Do AirTags have GPS? (How exactly do they work?)



AirTags are small electronic devices that attach to your car key fob and allow you to track where you’ve been. They’re very useful for tracking mileage, parking tickets, and even finding lost items. But do AirTags have GPS?

Well, the answer is that air tags do not have any GPS capabilities. Instead, they use Bluetooth technology in order to track down the items that they are attached to. 

Hold on a second!

You’re probably thinking, for Bluetooth to work shouldn’t the air tag and your phone be close together? If so, then how on earth can an air tag track my items if it’s location is some distance from my phone? 

So, why on earth would anyone want to buy an a AirTag that has no built-in GPS?

Let’s jump right in and see if we can explain…

Apple AirTag 4 Pack

What are Apple AirTags?

Let’s start at the very beginning and Apple AirTags are tiny little devices that stick onto your keychain or any other object you wish to keep track of and not basically not lose. They are designed to be small and unobtrusive and easy to use.

They’re used to track down lost objects via Bluetooth technology. Once attached, they’ll automatically connect to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC if you’ve paired them before.

In order to find the AirTag (and your item) you’ll need to open the Find My app on your iOS device. 

How do airtags work?

Air tags work don’t work by GPS, but rather, by using bluetooth technology. 

Bluetooth is a wireless communication standard used to connect devices together. Bluetooth works best over short distances (up to 100 meters) at speeds ranging from 1Mbps to 2Mbps.

Bluetooth uses radio waves rather than electrical currents, making it safe for use near electronic equipment. This makes it safe for you to attach an AirTag to your personal computer etc

The range of Bluetooth depends on the power level of the transmitter. Low power transmitters may only be able to communicate within 10 feet, while high-power transmitters may cover areas up to 300 feet away. 

Given the small size of an AirTag, it’s probably reasonable to assume that the  Bluetooth range will be on the lower end of the scale. If then, this is the case how on earth can an AirTag provide you with location details if it’s far away from you and your phone.

Anyone who has tried to pair a set of cordless headphones to their phone will know that you need to have the two devices very close to one another. If they are too far apart then pairing them can be a frustrating and difficult process. 

do air tags have gps

So, if it’s the case that Bluetooth devices are required to be in close proximity to one another how exactly do AirTags work?

Well, here comes the clever part. AirTags work by sending out their unique identifier that can be picked up by any other Apple device in its proximity. The iPhone will then send that locational information to the Apple cloud servers and let you know where to find it. Pretty smart right?

AirTags, therefore, work by pinging their location to any iPhones in their vicinity. This information is then sent to your phone so that you can locate your item on the map within the App.

Apple AirTag

Using the AirTag lost mode feature

If you activate Lost Mode for an Air Tag, you can choose whether to use a phone number or an e-mail account to send messages to the tag. Apple marks the tag as lost, and its software begins the process of looking for it. Whenever someone who has a compatible iPhone (or an NTC enabled smartphone) comes near the tag, their phone sends a notification to Apple.

You should then receive an alert to say that the location of your item is now known. You can then find where it is exactly using the map  within the app. If the person who is pinged doesn’t have an iOS device then they will get your telephone number on their screen with a message that you have previously established. This provides you with the best chance of getting your item back safely.

Why should you get an Apple AirTag?

If you’re one of those people who is constantly misplacing stuff then one of these tags can be really useful. An AirTag will definitely help you to keep track of your stuff. After all, it can be super annoying to lose your keys, purse, wallet etc 

The cool thing is that you can attach these to literally anything that you want to track. As someone who commutes by train a couple of days a week, I have attached one to my umbrella.

do AirTags use GPS

Why the umbrella you may ask? Have you seen the lost and found department at your local translation? Well, from experience alone I can tell you, they have a great stock of umbrellas, hats, scarves and gloves! It can be be extremely frustrating to get wet completely unnecessarily when you’ve left your brolly behind and, worse still, these items aren’t that cheap to replace.


The answer to our original question “do AirTags have GPS?”, is pretty short and straightforward – Apple AirTags do not have GPS!

These little tracking devices are pretty easy to set up and are relatively inexpensive. If you’re prone to losing certain items then, these little discs can provide you with a certain peace of mind and probably save you from a whole lot of unwanted stress too!

You can check out the latest prices for the AirTags here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it easy to set up an AirTag?

Yes, it most certainly easy to set up.

All you need do is place the AirTag beside your phone. Then you’ll tap the Connect prompt on your screen and both device should pair immediately. And that’s it, you should be good to go!

Are AirTags waterproof?

If you’re attaching an AirTag to your school bag or rucksack then you’re going to want to know that it can withstand getting wet. Well, the good news is that the device has a water resistant rating of IP67.

What does IP67 mean? Well, it means that the AirTag has been tested under laboratory conditions for a number of different scenarios. In short, it can withstand and survive dust, dirt, getting wet from the rain and even dunked in a meter of water for a period of 30 minutes.

Obviously, I think we can take it that we don’t think we need to worry about the rain damaging the AirTag!

Do you need to charge an AirTag?

No, there’s no need to charge an AirTag. It works using a battery to last a long time.

How long does the battery last?

Surprisingly, given the size of an AirTag, the battery lasts rather a long time. It’s also replaceable.

With normal usage, according to Apple you should expect to get around a year of battery life before you need a replacement. Thankfully, the battery are standard ones (CR2032) and not Apple made. This makes buying and replacing the battery an easy job.

Are there any privacy issues with AirTags?

Apple have confirmed that the whole communication process between your AirTags and Apple devices is both anonymised and private.

Can you use an AirTag to track your bike?

In theory, yes you can most certainly use an AirTag to track your bicycle.

At its core the AirTag is a tracker. We know that it doesn’t use GPS to provide you with its location; rather it uses Bluetooth technology to let you know where you might find it.

In order to find your bike, therefore, will need to be located near another Apple bluetooth enabled device. How well does this work in practice with a bicycle? It makes sense that the AirTag would work best as a tracker if within a city or a large town.

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