Android’s Find My Device vs. Apple’s AirTag: A Real-World Mail Test Shows the Difference

Recently, Google launched the Find My Device network on Android, promising to offer AirTag-like trackers for Android users. However, it is evident that the current state of the network does not measure up to Apple’s well-established system. To demonstrate this, a Reddit user conducted an experiment by mailing an AirTag and a Find My Device tracker together to see how they perform. The results were not surprising.

Slow Rollout of Find My Device Trackers

As of now, there are only a few trackers available for the Find My Device network. These include two from Chipolo and three from Pebblebee. Initial reviews revealed that the slow rollout of the network, combined with Google’s decision to limit it to “high-traffic” areas by default, resulted in trackers with limited functionality. Although Google is working on improving this, it may take some time before significant changes are seen.

The Mail Test Experiment

Reddit user u/chiselplow decided to test the effectiveness of the Find My Device tracker by mailing it along with an AirTag. On July 3, they placed an AirTag and a Pebblebee tracker (specific model not mentioned) inside a package and sent it through the US Postal Service. The AirTag provided continuous updates on its location, from the local truck and hub to a larger truck heading to a warehouse. In contrast, the Pebblebee tracker only provided one update when it reached the warehouse and then reverted to saying it was last seen at the user’s home.

Tracking Results

The AirTag continued to provide frequent updates on its location throughout the journey, including updates from other warehouses and even on the road. However, the Pebblebee tracker reverted to saying it was last seen at the user’s home, even after the package was delivered to its destination on July 6. It was clear that the tracker had been seen at some point, but the data gathered was not reliable.

Questions and Limitations

Several questions arise from this experiment. For instance, did the recipient of the package have an Android phone? Regardless, it is clear that trackers on Google’s network cannot yet match the location-tracking performance of Apple’s AirTag. This makes sense, given that Google is still in the process of fully rolling out its network. Additionally, the test took place in the US, where iPhones have a significant market share. This means the tracker might not have been near an Android phone long enough to update its location properly.

High-Traffic Areas Setting

One major factor contributing to the poor performance of the Find My Device tracker is the default “high-traffic areas” setting. This setting restricts Android phones from reporting the location of a tracker unless they are in what is considered a “high-traffic” area. The exact criteria for this are unclear, but it is likely that random roads and warehouses do not meet the threshold.

Encouraging Android Users

For the Find My Device network to improve, it is essential for Android users to allow the network to function everywhere, not just in high-traffic areas. More participation from Android users could enhance the overall performance of the network.

Future Tests and Updates

Plans are in place to conduct a similar test once the Find My Device network is more widely rolled out. Stay tuned for more updates, and feel free to share your experiences with Find My Device trackers in the comments.

More on Find My Device:

Pebblebee trackers for Android initial review: The best option, for now

Google says Find My Device tracking improvements are coming

The Moto Tag is the first UWB tracker to join Google’s Find My Device network

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