AirTag battery safety puts Apple in a quandary

JC Torres - Jul 28, 2021, 10:33pm CDT
AirTag battery safety puts Apple in a quandary

Apple’s privacy-respecting item tracker is like a ping-pong of good news, bad news revelations. Apple has made its AirTags so easy to use that there have been concerns about the security of the Find My network. The small discs are small enough to place anywhere but require a separate accessor to hook into objects unless you take the ill-advised route of drilling a hole. Now Apple is finding itself in a sticky situation where the AirTag’s battery is being labeled as a safety hazard for kids, while replacement batteries are required to be the child-unsafe kind.

Last month saw an Australian regulator issue a warning about how the AirTag’s button battery is a danger to kids, advising parents to keep the tracker away from children. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) points out how easy it was to open the battery compartment and pull out the small CR2032 coin battery. These batteries have been known to be choking hazards, which is why battery manufacturers have developed a deterrent to that action.

Many small batteries make use of a bitterant coating to discourage kids (or anyone for that matter) from ingesting these dangerous products. The non-toxic chemical coating gives batteries a bitter smell and taste that should be enough for kids to lose their appetite for the small, shiny object. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of battery that might not work with Apple AirTags at all.

Apple’s documentation on replacing the AirTag’s battery notes that CR2032 batteries with bitterant coating might not work with the AirTag. This is probably due to how that same coating interferes with the conduction of electricity. Apple does say that it depends on the alignment of the coating with battery contacts, but it’s safe to say it’s a general recommendation not to use such bitter batteries.

On the one hand, the AirTag’s design makes it too easy for kids to accidentally or intentionally access the battery and potentially put it in their mouth. On the other hand, the recommended battery to be used in the AirTag is the kind that doesn’t have the kind of protection or deterrent from being ingested. Suffice it to say, the Apple reiterates the warning to keep these items away from children, which could be a bit of a problem for parents that use AirTags to keep track of kids or their belongings.


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