One of these days, a few weeks ago, my wife was travelling alone, and she had to get in somewhere on the clock, but her bag had not yet made it to the belt. She called me, in panic, about what to do. I reminded her that there was an Apple AirTag in her bag, and that was synced to her iPhone. Sure enough, she told me that her bag was found five minutes later. No big deal here; the bag was actually on the belt even before she arrived and to clear up the belt; the ground handling had stacked bags off the belt already. Once she fired up the Find My app on her phone, she was pointed to the bag in her vicinity.
I’ve been using AirTags for the better part of this year to track my bags whenever I go away from home and have a bag to check-in. And while I thought it would be something everyone already knew about, clearly it is not, hence this post.
What are AirTags?
In 2021, Apple launched the AirTag tracker, which is a small button-sized device that you can use to track your car keys, laptop bag, backpack, and even your checked luggage. I picked up a set of 4 from Croma because I was in a rush, but you can order from Amazon as well and have them delivered the same day or the next. Two for me, two for my wife. One usually sits in our laptop bag, and the other one is in our go-to checked-in luggage.
The AirTag is not new technology, the Tile existed before it, but Apple’s product has a couple of benefits that made them the go-to choice. Firstly, it just sits inside the “Find My” section of your iPhone/iPad/Macbook. This means, that to track your item, you have access to the full might of the global Apple userbase of over a billion devices, on an anonymous basis.
The Apple AirTag works on the back of a very low-emission BlueTooth beacon, which broadcasts a signal often. This signal can be caught by any Apple device in the vicinity, without any extra effort made by them in a scrambled format, and then transmitted over the iCloud to tell your iCloud device about the last location of the bag or whatever it is that you are tracking with the AirTag. And since airports are full of Apple devices, there should never be a situation where you would not know where the device is.
Take, for instance, this one from three months ago, when I flew from Mumbai to Delhi after a week-long trip. Of course, there was no way to carry a week’s worth of clothes in a cabin bag unless I would have decided only to wear T-shirts and shorts, so I was going to check in a bag.
Here is the bag with me when I arrived at Terminal 2 Mumbai for my flight back home.
An hour later, the bag would have moved through the scanner and the baggage belt into the area where they stack the bags before putting them on the plane.
This is my bag, landing in Delhi and exiting the taxiway on the plane.
And here is the bag, docked at the gate. Of course, by now, all the phones on the plane came on, and wherever in the belly the bag was, it could ping a signal.
The Apple AirTags come with a battery that lasts one year since they are first activated, and you can also replace the battery. Also, this is not a wet battery on the AirTags, so it is safe to carry them and check them into the hold of an aircraft.
Why do you need them?
The US and European airports are practically overwhelmed at this point, with travel coming back and the airport staff being cut down because of the pandemic. So, everything moves slowly and sometimes does not move at all. In many cases with European carriers, ground handling is a mess. I hope you’ve seen pictures of the London Heathrow meltdown that happened a couple of days ago (It is a regular feature at London Heathrow, actually!). Bags were not loaded on planes and instead sent later. There is a fat chance many people never see their bags again.
Will it ever stop?
— M Zulqarnain B (@MZulqarnainBut1) June 17, 2022
This is how the AirTags came to the rescue of some folks. When airlines push back on finding your bags, you find them on your own or tell them how you know your bag never arrived with you and where it is. I’ve always maintained that working at an airport is a thankless job, but if you can help the folks a bit with the location, they will be able to make it work for you from there on.
Traveled on a multi-leg journey with Airtags in the luggage and my life will never be the same pic.twitter.com/3ZO7IH64bk
— Aatif Sumar (@aatifsumar) June 2, 2022
Also, when you are travelling and put one of these in your backpack or purse or whatever other thing you carry with you, Apple will send you a ping the minute you get out of the door without, for instance, your wallet. The benefit is that each coin-size device is tied to just one Apple ID, so no one else can see it, just you.
While I haven’t physically lost my luggage with an AirTag attached, I’ve used it for a few trips, which helps me keep an eye on my bag ever so often. If you are getting out of the country and heading west on your summer trip, it might make sense to use one of these and pack them in your bag before you put the lock on. Apple offers a sweet deal on a pack of four, where you get the fourth one free. Buy here from Amazon or Croma.
Have you started to use the AirTags/Tile in your checked-in bags? Has this changed your life for the better?
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