Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

A Comparison Between the Tracking Capabilities of AirTags, Tiles, and a GPS Tracker

Kashmir Hill, New York Times:

In mid-January, my husband and I were having an argument. Our 1-year-old had just tested positive for Covid-19 and was occasionally grunting between breaths. I called urgent care and was told we should take her to the emergency room. But, because I had been up all night with her, I was too exhausted to drive.

[…]

He eventually caved and set out for the hospital a half-hour away. Knowing he was already annoyed by me, I did not want to pepper him with questions about how it was going.

Instead, I turned to the location-monitoring devices that I had secretly stashed in our car a week earlier.

I put a quarter-sized Apple AirTag in a seat pocket; a flat, credit card-shaped Bluetooth tracker made by Tile in a dashboard pocket; and a hockey-puck-like GPS tracker from a company called LandAirSea in the glove compartment.

I realize I sound like the worst wife ever, so let me explain. It was for journalism.

As soon as I read these paragraphs, I knew I had to link to this. Hill did this with permission, but also got a photographer to surreptitiously tail her husband. What a great little experiment.

Hill writes that Apple’s AirTags were the most accurate in the dense streets of New York City, even tracing a path through the subway where GPS signals cannot reach, and that they were also the most privacy-friendly of the three trackers. But I do not think that is saying much. Hill’s husband received tracker notifications after many hours of recorded movements, and sometimes could not find the AirTags he was unwittingly carrying. Some of the changes announced yesterday should help but, again, only for iOS users; Android users or those without smartphones are out of luck.