Do AirTags work with Android and other non-Apple devices?
Apple’s AirTags are fantastic item tracking devices, but Apple designed them for its own products. Most phone users are on Android smartphones, so do AirTags work with Android devices?
One of the main reasons why AirTags are so useful is that they piggyback off the huge number of Apple devices around the world. If you lose an item with an AirTag, it’s likely that someone with an iPhone or other compatible Apple device will pass by and relay the location.
It is natural that Apple wants to offer its customers the widest network. As it turns out, you can use non-Apple devices, especially Android phones, with AirTags. However, it comes with a long list of caveats.
The Apple U1 chip
Inside each AirTag is a special Apple microchip, the U1 Ultra Wideband chip. This amazing little microchip allows for the precise directional tracking that is possible with an AirTag. But to take advantage of U1, your tracking device also need a U1 chip.
The U1 is designed to accurately locate and track other U1 chips. This has many uses, including things you do every day, such as AirDrop. The U1 was introduced with the Apple iPhone 11, but you’ll also find it in the Apple Watch Series 6 and later. M1 Macs and iPads, even the iPad Pros, notably lack U1 chips when typing. Although of course they are still part of Find my network.
When tracking the U1 with another U1 device, there’s a lot of proprietary applesauce at work, and since no non-Apple device (and not all Apple devices) have a U1 chip, most short-range tracking features are unavailable.
Find my app and network are key
Having U1 hardware is only part of what makes an AirTag work as advertised. AirTags connect to Apple’s Find My network and require the Find My app to unlock the information associated with each tag. Without the Find My app and network access, the global tracking capabilities of AirTag are out of reach.
In short, there is no Find My app for Android. However, nothing prevents you from using your Android phone’s browser to access Find My using the iCloud website. You can track your Apple gadgets from the website, put them in Lost Mode, and most of what the app can do. Unfortunately, the web version of Find My does not currently include AirTags; you must still use the app on an Apple device.
Android has a (limited) official AirTag app
Apple has a very small selection of official Android apps, and Tracker Detect joins the Apple Music and iPhone migration tool apps as a member of this exclusive club.
Unfortunately, Tracker Detect is not an Android version of Find My. It exists because of legitimate privacy concerns people have about trackers like AirTags. Apple has included a feature where users of Apple devices will receive a warning if someone else’s AirTag travels with them, preventing criminals or other bad actors from using AirTags as a way to track your location.
Since you need an Apple device to detect nearby AirTags, Android users are vulnerable. This is what the Tracker Detect app is meant to mitigate. If you have the app on your Android phone, you can scan the surrounding area for AirTags.
There are some important limitations. First of all, the scan must be started manually. So you won’t get an automatic warning. This makes it a rather impractical solution. Second, it will only report on AirTags that have been separated from their owners for more than 15 minutes, counted from when they leave Bluetooth range.
That means it’s not that useful if the person trying to track you stays within range, or you happen to run the scan in the window where the tag wouldn’t show up and then mistakenly think you’re clear of trackers.
AirGuard is the best Android Airtag app
A better solution for Android users who want to make sure they won’t be tracked with an unknown AirTag is AirGuard. This app not only detects AirTags, but also trackers from Tile, one of the largest and most popular manufacturers of tracking tags.
What sets AirGuard apart is that it runs in the background and autonomously checks for trackers at regular intervals. This makes it much better than Apple’s own Android app at preventing AirTag-based stalking.
Any NFC reader can read an AirTag
While you need an Apple device with a U1 chip to get the most out of an AirTag, AirTags also include an almost universally supported Near Field Communication (NFC) tag. You can use any NFC app and touch the white side of a lost AirTag to the back of your phone (or wherever the NFC reader is located) to extract information from it.
Unfortunately, the code information doesn’t mean much without access to Find My Network. However, you can open the embedded web link on the tag and see the serial number of the tag along with the last digits of the owner’s phone number.
Alternative Bluetooth Trackers for Android Users
After all the discussion above, it should be clear that anyone who only uses an Android device should not consider purchasing an Apple AirTag. You won’t be able to set up the tag without an Apple account and device, but you also won’t have access to any of the tracking features.
Although Apple has made tracking codes mainstream, they are not the only or even the first company to offer this type of technology. Tile is the pioneer in bringing affordable trackers to market and buy tile trackers to use with Android. You can find the Tile app on both the iOS App Store and the Android Google Play Store. There’s also an app for the Apple Watch!
Tile Pro is closest to Apple AirTags in both price and features in our opinion. The biggest drawback is the shape and size of the Tile Pro. AirTags are very versatile thanks to their holders’ reach and compact size, but Tile is a great alternative.
The tile comes with a hole as part of the core unit, so you don’t need to buy an extra holder, which is practically necessary for an AirTag. Like Apple’s tracker, the Tile Pro offers a year of battery life, and it works with Amazon Alexa, Hey Google, and Siri.
Samsung has also created a direct competitor to AirTag in the form of the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Unfortunately, like the AirTag, the SmartTag is only compatible with Samsung Galaxy phones. However, Samsung owns such a large part of the Android phone market that this may be less of an issue.
Like the Tile Pro, you get a hole included in the tracker itself, so no accessories are needed. It also offers an interesting feature where you can use the tags to control IoT (Internet of Things) devices in your home.
There is a third contender in the form of Chipolo One. Like the AirTag, the One is round, but unlike Apple’s product, it already has a hole in it, so you don’t need to spend extra money on a special holder. It also has an incredibly cool feature where you can “double tap” the Chipolo and it will help you find your phone!
The Chipolo One promises the longest battery life of all the trackers mentioned here, with up to two years of power. The only downside to Chipolo, in particular, is that their network can’t yet match Find My, Samsung Galaxy or Tile for sheer size. You get a proximity alert when you leave something behind, and the Chipolo can be used for other things, such as an external selfie shutter button.
Will AirTags come to Android?
An interesting aspect of AirTags is that Apple has stated that third-party companies can log in to leverage the Find My network. In other words, iPhone users can track non-Apple products using Find My. However, this will not help Android users in any special way than the third-party products that also work with Android devices.
It’s not too far-fetched to think that Apple might open up AirTags to Android users at some point. The company brought Apple Music to the competing platform, and similarly, they may decide that making AirTags more functional for Android users could lead to more sales. But as long as AirTags rely on Apple’s U1 chip alone, this is unlikely to happen.