Apple AirTags help you find your lost stuff… until you lose the AirTag itself

Apple AirTags
(Image credit: TechRadar)

I’ll openly admit to being a serial loser. 

Misplacing the house and car keys is a frustration that I regularly have to deal with. It’s not just my keys, either - my purse, credit card, glasses, and even my smartphone. Yes, readers, the most-used function of my Apple Watch is the ability to ping my iPhone from it.  

So when Apple launched the AirTag earlier this year I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get my hands on one. 

While I’d previously used Tile to be able to help find my keys, AirTags built on this by using the iPhone’s accelerometer, camera, and gyroscope to provide on-screen directions and haptic feedback to the AirTag’s location, if you’re close by. 

However, thanks to a poor purchasing decision when it comes to an accessory for the AirTag, I’m now in a situation where I’m fully aware of the rough location of a lost AirTag, but being reunited with it is proving far more difficult than anticipated. 

 Seduced by the cheap initial outlay

So, I’m guessing you’re wondering what happened? Well, Apple products are expensive, and while when it comes to the devices themselves I can understand the premium price tag, the money-saver in me baulks at the price of Apple’s accessories, and no more so than when it comes to AirTag. 

The AirTag itself is $29 / £29 / AU$45, which is more expensive than Tile. However, it doesn’t come with any way to attach it to items such as your keys - you’ll need to purchase this separately. 

The official Apple key fob, which ensures the AirTag can be attached to, well, keys only comes in a leather finish and will set you back a cool $35 / £35 / AU$55. 

There are Apple-made silicon loops that are slightly more affordable at $29 / £29 / AU$45 and approved third-party key fobs from the likes of Belkin, OtterBox and Tech21 - however these still cost at least $12.95 / £11.95 / AU$19.95  - if you’ve got several AirTags this can become pricey. 

So I turned my attention to Amazon, where you can find myriad sellers offering non-approved accessories, including AirTag key fobs. In just a few taps, two silicon key fobs supposedly designed for AirTags were winging their way to me for the princely sum of £3.39 (around $4.50 / AU$6). Very soon, one of my AirTags was encased in one of them attached, very securely (or so I thought) to my car keys. 

Apple AirTags

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Forest fails

Fast forward a few weeks, with the nights drawing in and Christmas on the horizon, I headed to a forest in the south east of the UK (about an hour’s drive away from where I live) to take part in a festive light trail. The evening was extremely enjoyable, however slightly marred by my dismay the next morning when I discovered my AirTag was missing from its silicon holder. 

Given I’d only removed my keys twice, I assumed it must still be in the car - so I got in the car, pulled out my iPhone, opened the Find My app, and attempted to make the AirTag make a sound - only to discover the tracker was unreachable. So clearly it wasn’t in the car. 

The last known location being displayed in the app was the forest I’d visited, however the timestamp was for the previous evening. Had a child seen its shiny silver finish and picked it up thinking it was a toy, only for their parents not to have any Apple devices at home? 

The attraction opens at midday and not long after 12pm it became very clear that my AirTag was still in the forest, as its location was constantly being updated as the hordes of visitors arrived and iPhones passed within close reach of the AirTag. Even as a tech journalist, I underestimated just how many people own an iPhone because the alerts didn’t stop coming.   

That was almost a month ago, and not a day goes past when I don’t open the Find My app to see an update timestamp but with the same location. I’ve popped the AirTag in lost mode and added my phone number so anyone that finds the tracker will be able to contact me, however that’s not happened yet. 

The only place I had my keys out was in the carpark. But this is a forest - the carparks (there are at least 10 of them that I counted, there could be more) are gravel expanses interspersed with grass, and small patches of woodland. I suspect the AirTag has been pushed deep into the wild grass at the perimeter of the carparks, and clearly isn’t obvious to passers by, who are more excited to see the light trail than look for lost items as they make their way to the start. 

Of course, I could just drive back to the forest, and use Precision Finding to locate the AirTag, but even though the tracker can be set to play a sound - the forest is always busy, and I don’t relish the thought of spending hours pawing through the grass trying to work out where the sound is coming from. 

That’s on top of the two-hour round-trip and the fact that I would need to contact the attraction in advance, as while the event is on you can only gain access to the carparks with valid tickets, which are being checked at the entrance. The petrol alone would mean it’s not cost-effective to return to the first to search for my AirTag.

Instead, I mourn the loss of my original AirTag, and have since replaced it and ordered an official Apple leather keyfob. From now on, these will be the only accessories that encase my AirTags. 

The unofficial silicon tags are now in the bin, and I for one won’t be ordering any non-approved Apple accessories, for AirTags or otherwise, ever again.

However, if you are looking to save money and still have your heart set on a non-Apple approved accessory, make sure you do your research and read reviews of the accessories before you buy, otherwise it could end up costing you twice as much.  

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.