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Saturday, October 16, 2021

These Tools Can Help You Find Your Lost Devices

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You might have noticed Apple AirTags in headlines lately—as new Apple products tend to be—but these little tracking discs are just the latest in a long line of options for keeping tabs on where your phones, tablets, and laptops are.

The location tracking features built into our devices come with valid privacy concerns, and the more advanced they get, the more problematic they can be (see this piece on how Apple AirTags can be a gift to stalkers and harassers) but they also mean our precious gear can report back on their location around the clock—making it much more difficult to lose something.

With AirTags—and Galaxy SmartTags, Tile trackers, and all the other similar products—this sort of location monitoring can extend to all kinds of items, from bags to key chains. Even if something isn’t reporting its location, it can be attached to a device that is.

If you’re determined to always know where your most valuable items are, you have more options than ever before.

Apple

The Find My app from Apple covers iPhones, iPads, Macs, AirPods and AirTags.

David Nield via Apple

Let’s start with Apple, as it just launched AirTags. These little trackers work through the Find My app that you can find preinstalled on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It’s also available through the iCloud portal, so you can get at it through any computer with a web browser.

Most modern Apple products can report their location through Find My—not just phones and laptops but also AirPods and the Apple Watch. The Apple Pencil can’t be located through this app, but as far as Apple devices go, it’s in the minority. To make sure your devices are being tracked, tap your name then Find My in Settings on an iPhone or iPad, or select Security & Privacy then Privacy in System Preferences on a Mac.

You’ll see your devices on a map when you launch Find My, and you can see details including how battery charge they have left, where relevant. Select a device and you can erase it remotely, lock it to protect against unauthorized access, or get it to make a sound (very handy if it may have fallen down the back of the sofa).

AirTags work a little bit differently. They don’t report their location directly, but communicate using short-range connections to your other devices (via Bluetooth and the more accurate Ultra-Wideband). As long as they’re nearby (Apple hasn’t given an exact range), they can be found through the Find My app on your devices.

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