Here's what happens if you lose an AirTag

Airtags Hero
Airtags Hero (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple announced its AirTag tracking device at its April Apple event yesterday.
  • A new report says the devices are programmed to play a sound if separated from its owner after three days.

Apple unveiled its brand new AirTags tracking device at the April Apple event yesterday, and a new report has confirmed what will happen if you actually lose them.

Whilst Apple touted loads of the benefits of the AirTag, it didn't actually tell us what might happen if you lost one for good, fortunately Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber has the lowdown:

I talked to folks from Apple today about some of this. The timeout period for when an AirTag will play a sound if separated from its owner is currently three days — but that's not baked into the AirTags themselves. It's a server-side setting in the Find My network, so Apple can adjust it if real-world use suggests that three days is too long or too short.

The functionality is hinted at but not detailed in an Apple support document regarding the devices:

When moved, any AirTag separated for a period of time from the person who registered it will make a sound to alert those nearby. If you find an AirTag after hearing it make a sound, you can use any device that has NFC, such as an iPhone or Android phone, to see if its owner marked it as lost and help return it.

The document details how users who find an AirTag or a lost item with an AirTag attached can use an iPhone or an NFC-capable smartphone to bring up a website notification that will provide information about the AirTag so that you can reunite it with its owner. Thanks to NFC, that means even users of Android phones can access the notification.

Apple also detailed how privacy is built-in to AirTag, including functionality to prevent unwanted tracking:

Find My will notify you if an unknown AirTag is seen moving with you over time. An AirTag that isn't with the person who registered it for an extended period of time will also play a sound when moved so you can find it, even if you don't use an iOS device. If you detect an unknown AirTag, use the steps below to learn about the AirTag and how to disable it.

Apple's U1 functionality and Find My integration, as well as privacy, are important considerations when whether to buy Apple AirTags or Tile Mate.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9