July 14, 2024

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They mailed out an Apple AirTag and an Android tracker. The results were overwhelming against Google’s system.

They mailed out an Apple AirTag and an Android tracker. The results were overwhelming against Google’s system.

  • Several conditions must be met for Google’s Find My Device network to be truly useful.

  • They sent out an AirTag and an Android tracker at the same time and the results were pretty mixed.

After working on a system similar to Apple’s “Search” since 2021, Google finally launched its Find My network in April of this year. This network is one of the cornerstones of Apple’s strategy in recent years with its ecosystem: finding our devices and accessories linked to the account if we lose them. It is also the key to how AirTags work and what it aims to revolutionize this sector for Android users.

As always when there’s competition, the question is… is the Apple Airtag or the Find My Device-compatible Android tracker better? That question already has an answer, but the bottom line is that Google’s system just isn’t very good.

Find my deviceFirst of all, it’s worth dedicating a few lines to a small clarification. AirTags didn’t invent anything. Before these devices, there were already brands – like Tile – that had trackers. The idea behind these devices is to put them on things that are prone to being lost, like keys, a suitcase, a backpack or a wallet, and you can track them with your cell phone. They are not GPS devices and rely on other people’s cell phones to act as location beacons.


Apple’s big success is that almost all of its devices work automatically and transparently to the user like a beacon. This means that if an AirTag comes into range of an iPhone, the AirTag’s status will automatically update in the Find app. This simplicity is what was missing from Android-compatible trackers and that Google wanted to address with the launch of the Find My Device network.

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ExperienceHowever, it’s time to compare AirTag to Find My Device tracker. The person in charge of the experiment was A. Reddit user It’s called chiselplow, which on July 3 put a Pebblebee tracker (one of the few currently compatible with Android) and an AirTag in a box and sent them via express mail to another state.

The summary is disastrous for the Pebblebee tracker: The package arrived at its destination on July 6, and while the AirTag was showing a route through updates on its site (with updates both in warehouses and on the road), the Android-compatible tracker only provided an update in a warehouse indicating that it was… last seen at the user’s home. That is, on your mobile phone.

“traffic zones”. And when it arrived at its destination, the Pebblebee updated itself to report the same thing again: it was last seen at the user’s home. That means there were at least two times when the device was seen by an Android device, but its location was not updated in the report given to the owner. And yes, in the US, iPhones are the majority, but there are also Androids and the odds were very high that it wouldn’t come across one in three days.

Unless, of course, the default setting for Android phones to report the location of the tracker is turned on. And here comes a somewhat vague term from Google itself: “sparsely populated areas.” This default setting prevents Android phones from reporting the location of the tracker unless it is in what they consider a “densely populated area,” which is again vague. And the places the device has been through may not meet those requirements.

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Road improvements.From the web 9to5Google They reached out to Google to inquire about improvements to the Find My network, and while they didn’t talk about specific dates when they would implement these improvements, they confirmed that they are working on them:

“We’re actively working on improvements that will increase the speed and ability to locate lost items in the coming weeks. Devices continue to be added to the new network and we expect it to grow, which will also help improve the ability to find lost devices,” says a Google official. “We encourage owners of Bluetooth trackers to change the Find My Device network setting to ‘Available in all areas’ to help improve its ability to find lost items in low-traffic areas.”

To use the Google system we must activate it. This way we will find our devices and act as beacons for other people. There are also several location modes | Arrest of Ivan Linares, Zataka

Advantages of a closed ecosystem? This does not mean that Android trackers do not work, but at the moment the network does not seem to be populated enough and, moreover, having a closed ecosystem could, on this occasion, be an advantage. AirTag offers very good results when traveling, but we tested the Samsung SmartTag 2 (which only works with Samsung) on ​​trips between Ciudad Real-Antwerp and Ciudad Real-Bangkok, and the results were very good on both. Therefore, it will be a matter of adjusting the Google network, which at the moment seems quite green and soon devices from other brands will arrive, such as those from Motorola.

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Incidentally, the Reddit user will be repeating the test in another country with a larger Android presence. He only commented that the market is 78% Android and 21.5% Apple, so we’ll be watching to see how this new test works and whether Google’s promised improvements have arrived by then.

Pictures | BabybeeAnna Marty

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