Do Apple’s AirTag trackers work in tall buildings

Do Apple’s AirTag trackers work in tall buildings
The AirTag is certainly not uncharted territory. We’ve seen plenty of similar trackers from Tile and Samsung. Apple has the major advantage of the Apple ecosystem, and in particular - the Find My app and network, which is by far the largest on the planet.

Since this is a new market niche for Apple, there are many questions around how AirTags work - are they reliable, secure, or… useful at all? For the most part, the answer to all questions will be “yes”. However, there are certain aspects of the technology, which were either overlooked by Tim Cook and company, or the tech simply isn’t there yet.

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Floorgate


One of those aspects is the fact that AirTags don’t seem to be performing as well when they are “lost” in a multistory building as they do when they are misplaced in wider spaces.

The issue was discovered by XDA writer Ben Sin, who lives in a multistory building in Hong Kong with access to multiple floors. If he happens to misplace an item on one floor and then moves to another floor, the AirTag won’t send a precise location for the Precision Finding feature to work, meaning it has difficulties calculating vertical distance (altitude).

Still, the standard AirTag tracking can let you know that the tracker is basically in the same building, but that’s not very helpful if you work or live in a skyscraper.

This problem isn’t going to affect everyone. Obviously, Hong Kong is a rather specific case study. Apartments or even two-story houses with open-plan staircases shouldn’t cause the same issues, which means North American users likely won’t be affected.

In fact, people who live in a tall building often have access to just one floor where their apartment is, so the AirTag should perform just fine. However, if you work in a tall building, where you move constantly between floors, the AirTag might not be the most useful device for your needs as it will be for someone else.

The Tall Apple


But at the end of the day, isn’t it better to have a tracker on your bag than not having one at all? The least AirTags will do is to save you from panicking since you’ll be able to see the approximate location of the item, even if you can’t tell on which floor it might be.

There’s an interesting statistic on the topic, which comes from SkyScraperCenter on the countries with the tallest city-based buildings around the world. It’s not a huge surprise that China tops the list with 2,395 (150m+), 823 (200m+), and 95 (300m+) buildings. “Tallest city” is Hong Kong, which perfectly explains Ben’s point.

The USA is second with 825 (150m+), 220 (200m+), and 28 (300m+) tall buildings. Ironically, The Big Apple is Apple’s Achilles’ heel. New York is the “tallest city” in the USA. The UAE is third on the list, then we’ve got the island of Japan and South Korea is fifth.

We guess the takeaway is: count your floors if you want to count on your AirTag.

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