by Brandon Butler
🍕 The Apple AirTag, NFC, AR, and emojis 4/22/2021

Apple’s new tracking device, AirTag, has finally been revealed after spending a long time in the rumor mill. AirTag can be attached to anything you might need help keeping track of, like a backpack or a keychain, and if you lose it your iPhone can help you locate it.

AirTag is splash, water, and dust resistant (so a little rain is okay but don’t attach them to your SCUBA gear) and has a user-replaceable battery, the CR2032, which is easy to find in most stores.

But the biggest surprise is that while AirTag needs an iOS device to be setup, a lost AirTag can be scanned by any NFC-capable smartphone, including an Android phone. If you lose the AirTag in public you can add a message to the lost tag, then when a phone scans the AirTag it will see a link to “found.apple.com” and your message and contact info.

AirTag can also alert you if an AirTag that has been marked as lost is found to be traveling with you, for instance you might have picked up someone else’s backpack, or maybe someone dropped an AirTag into your backpack to track you. Either way, you’ll see an alert on your phone and you can turn off the notifications or even disable the AirTag. Apple’s support page says, “If you feel your safety is at risk, contact your local law enforcement who can work with Apple.”

AirTag is going to become an important part of Apple’s AR strategy in the coming years. Imagine putting on a pair of glasses and seeing your AirTag on the other side of your house, through walls and furniture, all the way into your dog’s stomach. I imagine AirTags is the first of these little AR/locator devices and that AirTags and similar objects will combine to create a compelling reason as to why you need to buy Apple’s AR system.

AirTag sounds very thoughtfully designed and incredibly useful for anyone who loses things often. Personally, I’ve never lost or misplaced my keys; I’m a creature of habit. My keys always leave my pocket and go on a shelf, right next to my wallet, AirPods and sunglasses, when I arrive home. But I still want an AirTag, mostly to play with and understand how they work. However I am extremely disappointed that Apple doesn’t have the pizza emoji as one of the engraving options. You’re killing my brand, Apple. (If you’re wondering why some of the animals were chosen and some weren’t, I think they’re selected as part of the Chinese zodiac.)

Be sure to check out The Verge’s AirTag hide-and-seek video, which is definitely a game I want to play now.