Can Apple AirTags Be Used as a GPS Bike Tracker?

Last month Apple revealed their latest product last week: the AirTags.

Basically, they’re designed to be used for things like helping find your keys, but many have been wandering if they can be used as a tracker.

So, can you track your bikes, pets or even children with an Apple AirTag? And can an Apple AirTag find my bike if it’s stolen? Well… kind of.

It’s a little complicated, but we’ll do our best to clear this up for you, as well as explaining more about what the AirTags can do, their pros and cons, and some handy alternatives if you don’t feel compelled to buy one yet.

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What Do Apple AirTags Do?

Essentially, AirTags are small trackers that can help you find a wide range of possessions, such as your keys or wallet. They only work in tandem with new-ish Apple devices, though – such as an iPhone SE, iPhone 6s or newer, an iPad Pro, iPad (fifth generation or newer), iPad Air 2 or newer, or an iPad mini 4. At least iOS 14.5 must be installed on the device, too.

If your device ticks all those boxes, you can pair your AirTag (which is available for about £29 – or 4 for £99) with ease to your other iOS device through the user’s ‘Find My’ network. You can also give the tracker a name, which might be handy for remembering which device it is you’re, well, tracking.

Then, you attach the AirTag to the object you want to track. They’re quite hard for opportunistic thieves to spot, measuring at 31.9mm in diameter and just 8mm in thickness, which makes it slightly bigger than a 50 pence piece. Plus, its CR2032 coin-cell battery in the centre should last for about a year, and is replaceable, too.

Once that’s all set up, you should be good to go. From then on, whenever any iPhone is in the vicinity of the AirTag (and therefore the possession, too), its location is updated.

New Apple AirTag, Bluetooth Item Finder and Key Finder
  • Versatile Item Finder: keep track of the items that matter most, find your keys, wallet and more with the AirTag bluetooth item finder
  • Simple Set-up: a one-tap setup instantly connects AirTag with your iPhone or iPad. Enter a name for your AirTag, attach it to the item you want to track and you’re good to go
  • Ping it. Find it: Play a sound on the built-in speaker to help find your keys and other things, or just ask Siri for help

AirTags + Bike Theft

Though perhaps not built with this function in mind, theoretically, the AirTags could go some way at least to preventing bike theft. But it’s not ideal and can be quite an easy hurdle for thieves to overcome.

For instance, the AirTag can also let off a sort of alert signal via Bluetooth in such cases, but while this would make you aware of the situation, it would also draw the thief’s attention to the AirTag, though, which is not the best idea in this scenario, either.

There is also a ‘Lost Mode’ with these gadgets, whereby the address of the AirTag owner can be stored and then displayed on the iOS device of the finder (so, in the above example, that of the thief). In that case, the thief would again know then that he/she or the bike is being tracked.

Maybe just hope, then, that if your bike is stolen, it’s at least by an Android user.

Can Apple AirTag Track a Bicycle?

While the Apple AirTag doesn’t have GPS functionality or pick up cellular signal, it is still technically possible to track your bikes whereabouts with it – although there are some caveats.

The AirTag’s location can be determined and updated whenever it is in Bluetooth range (around 10 metres) of any compatible Apple device, meaning that AirTag bicycle tracking is largely possible, especially in urban environments.

Thanks to the ‘Find My’ function, the last reported location of the bike (i.e. whenever it was last near any of the aforementioned Apple devices) can be reported back to you.

So, while they certainly weren’t billed as ‘the AirTag bike tracker’, you could still slap one on your bike and keep tabs on it – but like we said previously, don’t expect it to be the best deterrent to thieves, either.

In order to track your bike, therefore, you’ll need to find somewhere to discreetly hide it on your bike. It’s too largely to fit in the majority of bike seat tubes, but you should be able to secure it underneath a bike saddle. It’s not completely stealthy, but it’s an added line of defence.

So… Can Apple AirTags Be Used as a GPS Bike Tracker?

Although Apple AirTags can track your bike’s location for the most part, it isn’t a GPS bike tracker. AirTags work thanks to Bluetooth; they don’t connect to the Internet, so certainly don’t share their location through it, either.

In short, they’re not like a typical GPS bike tracker, but can still track. Plus, they’re also a fraction of the price of a proper tracker (£29 for AirTag vs £100-plus and the cost of a subscription for other GPS trackers).

Is Apple AirTag Worth It for Cyclists? [Pros + Cons]

So, is ‘AirTag cycling’ really viable? Let’s go over the main benefits and drawbacks:

Airtag Pros

  • Locating the bike – they won’t fight off or scare away thieves, but AirTags, much like GPS trackers, can at least come in handy for finding out the new location of your bike with the ‘Find My’ function. All the while, you would hope, the AirTag has gone unnoticed by the thief. For a limited time, anyway.
  • Much lower cost – considering what you get in terms of security, you may consider £29 for an AirTag better value money than the likely three-figure cost for a more established GPS tracker.
  • Long battery life – an AirTag battery should last you about a year and is easily (and cheaply replaceable) which is far more convenient than constantly having to replace/recharge the thing.

Airtag Cons

  • Protection of privacy – for obvious reasons, Apple does not want these AirTags to be used to stalk people. Which is fair enough, of course. So, if an AirTag accompanies a different person for a certain amount of time, the AirTag will draw attention to itself automatically, sending a message to that effect to iOS users. Plus, those without an Apple device will still become aware of the AirTag if with it for long enough – after three days, it lets out a noise to again draw attention to itself. The drawback of all of this is that, if you want to use an AirTag to track your bike, these features mean the thief will almost certainly notice the AirTag sooner or later – although it will give you a window of time to locate it.
  • Limited availability – not in terms of where you can buy them, but where you can use them. In busy, hustling, bustling cities, this won’t be a problem; your bike is bound to be in the region of an Apple device user sooner or later. But what about in more sparsely populated areas, where far fewer people will pass through?

Apple AirTag Alternatives

If you’re still not sold on the AirTag, we compiled a list of some of the best GPS bike trackers on the market, which you can peruse here.

If none of those four float your boat, either, check out these two:

Samsung SmartTag

This newly-released gadget offers a service already built into Samsung’s Galaxy range of phones, and much like the AirTag, is great for keeping an eye on your keys, wallet, pets or more.

Retailing at £29.99, the SmartTag is a small, battery-powered device which can be linked to your Samsung account to help you locate lost items. You can then use a gauge on the screen to show how far away the item in question is; the fuller the gauge, the closer you are. Plus, other Samsung devices passing the SmartTag will anonymously alert you to its location.

In many ways, it’s really the Samsung equivalent of Apple’s AirTags.

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Samsung Galaxy SmartTag, Oatmeal
  • Tag it: need to keep tabs on something? Attach a Galaxy SmartTag to those precious things in life
  • Find it: if you lost your stuff, just launch the app, and see where it’s been last. Retracing your steps is easy
  • Take it easy: there it is! Thanks to Galaxy SmartTags, finding lost items is smart and simple

Tile

Labelled ‘the best Bluetooth tracker’ by the New York Times, Tile is another gadget which, thanks to its Bluetooth function and its own app, makes finding lost belongings far easier.

Yet what perhaps sets it apart from the SmartTag or the AirTag is it’s more universal; the Tile app can be used on iOS, Android or Windows operating systems, rather than being exclusive to just one of them.

If you want to tag your phone with the Tile tracker, a double-press of the logo on your Tile will make your phone ring, even when on silent. Plus, even when you’re outside of its Bluetooth range, the Tile app will show you your Tile’s most recent location. You can also be aided anonymously by ‘The Network’ in recovering your lost item.

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Tile Pro (2020) Bluetooth Item Finder, 1 Pack, Black. 120 m Finding range, 1 Year Battery, Works with Alexa and Google Smart Home. iOS and Android Compatible. Find Your Keys, Remotes & More
  • FIND KEYS, BAGS & MORE: Tile Pro is our high-performance finder ideal for keys, backpacks, luggage or any other items you want to keep track of. The easy-to-use finder and free app work with iOS and...
  • FIND NEARBY: Use the Tile app to ring your Tile Pro when it’s within 400 ft
  • FIND FAR AWAY: When outside of Bluetooth range, use the Tile app to view your Tile’s most recent location or enlist the safe and anonymous help of the Tile Network

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Matthew Chandler

Matthew Chandler

Matthew is a freelance sports journalist from Warrington, England. A keen cyclist, he is a regular contributor to Discerning Cyclist, as well as FourFourTwo, Click Liverpool and Royal Blue Mersey. See Matthew's Muck Rack profile

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