Apple recently entered the object tracking market with the AirTag, a small, cellular battery-powered Bluetooth device that you can clip to your things and ping your smartphone. The device started shipping on Friday, so of course the iFixit gadget teardown site took one and tore it up – then took an electric drill ?!
As with most Apple products, it looks like some serious engineering has entered the $ 29 tracker. The device is barely bigger than the user-replaceable CR2032 battery that powers it, putting competing devices like the Tile and Samsung Galaxy SmartTags to shame with their comparative volume. Inside, a single circuit board uses a unique donut-shaped design that crams all the components into a ring under the battery.
The hole in the middle of the circuit board allows Apple to pack a surprisingly huge voice coil speaker. The speakerphone is just for playing ringtones so you can find your AirTagged thing when you lose it, but apparently the ringtones will be very high quality. For comparison, the Tile and Samsung trackers both use small, inexpensive piezoelectric speakers for playing ringtones, which iFixit says would be at home in a “McDonald’s Happy Meal toy.” This speaker is fair for the acoustic location, so anything that makes a screeching noise will work – Apple goes for luxurious over-engineered.
The other very Apple quality of the AirTag is that it almost seems designed to sell accessories. The most common use of these trackers is to help you find your car keys, but out of the box there’s no way to attach a keychain to an AirTag. Instead, Apple has activated a large ecosystem of AirTag cases ranging from a $ 13 keychain to a $ 449 Hermès luggage tag (yes, that’s four hundred and forty-nine dollars).
IFixit’s solution to the popular keychain hole is – what else – a power drill! The teardown experts have found a suitable dead space inside the AirTag that is somehow not blocked by the battery, speaker, or circuit board, and after careful drilling, the AirTag d ‘iFixit now has a keychain hole with as little bulk as possible. “The AirTag survived the operation like a champion and is operating as if nothing had happened,” the site says. iFixit went on to note that the sound profile “didn’t seem to change much,” but the IP67 dust and water resistance rating is now greatly compromised.
The site has helpfully pointed out the safe drill areas if you want to try this at home, with the understanding that you could break your $ 29 tracker if you mess up the procedure. Apple sells the AirTags in a four-pack for $ 99 if you want to work out.