iFixit shared the first of their two-part series on the demolition of the Apple AirTags tracker, revealing that Apple had to make impressive design decisions to achieve its small design, including rethinking the speaker layout.
By comparison, iFixit compares Apple’s AirTags to the Tile Mate and Samsung Galaxy SmartTag. Compared to the competition, the AirTags has the smallest size, with the most internal space used to house the battery itself. A notable design difference is the AirTags’ lack of a built-in keyhole, which iFixit attributes to Apple’s story of “turning key features into premium accessories.”
The X-ray of the three devices really shows that Apple has not lost internal space for its tracking element. On the other hand, the Tile Mate and Galaxy SmartTag seem to “spread” with interior space, and despite their larger footprint, none of the trackers include ultra-wideband technology like “AirTags”. It is worth noting that Samsung recently released an ultra-wideband version of the Galaxy SmartTag; however, iFixit failed to get a piece for their comparison.
Tile Mate, Galaxy SmartTag and AirTags have replaceable coin batteries. AirTags and Galaxy SmartTag use the CR2032 .66Wh battery, while Tile Mate uses the smaller CR3932 .39Wh battery. AirTags has a mechanism for rotating and lifting the rear panel to replace the battery, but does not include an easy way to lift the rear panel if you happen to have greasy or slippery hands.
All three trackers open with the power of your fingers – no other tools are needed! However, AirTag is the most difficult, especially if you have indulged in a snack before and have fat numbers. Imagine opening a stubborn jar of pickles with just two slippery thumbs and you already understand the idea. Other trackers have special sections for separating the pieces with a fingernail – moisten to satiety!
Replacing the battery is the furthest the average customer will be able to get into their AirTag without the right tools. Even so, iFixit says Apple has shown “surprising restraint in sealing the AirTag,” noting that fully opening the tracker requires only a vise and a few plastic rods.
IrAirTags has a built-in speaker that emits ping sounds from a paired iPhone through the Find My app, during setup and other situations. However, due to its small factor, Apple had to come up with a new way to put a speaker in the tracker. With AirTags, Apple decided to use the whole body as a speaker driver, with the underside of the lid serving as a speaker magnet.
It’s circles all the way as you head for the AirTag. Did you notice the “button” on the bottom of the cover? This is not a clickable button, like the Mate and SmartTag, but rather the magnet we saw earlier in the X-ray. It sits right in the donut-shaped logic board embedded in a copper coil to form a speaker. You read that right – the AirTag body is essentially a speaker driver. Power is sent to the voice coil, which drives the magnet mounted to the membrane – in this case the plastic cover where the battery lives – which emits sounds that lead you to your lost luggage.
As we noted earlier this week, it is possible to drill a hole with AirTags to compensate for the lack of a built-in keychain hole. This will certainly void the AirTags warranty, and although it is possible, it is a risk. As iFixit notes, “drilling in the wrong place can cause serious damage.”
iFixit says the second part of their breakup will include detailed information about the AirTags board and other hidden secrets. For everything you need to know about AirTags, be sure to check out our guide.