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Apple AirTags: How useful these trackers are with older iPhones

NextPit Apple AirTag 11
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With the purchase of the Apple AirTags, you can finally save yourself from experiencing annoying key searches in and around the apartment. Not quite actually, because your iPhone requires the U1 chip to enable this feature. So if you're using an iPhone that is older than the iPhone 11, we'll show you just how limited the functionality is at a glance.

The precise search of objects is certainly one of the coolest features of Apple's new AirTags. That's because this item tracker allows you to locate keychains, wallets, or other connected items with pinpoint accuracy. To do this, Apple combines information from the camera, motion sensor, and ultra-wideband technology, among other things.

iPhones with U1 chip

These iPhone models can accurately track the AirTags

Apple iPhone 11

Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 12
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 12 mini

To make use of ultra-wideband, you will first need an iPhone with a U1 chip. Apple only incorporates this chip from the iPhone 11 onwards. So if your iPhone isn't listed in the table as seen above, the AirTags are a bit less practical (albeit still useful). Still, they can be worth picking up, and that's exactly why I've summarized the feature set for a U1-less  iPhone.

This is how practical the AirTags are without the U1 chip

Tracking via the "Where is?" app

As Fabien wrote in his AirTags review, the one big advantage of this tracker is that you can hunt down lost items. For this purpose, Apple has integrated the new accessory into the "Where is?" app, where it will permanently search for the AirTag's contact with other iPhones or other compatible Apple hardware.

So if your key fell out of your pocket by accident when you stood up at a park bench, there's a good chance someone else with an iPhone will walk by. The AirTag will then transmit a location of which can then obtain via your PC or iPhone.

Precise location via sound

Once you have arrived at the location or should the keys be hiding somewhere in the deep recesses of the sofa, you can use another tool to obtain the item's precise location. Inside the AirTags lie a small loudspeaker, which is able to emit sound if the situation calls for it. This allows you to hear where the lost object is.

NextPit Apple AirTag 13
The exact tracking only works with the U1 chip - the sound feature is quite a cool alternative though / © NextPit

By the way, this speaker also emits a sound when the AirTag is on the move and your iPhone is not nearby. This is Apple's way of preventing the AirTag from being used to track people covertly.

Digital dog tag thanks to NFC

Another benefit of the AirTag is that both iPhones and Android smartphones can read data from the AirTags' NFC chip. Apple has integrated this feature to make it easier to send contact information whenever an item is lost.

If you, as an Android user, find a bunch of keys with an AirTag, all you have to do is hold your smartphone over it - provided it supports NFC, of course - and read the information shown via a corresponding app. If everything goes as expected, you will now know whom to contact in order to return the key.

All about costs and accessories

Did the functionality of AirTags convince you to pick it up even though you are using an older iPhone? If so, we have summarized everything about the costs and accessories of the AirTags in a separate article. Alternatively, you can use the following two links below to head straight to the product page in the Amazon Store.

Another question: Have you already tried the Apple AirTags out for yourself? How was your first experience with it?

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Benjamin Lucks

Benjamin Lucks
Product Reviewer

Benjamin works as a freelance journalist and is always on the lookout for special features that make new cell phones, headphones and gadgets interesting for the reader. If he doesn't succeed, he comforts himself by writing short stories and using his digital camera.

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