Early in 2021, Apple announced its long-rumored "AirTags," a tiny little stone-like device that can help you find your keys, your bag, or whatever else you attach it to. The $29 devices could make life a lot easier, but there is a catch: they won't work with all devices.
What are AirTags?
At their core, AirTags are incredibly simple. These Mentos-like gadgets are functionally tracking devices (though they do have features designed to prevent their use for tracking people).
Each AirTags disc includes a Bluetooth transmitter and one of Apple's U1 chips, which are powered by a disposable CR2032 battery that can power the AirTag for about a year.
How do AirTags work?
AirTags use Apple's "Find My" app on your iPhone, which can find a number of different gadgets, including some not made by Apple by using the web of Apple devices everyone owns to relay location information back to you securely. If you misplace your AirTagged item, you'll be able to use the app to call up its location, or trigger the AirTag to make a sound.
But your phone will need to support iOS 14.5 in order to work with AirTags. That means AirTags will not work with iPhones older than the iPhone 6s, which did not get the update to iOS 14.
Beyond simple Bluetooth chirping, AirTags also enable a feature called "Precision Finding," which can show an arrow on your phone that points directly to the object using haptic and augmented reality guidance. Because feature requires Apple's U1 chip in both devices to function, which means only certain devices can do it.
What is Apple's U1 chip?
The U1 chip is a small radio transmitter that uses "Ultrawide Band" (UWB) radio waves to locate the exact position of devices. Unlike Bluetooth-based proximity detection, which tries to see what's nearby by looking at the strength of the signal, the U1 chip can determine extremely precise location information by calculating the time it takes for radio waves to bounce from one device to another at the speed of light.
In short, it's like a radar chip that can signal and detect other chips of the same type.
Which iPhones have Apple's U1 chip?
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 13 mini
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Mx
Devices with Apple's U1 chip that don't (yet) support Precision Finding
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Homepod mini
Will AirTags work with the iPhone X or iPhone XR?
The iPhone X is the newest phone to not have Apple's U1 chip. That means that basic tracking features will work in the Find My app, but the iPhone X and XR cannot use the advanced "Precision Finding" feature.
The following devices also lack a U1 chip and so cannot search or be found using Precision Finding.
- iPhone SE (all models)
- iPhone XR
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone X and older
- iPad Pro 2021 and older
- Apple Watch Series 5 and older
- iPad Air 2020 and older
- iPad 2020 and older
- AirPods Max