021 Apple AirTag under bottle cage.jpeg

It's worth noting that a whole industry seems to be starting around AirTag mounts. Online you can find top cap mounts, junction box mounts, mounts for inside the frame, and more. So regardless of where you're looking to mount it, there is likely to be something available now or in the future that will allow you to do it.

Performance

Rather than giving you a specific location using GPS, AirTag works by using the iPhones that are around it. Essentially, it uses other iPhones with Bluetooth to identify where the AirTag is in relation to that phone; so if my phone is 10m away from the AirTag and my phone is in location A, the AirTag knows it is within 10m of location A.

It's considerably less accurate than a GPS tracker as it relies on other people being near the AirTag for it to work, but because the iPhone is the most popular phone in the world, it's less of an issue – basically, every one of them can act as a mast from which your AirTag's location can be found.

I did a few experiments with this, and had my wife carry one around central London. It would update roughly every 30 seconds, which then updates the map so you can see where it is. You can also set the AirTag to 'lost', which means you'll be sent a notification the next time the AirTag is picked up by an iPhone.

All of this means that the more people who are around the AirTag, the easier it is to find – so it's considerably more useful in urban areas than rural. I tested them out in a small village in Kent and in central London and, unsurprisingly, I didn't find it as useful in the area with a smaller population. It still works, but the AirTag gets pinged much less frequently.

As you can probably imagine, you cannot follow the AirTag's route on a map like a GPS, but you can see where it is on a map when it's pinged. If you have an iPhone 11 or newer you can also track the AirTag more accurately once you are in range with your own phone, first telling you how far away the AirTag is, and then the specific direction once you're closer.

It's both a simple and effective method; when I tested this out by having somebody hide an AirTag, it never took me long to find it.

App & setup

Setting up the AirTags is very easy: you just take them out of their packaging and place them near your iPhone. From here you go through a simple wizard that tells you exactly how to use them. The entire process took me under 30 seconds per AirTag.

Once they're set up with your phone they appear as an item in the Find My app, so all you need to do is select the item and it displays where the tag was last seen on the map. It also tells you when the AirTag was last seen, which is really useful in terms of working out how accurate the position might be.

> Inside the mind of a bike thief – learn how to protect your bike

From the app you can also rename the AirTag, make it play a sound to make finding it easier if it's in Bluetooth range, use the find function to identify where it is if in Bluetooth range, and also set the AirTag to lost mode.

Battery life for one AirTag is estimated to be around one year, at which point all you need to do is replace the CR2032 cell. It's way too early to test that claim, but nothing in the month I've been using them suggests they won't last this long.

Cost

We have tried a number of bike trackers over the years but there aren't really any that I would say are comparable to an AirTag. The Vodafone Curve that I tested recently was considerably more expensive at £79 plus a monthly subscription, but it does offer considerably more features and full GPS tracking.

Perhaps the closest rival in terms of a direct competitor is the Tile Pro, which is cheaper by £10, at £89.99 for a pack of four, though roughly the same price for a single unit at £30 (a single AirTag is £29). The Tile Pro works in pretty much the same way as the AirTag, both in terms of functionality and method, which means the AirTag is considerably more effective simply because Tile has 26 million users across the world, while Apple has around a billion.

Conclusion

Overall, I was very impressed by the AirTags, both in terms of performance and usability. They are both simple to use and simple to track. The fact that you only need to change the battery once a year means you instantly remove one of the major challenges facing bike trackers, and this, together with their size, means your choice of mounting options is significantly increased.

You don't get the same level of accuracy in terms of instant tracking as you do with GPS, and they are less useful in rural areas, but aside from that there isn't much not to be impressed with.

Verdict

Genuinely innovative solution to tracking your bike without the challenges of GPS trackers

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Apple AirTag - 4 pack

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

The AirTag is a tracker that can be attached to your bike and found through your phone.

Apple says, 'AirTag is a super-easy way to keep track of your stuff.'

It's a simple message but it's true.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Apple lists:

Size

Diameter: 31.9 mm (1.26 inches)

Height: 8.0 mm (0.31 inches)

Weight

11 grams (0.39 ounces)

Splash, Water and Dust Resistance

Rated IP67 (maximum depth of 1 metre up to 30 minutes) under IEC standard 60529

Connectivity

Bluetooth for proximity finding

Apple-designed U1 chip for Ultra Wideband and Precision Finding

NFC tap for Lost Mode

Speaker

Built-in speaker

Battery

User-replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery

Sensor

Accelerometer

Accessibility

The Find My app is compatible with these iPhone accessibility features:

VoiceOver

Invert Colours

Larger Text

Compatibility with braille displays

System Requirements and Compatibility

Apple ID

iPhone and iPod touch models with iOS 14.5 or later

iPad models with iPadOS 14.5 or later

Environmental Requirements

Ambient operating temperature: -20° to 60° C (-4° to 140° F)

In the Box

AirTag with CR2032 coin cell battery installed

Documentation

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

There isn't much to it but it feels secure and robust.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Simple to use and does exactly what it's designed to do.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

They are IP67 water resistant and feel fairly robust.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Compared with all other trackers I have tested, which often cost £100s, they are more effective, easier to use, and much cheaper.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well. It's simple to set up, it tracks location effectively, and the battery should last over a year.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The long battery life removes one of the main issues that trackers have historically faced.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Although it still works, it is not as effective in rural areas.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

We have tried a number of bike trackers over the years, but there aren't really any that are comparable to an AirTag. The Vodafone Curve I tested recently is considerably more expensive at £79 plus a monthly subscription, but it does offer considerably more features and full GPS tracking.

Perhaps the closest direct competitor is the Tile Pro, which is £10 less at £89.99 for a pack of four, but £30 for a single unit (so £1 more than a single AirTag). The Tile Pro works in pretty much the same way as the AirTag both in terms of functionality and method, which means the AirTag is considerably more effective simply because Tile has 26 million users across the world who can ping a Tile, while Apple has around 1 billion.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

It's excellent: a really simple and effective tracker with a mammoth battery life, simple setup, and multiple mounting options.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 33  Height: 6 ft  Weight:

I usually ride: CAAD13  My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,

George spends his days helping companies deal with their cycling commuting challenges with his company Cycling for Work. He has been writing for Road.cc since 2014. 

When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects. 

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