Three things to consider on Apple AirTag preorder day

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Apple's AirTags are up for preorder, with the long-anticipated tracking tiles arriving to make sure you never lose your keys (or backpack, or bike, or anything else) again. Announced earlier this week at Apple's first big hardware event of 2021, the coin-sized trackers may be among the company's cheapest products, but they could end up being the most useful of the bunch. Read on for three things you should know as you jump on AirTag preorders.

A single AirTag is $29, but you'll probably want more than one

As you'd hope, AirTags are fairly cheap: $29 gets you a single unit. Apple throws in free engraving, too – you can choose a mixture of text, numbers, and emojis – so you could have your initials, perhaps, or a reference to whatever object you're planning to attach the AirTag to. Just bear in mind that there are some limits as to what you can have engraved, mainly around what Apple considers to be in bad taste.

A four pack of AirTags, though, is $99: you save $17 that way, compared to buying four individually. Considering there are probably several items you're going to want to track – a few sets of keys, some bags, and more – that probably makes sense to consider. Each shows up individually within the Find My app, having paired using the same simple system that we've seen things like AirPods use.

Helping with the value proposition is the fact that, unlike most other Apple products on sale right now, the battery in each AirTag is actually user-accessible. Unlike, say, an iPad Pro or a MacBook, where you're expected to take it into an Apple Store or authorized service center to have old batteries replaced, an AirTag uses a regular CR2032 cell battery. Twist off the stainless steel plate and you can pop the old one out and slot a new one in: Apple says each battery will last for more than a year of typical use.

There's actually a surprising amount going on inside each tag, given the price. The U1 chipset includes not only Bluetooth but an Ultra Wideband radio, which Find My uses to give precise directional information when you're trying to hunt down each AirTag.

Don't forget the AirTag accessories

At first glance, AirTags are the epitome of Apple design: a harmonious puck of white plastic and shiny stainless steel, uninterrupted by buttons or anything else. Problem is, that also means there's no hole to actually attach the AirTag to an item. For that, Apple expects people to use accessories.

There are a few official AirTag accessories already. Apple offers a polyurethane keychain and a loop, priced from $29, while leather versions start at $39. If you're feeling particularly flush, there are Hermès versions that are considerably more expensive than the AirTags themselves: the AirTag Hermès Bag Charm is $299, the AirTag Hermès Key Ring is $349, and the AirTag Hermès Luggage Tag is a hefty $449.

Unsurprisingly, however, the aftermarket has been quick to weigh in with its own alternatives. You may miss out on the luxury branding, but there are already numerous keychain tags and other cases and holders for AirTags available. Many are priced at under $10 or even less.

AirTags are mainly useful for iPhone owners

Sometimes, Apple makes a conscious effort to include Android users in its products. Other times, though, anybody who isn't onboard the iOS and macOS train is probably going to feel left out, and that's mostly the case for AirTag too. It's not to say there's no functionality whatsoever if you're an Android user, but there are definitely better options for trackers out there if that's the case.

You won't be able to track an AirTag from an Android device, since there's no version of the Find My app. Nor, indeed, can you even pair the trackers with your Android phone. However, if you come across an AirTag, you might still be able to identify the owner using a non-Apple device.

If your phone supports NFC, tapping the AirTag against it will open a link: that will have the serial number of the AirTag in it. If the owner has marked it as lost, the message could include their contact details. However, that's assuming the owner elected to add their details, since it's optional to do so.

Android users looking for their own tracking options should probably still be looking to Tile. Their trackers work with both Android and iOS devices: a Tile Mate is $24.99, while a pair of Tile Pro is $59.99 (working out to about the same price as a single AirTag).