Recommended Electronic Trackers

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If you have a tendency to misplace items, leave items behind, or are worried about being parted with your luggage, Bluetooth trackers are here to save you! There are many out there to choose from

The first popular one was Tile, and they worked great, but when Apple launched the Find My Network a few years ago it was a game changer. Bluetooth has a very short range, about 30 to 500 feet, depending on your device. Tile could only find your items if a smartphone with the Tile App installed was nearby. But the Apple Find My Network can find your devices if any modern Apple device is nearby. This makes it a lot more useful because of the millions of devices out there. So for this article I am only going to focus on devices compatible with the Find My Network.

What does Find My work well for?

It’s particularly good with keys, wallets, luggage, purses, bicycles, and umbrellas. It lets me know if I’ve left home without my keys, I have a flash drive with all of my software tools and it alerts me if I have left it behind with a client. It’s especially good for tracking luggage, so that if an airline loses it you can tell the agent exactly where it is.

What does Find My not work well for?

Find My does not alert you if a device leaves you, only if you leave a device. So while it will alert you if you have left your purse at a friend’s house it will not alert you if a thief steals your purse while you aren’t watching. But it will help you track its location and depending on how cooperative law enforcement is, it might help them recover it.

It does not maintain a history, so you can only see where an item is at the moment, or where the last seen location was.

It can only work if there is another Apple device within about 20 or 30 feet, so if you put a tracker on a pet or a child, it might help you find them in an urban environment or if they are at someone’s home, but not if they run into the woods or a field.

Legally, ethically, and functionally speaking, it should not be used to track people without their knowledge. If a person has an iPhone or the right Android app, they will receive an alert if a Find My device has been moving with them while the owner of the device is not there. And if it starts moving but the owner of the tracker is not nearby, it will begin to chirp. If using it on a pet, this could further upset them and cause them to retreat even more.

What is UWB?

UWB (Ultra-Wide Band) is a technology on iPhone 11 or later that allows you to use directional finding with supported trackers. So in addition to showing a device’s location on a map or getting it to play a sound, your iPhone can actually tell you how far and what direction your missing device is. This is particularly useful for keys or a wallet. If both your and a friend have an iPhone 15 or higher, it even allows you to find your friends directionally if you are within 200 feet of each other.

Do I need a tracker for my Apple device?

Nearly all Apple devices from the past several years have Find My built-in, so you don’t need a separate tracker. This includes iPhone, iPad, Mac, and AirPods. Even some items like backpacks and umbrellas now have it built-in. To see, go to the Find My app on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. If you see your device under the “Devices” tab it’s supported. If you don’t see, it, it’s either not supported or you need to enable Find My in the device settings.

What devices do you recommend?

In general, I recommend one of two brands: Apple for those who value directional finding, or Pebblebee for those who don’t want to replace button batteries every year. The Clip can recharge with any USB-C charger including the one you use to charge any recent model iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. The Pebblebee card, however, requires you to not lose their proprietary charging cable. I wonder if a future version might figure out how to charge using MagSafe.

ItemPowerUWBBuilt-in loopProsConsWho it’s forPurchase Links
Apple AirTagReplaceable button cell, lasts about 1 year🚫UWB finding, free engraving if purchased from Appleshort 30 ft range, needs a holder for most uses, replaceable batteriesPeople who want UWB findingSingle
(Best Buy / Amazon / Apple)

(Best Buy / Amazon / Apple)
Pebblebee ClipRechargeable USB-C, lasts about 1 year🚫Rechargeable with USB-C, range up to 500 feet, built-in key loopNo UWBPeople who don’t need UWB finding or want a farther rangeAmazon /
Pebblebee CardRechargeable with a proprietary cable, lasts about 1 year🚫🚫Easily fits in your wallet, rechargeableNo UWB, proprietary cable to chargePeople who want a tracker for their walletAmazon /

Featured image created with Microsoft Bing Image Creator: “An abstract painting of someone trying to find various items such as smartphones, umbrellas, luggage, keys, and wallets”

Further Help

If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.

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