Chapter 6

Airtag for cats and dogs, we’re not buying it

Are you thinking about getting an Airtag to make sure you never lose your cat or dog? Then you're in the right place. We wrote this article to help pet owners make the best-informed choice by getting a clearer picture of this Apple product. Here’s a complete overview of the Airtag for locating pets.

chien et son collier gps bluetooth

Reading time : 9 min

The Airtag is a very fashionable product. Thanks to its worldwide fame, Apple has converted this small object into a real gadget that allows people to find their everyday objects. Today, many accessory manufacturers offer collars made specifically for cats or dogs inside which you can slip the Airtag, which suggests that the device and its Find my system allows you to efficiently locate and track your cat or dog.

The Apple Airtag is certainly perfect for finding everyday objects, which is what the brand offers, but locating a living being using this no-subscription GPS tracker is more complicated than you would expect. Let us explain why.

SUMMARY

Airtag for cats and dogs, how does it work?

A ginger cat with its Airtag

Bluetooth technology

The Airtag works by emitting a Bluetooth signal. This signal is detectable by other devices in the iPhone network and is capable of transmitting and being detected at a distance of up to 164 ft. (50 meters) maximum in theory.

However, this maximum distance applies only in a clear environment, meaning an unobstructed and optimal environment. The Airtag and other tracking tags therefore allow for a very accurate localization but at a rather short distance.

Note that the Airtag is only compatible with the iPhone network, which means that it is not possible to configure the device with an Android smartphone. The Bluetooth signal sent by the Airtag can therefore only be received and relayed by iPhones.

Crowd GPS and Apple’s iPhone network

A community GPS

The downside of the Bluetooth technology, on which the Airtag is based, is the limited distance imposed by this signal that cannot go beyond 164 ft. To counter that, the manufacturers of Bluetooth trackers have invented the concept of "Crowd GPS”. This system allows the tracker (here, the Airtag) to take advantage of all the other people who have the same Bluetooth receiver and update the position of the tracker when they pass near it. This way, the signal can be detected way beyond 164 ft. And the more devices pass near the tracker, the more accurate the localization will be.

Apple’s ‘Find My’ network

The Airtag is based on the same concept. However, to extend the signal, it relies solely on the Bluetooth receivers of the Find My network, i.e. other Apple devices. Staying inside the Apple products network is a classic practice for Apple, and the Airtag makes no exception. A very powerful and extensive network, with 900 million active iPhones in the world according to the CEO of Apple in 2019.

Consequently, the Airtag only works thanks to other Apple devices present around it, and the size of the Apple community is therefore paramount to ensure the proper functioning of the Airtag. Let's remember here that Apple products are not compatible with Android devices.

Advantages and disadvantages of Airtag for cats and dogs

A black cat with its collar equiped of an Airtag

Many brands offer products very similar to Apple’s Airtag.

We can mention for example Tile Mate which costs less than £20. All these object locators work thanks to the Bluetooth technology, which is identical to the way Airtag works. Here are its advantages and disadvantages for the GPS tracking of a cat or dog.

The advantages of the Airtag for cats and dogs

The Airtag offers some interesting features, among which:

- The simplicity: Right from the purchase, the Airtag is very easy to use and offers a simple and fun interface.

- Apple guarantees privacy and anonymity with its Airtag. Only you, the owner of the device can locate your Airtag.

- The lost mode: If you misplace your Airtag, it is possible to activate the lost mode on your iPhone. This way, when another device in the Find My network detects your device, you will automatically receive a notification. It is also possible to set your Airtag beforehand, so that a person passing by it will receive a notification with your details on their phone, and can thus inform you to get it back.

- Long battery life: Like all Bluetooth-enabled GPS trackers, the Airtag has a very long battery life. Rest easy, you will have about 1 year before thinking about recharging your Bluetooth tracker.

- Waterproofing: Given their primary use, connected keychains are all waterproof. Because attached to your keys or simply dropped in your handbag, there is a pretty good chance the Airtag will someday fall into a glass, a puddle, or some form of water. So, no need to panic, it likes water.

- It is customizable: It is possible to personalize it with your initials or to engrave a word on it when you’re purchasing it. The brand offers this premium service for free.

All this seems like a very attractive solution to find your lost pet. However, it’s important to go beyond appearances, and discover the major disadvantages of this device when it comes to locating a pet.

The disadvantages of the Airtag for cats and dogs

A GPS location whose range is limited to 164 ft.

First of all, the Airtag is not equipped with a GPS module. This limits the battery consumption, hence the very long autonomy. However, it makes the device ineffective for locating a lost cat or dog.

Indeed, the Airtag, like any other tracking tag, works via Bluetooth. As we have seen, this technology does not work beyond 164 ft. (50 meters), a distance that pets often surpass during their daily wanderings. The Airtag is therefore rather designed for everyday objects, which the brand itself recognizes.

To locate your pet at a longer distance, you will thus have to rely on third-party terminals. But this reveals another major weakness of the technology.

A lack of real-time GPS tracking

As we mentioned earlier in this article, the tracking system relies mainly on the size of the community around the tracker. More precisely in the case of the Airtag, the longer distance tracking relies on the community of iPhones around the tracker.

So, should you choose to attach an Airtag to your cat or dog’s collar, you will have to wait for someone with an Apple Bluetooth to pass near your pet for its location to update. This can be very time-consuming, especially if you live in a rural or sparsely populated area. Even in big cities where the iPhone community is much larger, you will still have a time lag and no real-time GPS tracking.

Without a GPS module, the Airtag does not know its own position and is therefore not self-sufficient. This is a huge limitation in case your pet gets lost, because a lost cat or dog will be constantly on the move and most assuredly scared. Time is therefore of the essence.

A lack of expensive accessories

The Airtag is sold with no accessories. To attach it to your keys, to a bag or even to the collar of a cat or dog, you will have to buy an accessory (a holder or a case), which will be an additional cost to consider at the time of the purchase. Apple has anticipated this need by partnering with brands to offer accessories that come in all colors, in leather, leatherette, and that will surely please all tastes.

Is the Airtag really suitable for a pet?

The Airtag is a clever device to find your everyday objects. Other brands like Tile or Nutale offer the same type of GPS tracker. These object locators, also called "connected keychains", are more gadgets than real security devices. As for your four-legged animal, this type of GPS tracker will not work well. Finding a lost cat or dog with an Airtag relies on too many conditions to really work as intended.

Indeed, pets are constantly on the move, especially if they’re lost and therefore frightened. As a pet owner, you will surely be panicked and time will be short. We therefore recommend to choose a GPS tracker adapted to pets that allows real-time tracking of the animal, and also has no distance limitation. These two characteristics are essential to find a loved one or a living being, and the Airtag does not guarantee either of these two options.

The Airtag is not a GPS collar for cats nor a GPS collar for dogs. It is not a geolocation system adapted to your pet. It is not a tracking device, but rather a connected keychain dedicated to the location of everyday objects.

Things to check before buying a GPS

18 questions you need to ask yourself before buying a GPS tracker for your loved ones!

Why should I choose a GPS tracker for my pet?

A cat in a tree with its Weenect GPS tracker

The GPS collar is the perfect alternative to the Airtag for your cat or dog. It meets the need for security and reliability, while offering advanced features that are particularly interesting.

No distance limitation

The GPS collar for cats and dogs offers a location with no distance limitation thanks to a built-in GPS module. Thus, as long as there is cell phone network, the tracker is able to send its position throughout the territory, unlike a Bluetooth GPS tracker or an Airtag. This kind of tracker is therefore autonomous.

This feature is very important in case your cat or dog gets lost. An animal is a living being, that is always moving and that can get away very quickly and very far. To be able to locate it with no distance limitation is an essential criterion that you can’t avoid if you wish to guarantee the safety of your furry friend.

Manufacturers of GPS trackers for cats and dogs often offer multi-network and therefore multi-country coverage. This means that you will always be able to locate your pet even if you live near a border. It also limits the impact of white zones.

Real-time tracking

Real-time tracking is just as important as GPS tracking without distance limitations. Being able to track a lost cat or dog in real-time is essential to find it as quickly as possible. Without a frequently updated location, it will be very difficult to find a lost animal, which is constantly moving.

Only a GPS collar for cats and dogs equipped with a SIM card will allow you to have access to this feature. In no case will an Airtag allow you to have access to a real-time GPS tracking, because its location depends on the community of iPhones around it. And it is not an option to wait for someone to pass by to have access to the location of your furry friend. This is about the safety of your pets.

Advanced features

Manufacturers of GPS trackers for cats and dogs usually offer additional features that turn out to be quite useful. For example, the GPS dog collar or GPS cat collar offers an anti-escape alert, and also has a built-in ringtone that can be greatly helpful when training your cat or dog. This ringtone can help you call him off, i.e., make it come back when it hears the ringtone or vibration. Pretty useful when you're out walking and it runs too far away.

GPS collars for cats and dogs also work with a smartphone app that will allow you to have access to quick and easy tracking for all cats and dogs.

So what are the best uses for an Airtag?

A Keychain with an airtag

Locating everyday objects

The Airtag is ideal for locating everyday objects. It is small, handy and practical. You can take it everywhere with you. Its biggest advantage is its very precise short-range location. This means that even in situations like trying to find keys that have fallen between two cushions of your sofa, the Airtag will be very useful.

Apple also provides a very user-friendly and gamified interface thanks to a "hot-cold" system. Much like the game we all played as kids, the iPhone will tell you the number of meters and the direction to follow with an arrow that will turn towards the Airtag. To find your lost Airtag, click on the "Locate" app of your iPhone.

This very precise location (but at a very limited distance) shows that this device is perfectly suited for locating small everyday objects that you might lose in your apartment or office. Keys, wallet, a phone, a purse, everyone could need this at some point. Note that other brands also offer the same type of products with prices sometimes more competitive than the Airtag (Tile Mate, Nutale, Wistiki...).

Avoid buying a Bluetooth tracker to follow your cat or dog

Digging into location tracking technology with distance limitation has shown that Airtags are not suitable to find a lost cat or dog. Although the Airtag's signal can be relayed by other iPhones, this system is not reliable, as you will have to wait for a person with an Apple device to pass by. This is very inconvenient if your pet runs away or gets lost.

Bluetooth trackers or the Airtag are more a gadget than an object that guarantees the safety of pets. Their main use is the location of everyday objects. Hence the name "connected keychain". They can also be used to find a stolen car or to locate a bicycle, although other no-subscription GPS trackers are more suitable for these purposes.

If you want to buy a GPS tracker for cats and dogs, you should buy one that is adapted to this use and that has the adequate features. Note that the use you will make of your GPS tracker will determine the type of product you should turn to.

Conclusion

Getting an Apple Airtag can be very useful in many cases. On the other hand, beware of the devious uses proposed by Internet users or pet accessories manufacturers. Indeed, locating a pet has nothing to do with finding your car keys in your apartment or your tiny handbag. So don't trust cat and dog accessories that allow you to slip an Airtag inside.

A lost dog or cat is always moving. It is therefore essential to have access to a location tracking with no distance limitation and in real-time. These two key elements are mandatory to be able to find a lost pet. The Airtag and the connected keychains are in no way technologies adapted to this use.

Continue reading our guide

This article is part of a complete guide on the subject. Do not miss the next chapters.

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