Bluetooth tracking tags are mostly used to keep an eye on personal belongings, like keys, wallets, phones... They use BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology to connect to an accompanying app on your phone.
From there, you can make your keys ring or see their last location on a map. Such finders can also be used to track other items like TV remotes, toys, indoor pets, and bags.
Connect your tracking tag to the app
Chipolo tracking tags have their own mobile app to which they connect via Bluetooth. The app can be used both on iPhones and Android phones.
Leaked information so far suggests that the set-up process for AirTags will be similar to the one AirPods use, so it’s safe to assume they will also use BLE to connect to your iPhone.
Additionally, Apple AirTags are also supposed to have built-in chips that will allow them to easily connect to any iPhone, iPad, or Mac, which will make the process of finding their personal items easy to use.
This also means that connecting to Android devices will be limited at best.
Other BLE finders don’t rely on specific chips and don’t use internal phone apps like Find My, so they are easier to share across different devices and with different users.
How do I use a tracking tag?
Similar to the Find My app, Chipolo’s finding app allows you to add multiple tracking tags and it also enables you to track other mobile devices you or your loved ones own.
Tracking tag apps also enable you to see the last known location of your missing item (or mobile device) on a map displayed in the app.
The map in tracking apps comes with some basic information like the location and time your lost tag was last seen.
When the tag is connected to your phone, it will also display a button that will enable you to ring the Chipolo tracking tag (or the AirTag in the Find My app) when it is nearby.
What can I use these tags for?
BLE and UWB technologies both have a limited range that can further be affected by obstacles like walls, etc.
Tracking tags based on these technologies are best suited for tracking and finding personal items that we usually keep close by.
They are not suited for tracking outdoor pets, cars or people, since they do not offer real-time 24/7 tracking and location information.
Bluetooth tracking tags offer an alternative tracking solution that you can use when your item is lost or is further away from you than the Bluetooth or UWB connection can reach – community searching.
Community search enables the owner of a lost item to mark their item as lost, which then alerts all other tracking tag users to be on the lookout for that lost item too.
If rumors about Apple AirTags we heard so far are true, air tags will be able to leverage all Apple devices to help you search for your lost items, since each Apple device already has the Find My app installed.
While this can be very useful, give the volume of Apple devices out there, they will still face the same problems other tracking devices do. Community find will only work, if an Apple user has the Find My app active on their phone and is near your lost item long enough to pick up on its location.
The range of Bluetooth tracking tags
Bluetooth tracking tags range is limited by the capabilities of your phone’s Bluetooth. Most Bluetooth finders can stay connected to your phone for up to 300 ft (90 meters) outside, where there are no obstacles.
Indoors, where there are obstacles like walls, the Bluetooth signal strength will decrease, and with it, the range at which the key finder can stay connected. Generally speaking, your tracking tag will still maintain a stable connection with the app on your phone at a range between 50 – 150 feet (15 - 45 meters).
Most Bluetooth finders have no problem holding a stable connection between different rooms, but it is rumored that AirTags will also use UWB (ultra-wideband) technology that will help them determine a more precise location of your lost items indoors.
While Bluetooth can determine the position of an item within a few meters, UWB can do so at a distance of 5 to 10 centimeters.
Since UWB is only present in devices from iPhone 11 on, it is possible that air tags will only work with these and newer models.