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What is the range of an AirTag?

You're really counting on your items staying in areas where Apple products are popular.
By
December 21, 2023
Apple AirTag in hand
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

AirTags have become a popular accessory for iPhone and iPad owners, and for obvious reasons — people need to track their valuables, and for the most part, they trust Apple’s approach to privacy. But for shoppers considering them there can still be plenty of questions, including range, something Apple is oddly hazy about. We’ll sort that out here, and compare the AirTag’s range against its two chief rivals.

QUICK ANSWER

The real-time tracking range for AirTags is 33 feet, but periodic location updates can happen anywhere in the world as long as an AirTag-compatible Apple device is nearby.


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What is the range of an AirTag?

Apple AirTag with iPhone rear
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The full answer to this question is more complex than you might expect. When it comes to making an AirTag ring, or seeing real-time location data in your iPhone or iPad’s Find My app, the answer is normally up to 33 feet (about 10 meters) — the range of an AirTag’s Bluetooth radio. That may vary based on factors like signal obstacles.

Each AirTag also has a U1 chip, which enables a guidance option called Precision Finding on most iPhones from the iPhone 11 onwards. This relies on a special ultra-wideband (UWB) radio, but can usually be triggered whenever you’re within Bluetooth range. The only current iPhone model that lacks support is the iPhone SE. You can also use Precision Finding on an Apple Watch if you’re pairing an iPhone 15 with an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2.

Beyond 33 feet, location tracking depends on other users connected to the Find My network. Whenever someone with an iPhone or iPad passes within Bluetooth range, an AirTag’s location will update, using anonymous encrypted data uploaded to iCloud. This isn’t real-time tracking, however — instead, expect location updates every minute or two even if your AirTag is surrounded by Apple devices. Otherwise its battery would drain extremely rapidly, never mind the impact on the devices it’s relaying through.

How far can you track an AirTag?

Once an AirTag switches from real-time tracking to periodic updates via the Find My network, there’s no distance limit. If you embed an AirTag in the electric unicycle you commute with in Chicago, for instance, you’ll still get location updates if it’s stolen and fenced in Shanghai, assuming someone doesn’t find and disable the AirTag first. That’s one reason people are so invested in holders and cases, though it’s most important to place a tag where no one would think to look.

The true limit on tracking is how many Apple devices are in an area. There are plenty of iPhones and iPads in a city like Shanghai, but probably far fewer in places like Kolkata or Kinshasa, since those markets are dominated by Android devices.

No matter which country you’re in, the more rural you get, the less effective AirTags become. If you drop one on a remote hiking trail in Yosemite National Park in California, it could potentially be days or weeks before its location updates — even though Fresno is less than two hours away, it’s going to be a while before someone with an iPhone walks by that exact spot, and they’ll need a reliable internet connection for data to upload. When you need to track something in the wilderness, it’s better to invest in more expensive GPS trackers.

AirTag range vs the competition: How does it compare?

bluetooth trackers apple airtag samsung smarttag 2 chipolo one tile pro mate
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

There are only two major competitors to the AirTag, but here’s how they stack up.

  • Tile: This brand fairs extremely well. Even the cheapest Tile models offer real-time Bluetooth tracking up to 250 feet (76.2 meters), and the Tile Pro extends this to 400 feet (about 121.9 meters). The company’s products are also multi-platform, but the catch is that beyond Bluetooth range, tracking depends on people having the Tile app installed. That’s optional, whereas every iPhone and iPad has Find My by default.
  • Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2: Although there’s only one current SmartTag model, Samsung promises a real-time Bluetooth range up to 120 meters (393.7 feet). Past that tracking switches to the Galaxy Find/SmartThings Find network, which could be more or less problematic than Tile. While most if not all modern Samsung Galaxy phones have the tech pre-installed, that’s not going to help if you’re in a region without many Galaxy owners.

Why does my AirTag say “Not Reachable”?

If you see this error message in the Find My app, your AirTag is somewhere where it can’t be pinged by nearby iPhones or iPads using Bluetooth, whether those devices belong to you or someone else. That, of course, means that your AirTag’s location data can’t be updated.

The message normally recommends that you “move around to connect,” but this is only going to help if you, personally, can get within Bluetooth range, which is 33 feet in the case of AirTags. If you’re too far away to reach your AirTag, you’ll just have to hope someone with an iPhone or iPad passes by and triggers a Find My update.