I fix it shared the first in their two-part series to demolish Apple’s AirTags element tracking, revealing that Apple had to make some impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including redesigning the speaker layout.
For comparison, iFixit compared Apple’s “AirTags” to the Tile Mate and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, AirTags is the smallest in size, with the most internal space used to house the battery itself. One notable design difference is the absence of “AirTags” from an integrated key fob hole, which iFixit attributes to Apple’s history of “turning essential functions into premium add-on accessories”.
An x-ray of the three devices shows that Apple has not wasted any internal space for its object tracker. On the other hand, the Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag appear to be “sprawling” with internal space, and despite their larger footprint, neither tracker includes ultra-wideband technology like “AirTags.” It should be noted that Samsung recently launched an ultra-wideband variant of the Galaxy SmartTag; however, iFixit was unable to reach a room for their comparison.
The Tile Mate, Galaxy SmartTag and “AirTags” all have replaceable batteries. AirTags and the Galaxy SmartTag use the .66Wh CR2032 battery, while the Tile Mate uses the smaller .39Wh CR1632 battery. AirTags has a twist and lift mechanism for its backplate in terms of battery replacement, but it doesn’t include an easy way to lift the backplate if you have greasy or slippery hands.
All three trackers open with the power of a finger – no additional tools required! That said, the AirTag is by far the most difficult, especially if you’ve indulged in a snack earlier and have greasy fingers. Imagine opening a stubborn pickle jar with just two slippery inches, and you get the idea. Other trackers have dedicated divots to separate pieces with a fingernail – hydrate your way!
Replacing the battery is the furthest that an average customer can access their AirTag without the proper tools. Even so, iFixit says Apple showed “surprising restraint in sealing the AirTag,” noting that fully opening the tracker only requires a vise and plastic sticks.
AirTags has a built-in speakerphone that plays sounds when sent from a paired iPhone through the Find My app, during setup, and other situations. However, given its small form factor, Apple had to think of a new way to insert a speaker into the tracker. With AirTags Apple, Apple decided to use the whole body as the speaker driver, with the underside of the cover serving as a magnet for the speaker.
It’s circles all the way down as you walk inside the AirTag. Did you notice the “button” under the cover? It’s not a clickable button like the Mate and SmartTag did, but rather the magnet we saw earlier in the x-ray. It sits just inside the donut-shaped logic board, tucked into a copper coil to form a speaker. You read that right – the body of the AirTag is essentially a speaker. Power is sent to the voice coil, which drives the magnet mounted on the diaphragm – in this case, the plastic cover where the battery is located – which emits the sounds that lead you to your lost luggage.
As we noted earlier this week, it’s possible to punch a hole through the AirTags to make up for its lack of a built-in key fob hole. This will certainly void the “AirTags” warranty, and while it is possible, it is a risk. As iFixit notes, “Drilling in the wrong place can cause serious damage.”
iFixit says the second part of their teardown will include detailed information about the AirTags circuit board and other hidden secrets. For everything you need to know about AirTags, be sure to check out our guide.