Use this AirTag battery-replacement trick and you'll feel like a magician

Apple spring event 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has sold at least 55 million AirTags since its launch in April 2021. Many of them have run down their tiny batteries and it's time to replace them – if you know how.

I’ve had most of my AirTags for almost two years and when I look in Apple’s Find My app and at Devices, which shows me where all my AirTags and the locations of my wallet, backpack, and keys they're attached to, I see a bunch of red battery symbols. What’s that? You didn’t know there was a flat, little battery inside that candy-shaped tracking device? There is and it’s actually a fairly standard CR 2032 lithium-ion watch battery available for a few dollars (almost £6 in the UK and $6 in AU) in the battery aisle of most drug and convenience stores.

AirTags might be among the tightest pieces of technology Apple has ever produced. The outside is a sandwich of a white dome of plastic and a stainless-steel metal covering featuring an etched Apple logo. The almost seamless design offers no grip points or rough spots to grab purchase, which makes them smooth to the touch and easy to slip into almost anything (maybe too easy ). On the other hand, that design also makes them less-than-accommodating when it’s finally time to change out those batteries.

AirTags open fail

AirTags open fail: A real struggle (Image credit: Future)

Apple’s instructions for opening an AirTag and replacing the battery are simple: “Press down on the polished stainless steel battery cover of your AirTag and rotate counterclockwise until the cover stops rotating.”

Sounds easy enough – please indulge me while I laugh/cry hysterically.

Initially, I placed one of my AirTags on a hard surface while pressing down with two fingers on the stainless-steel cover. That didn’t work, so I tried holding the AirTag in one hand while twisting the cover with the fingers on my other hand. No luck. I struggled for a couple of minutes until I finally got a decent grip on the plastic case and managed to twist the metal cover counterclockwise. There’s no obvious sound or even feel that indicated the cover was free, and until I noticed it was loose, I thought I’d failed.

AirTags open success

Thumbs up (Image credit: Future)

Later found that opening AirTags is a two-hand job. I rested the AirTag across the pads of my ring and middle fingers on both hands and then placed my thumbs on top of the stainless-steel cover. Then, applying some pressure, I pulled back with one thumb while pushing with the other, twisting the cover counterclockwise, and, like a lozenge-shaped puzzle box, the AirTag popped open.

When you want to close the AirTag, you need to line up the three tabs on the metal side with the three notches on the plastic side, apply pressure again, and reverse the thumb-twisting motion.

AirTags Open Grip

AirTags Open Grip (Image credit: Future)

It’s not a perfect solution and I admit that the AirTags still seem eager to slip out of my grip, but it is the best method I’ve found so far. If you’ve invested in a four-pack of AirTags (or more of them) and want to avoid frustration when it comes time to replace all those batteries, you will need this tip.

Personally, I’d prefer octagonally shaped AirTags, at least then I’d have something to grip. I hope Apple reads this.

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.