Apple AirTag vs. Samsung Galaxy SmartTag: Which tracker is best for you?

On the hunt for the best Bluetooth tracker? We'll help the duck choose the best one for you!

It’s never been easier to keep track of your keys but also never been easier to decide which Bluetooth tracker works best for you. In the mad scramble of daily life, tracking tags have been around for a while now, and Tile has been the best-known brand in the space. Apple AirTags, on the other hand, are the most popular Bluetooth item trackers and they seem to go mainstream because of their larger network of iPhones. Both these little trackers are meant to be tucked in, stashed, or dropped in a pocket to help you keep track of your belongings. But, which one is right for you?

If you’re thinking of picking one up but unsure where to start, you’re in the right place. We have picked out Apple AirTag, and Samsung SmarTag Plus to see how they compare. We compared two popular tracking devices and looked at their tracking capabilities, ease of use, compatibility, battery life, privacy, security, and value. So, if you are feeling lost, we’re here for you to decide which smart tracking device is best for you, whether it’s for travel, school, or just everyday living.

Unlike Apple AirTag, Samsung Galaxy SmartTag easily attaches to objects

It’s a no-brainer that both tracking devices are small, but the Samsung Tag has a fairly similar-looking design that resembles the Tile Mate. It has a hole punched in it that makes it perfect for slipping onto a keyring or attaching it to things while the AirTag is smooth, like a tiny skipping stone with no way to attach it to something unless you want to buy another accessory like a keychain holder.

SmarTag+ is slightly larger, at about 1.5 inches on a side while the AirTag is just over 1.25 inches in diameter. This makes SmarTag plus a bit heavier at 0.459 oz, compared to the AirTag’s 0.39 oz, but the difference isn’t noticeable.

AirTag is waterproof but SmartTag+ is more versatile

The AirTag has a waterproof rating of IP67. You can only briefly drop it in up to three feet of water, anything above that can be worrisome. The SmarTag+ has a waterproof rating of IP52. This provides limited dust protection and some water splashes. Dropped in the drink, and you’ll curse yourself!

These devices use a replaceable CR2032 watch battery and both companies claim that it will last about a year. There is no option for charging so you need to replace the battery when it runs out.

The Samsung Galaxy SmarTag+ comes in different shades — black, denim blue, gray, and hues of pink — while the AirTag comes in white. But, Apple trackers can be personalized with engraving if you order from the Apple Store

In terms of design and form factor, both are small, lightweight, and discrete. Agreed that Samsung SmarTag+ easily attaches to objects via a hole in the case and gets more points for being versatile, AirTag is waterproof and offers an extra engraving option.

The AirTag is just easier to find

The Apple AirTag and Samsung SmartTag+ use Bluetooth LE and UltrsWide Band to offer the best location services for finding what you’ve lost. UWB uses low-power signal pulses to communicate with devices that support this.

Both also utilize a network of other devices, so if you’re out of range of the tracker, it will use the Bluetooth of surrounding devices to pinpoint its location in either the Find My app or the Samsung SmartThing app.

Apple leverages the vast number of iPhones to locate the tracker. If someone with an iPhone passes within the range of the tag, it will ping its location from that phone and relay that back to you via the FindMy app. Once you get within range of the device – 100m, you can use an augmented reality mode to find the tracker in FindMy.

The Samsung SmartThing app utilizes the camera for AR directional location. It’s relying on Samsung phones for its network, but there just aren’t as many of them in the United States as iPhones. If someone with a non-Samsung Android phone wanders by, it won’t ping the phone, and you won’t be able to find the tracker.

Apple is cheaper but lasts longer

Apple Bluetooth tracker is $29 for one and $99 for a pack of four on the Apple Store while Samsung is $40 for one and $80 for a pack of two on the Samsung site. Apple’s AirTag last longer — about one year — on a single battery, compared to the SmartTag+’s 100-130 days. The Samsung has a really useful feature that we like; it allows you to use its button to trigger routines if you’re invested in the SmartThings smart home platform. Apple’s AirTag has no button and offers no similar feature. I think Apple wins on price and battery here. Samsung has an edge over its feature, but it isn’t a milestone per se.

Set-up is easy for both devices

There’s nothing technical when setting up the Bluetooth tracker. Apple users need to bring the AirTag close to their phones. When you open the FindMy app on your phone, it will offer to pair the tracker and assign it to an item to track, like luggage, or a wallet.

It will also inform you that it is attached to your Apple ID and that tracking people without their consent is a crime in many parts of the world. It’ll say “AirTag is designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner.”

The SmartTag+ is also simple to set up. You need to download the SmartThings app from the app store. Once you set up your Samsung SmartThing account, you push the button on the tracker, and it will pair automatically with your phone. The only difference here is that there’s no warning against tracking people. AirTag wins by a hair. Although the setup is easy for both devices, the warning alert on AirTag just makes the owner sceptical of the consequences.

Neither of the trackers works outside of their respective ecosystems

The tracker you pick depends on what phone you have. Apple’s trackers require an iPhone 11 or newer, and the SmartTag+ requires Android OS 11 or higher and a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy S21+, Galaxy S21 Ultra or Z Fold 2.

The trackers will not work outside of their respective ecosystems. If you own neither an iPhone nor one of the listed Samsung Galaxy phones, these particular trackers aren’t for you.

What about Privacy?

You should know that any Bluetooth trackers can be abused and easily fall into the hands of stalkers. Therefore, we can under no circumstances track someone without their knowledge and permission. It’s absolutely illegal.

Apple built-in certain anti-stalking safety measures at launch, but reporters identified that these safety meases fell short. The company has addressed some issues like shortening the length of time before an AirTag will sound an alert when it’s separated from its owner, and is working on an app that will allow Android users to find unwanted AirTags near them. But, this alone does not promise complete safety.

Samsung introduced a SmartThings app feature that scans for unfamiliar SmartTags. Apparently, this seems like a big step towards ensuring privacy, but it doesn’t help much because these devices still have the potential for misuse even with more safety measures in place. Anyway, it’s illegal (and highly immoral) to track someone without their consent, so stay away from it!

What Should I Do?

I love both trackers. They carry their own aura and class and they both are great to keep track of things you might lose. But, the only thing that haunts me is that their OS is siloed to their own ecosystems.

But, I genuinely think that Apple AirTag is a better tracking device because of its robust number of iPhones connected that relay back the location to you via the Find My app. The Galaxy Find network is great but not as robust as Apple’s, but still ahead of Tile’s.

The shorter battery life of SmartTag+ also reduces some points and the lack of separation notification is really bad because you have to launch an “unknown tag search” in order for the app to emit a sound that an unknown SmartTag is moving with you that doesn’t belong to you.

Anyways, your phone will determine which tracker you should buy. If you have neither an iPhone nor Galaxy phone, Tile will work for you. It doesn’t however, offer AR-assisted location, and doesn’t have a robust network. But, it is a decent choice knowing that you have an Android with you – which is perfectly fine!

If you’re using an iPhone, then the AirTag is for you. Similarly, if you have a Galaxy phone, then you’d naturally choose SmartTag. There aren’t many differences between each of them, so you are not really missing out by large!

Joe Warne
Joe Warne
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