Do AirTags Use GPS? (AirTag Tracking Explained)

image of an Apple AirTag and its location displayed on the Find My app and a title that reads do AirTags use GPS

Apple’s Bluetooth AirTag tracking device is a cost-effective solution designed to help people keep track of their stuff. If you’re not familiar with AirTags, one question you might have is, do AirTags use GPS? 

AirTags do not use GPS for tracking. AirTags do not and cannot connect to GPS satellites for positioning. Instead, AirTags use nearby Bluetooth Apple devices in the Find My network to determine their location.

In this article, I cover topics like, how does Apple AirTag tracking work, how often does an Apple AirTag update its position and location, and much more.

image of an Apple AirTag and its location displayed on the Find My app and a title that reads do AirTags use GPS
Despite being an effective tracking device, an Apple AirTag does not use GPS.

What Is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is what enables a navigational device to determine its physical position.

smart device with GPS
GPS enabled smart device.

A navigational device or tracker uses the position of three or more satellites from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and its distance from them to determine actual latitude, longitude, elevation, and time data points.

Does An AirTag Have GPS Tracking?

An AirTag does not use the Global Positioning System and therefore does not have GPS tracking. AirTags do not have any GPS receiver technology and cannot decode and compute the precise location of the GPS satellites.

Rather than using GPS satellites for location and position, an AirTag uses other nearby Bluetooth Apple devices to determine its location. While this works well for determining location, it does limit the ability of an AirTag to track in real-time, and prevents an AirTag tracking speed, unlike some of its GPS counterparts.

How Does AirTag Tracking Work?

AirTag tracking works by the AirTag sending a Bluetooth signal to nearby Apple devices in the Find My network. These devices then send the AirTag’s location data to iCloud so it can be seen on the Find My map, all while happening anonymously and encrypted to protect your privacy.

image of a man looking for something under a sofa and an image of Apple Precision Finding on an iPhone
An AirTag can lead you straight to your lost item.

Each AirTag uses a technology called Ultra Wideband (UWB) along with Bluetooth to accurately determine its distance and direction from your iPhone and therefore allowing you to easily track down any lost item. If an AirTag is no longer within Bluetooth range of your iPhone it will leverage other Bluetooth devices on the global Apple Find My network and use these devices to broadcast its position.

If your AirTag is close to you, your iPhone, using Precision Finding, will lead you straight to it. This technology makes AirTags perfect for tracking lost keys, tracking lost backpacks, and other stuff. Precision Finding uses Ultra Wideband technology to provide spacial and directional information on your supported Apple iPhone.

AirTag Precision Finding
Precision Finding supported iPhones and iPads can lead you straight to your AirTag easily and quickly.

If your AirTag is not near, your AirTag can also be put into Lost Mode, just like other Apple products. When your AirTag is in Lost Mode, when it’s detected by a nearby Apple device on the Find My network, you’ll automatically receive a notification on your iPhone.

How Often Does An AirTag Update Its Location?

There is no set schedule for an AirTag to update its location. Depending on where your AirTag is, in less densely populated areas with minimal Apple device users, location updates will be less frequent when compared to a heavily populated location with lots of Apple device users nearby.

Bluetooth works at its best when there is a clear line of sight. Since AirTags do not use a cellular service, regardless of where in the world you are, it is important to know that obstacles such as buildings, walls, and metal can all have an impact on how effective and strong a Bluetooth signal is. All of these factors come into play when considering how often an AirTag can update its location.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hopefully, I have answered all of your questions related to, do AirTags use GPS. However, you may still have other questions surrounding Apple AirTags. If you do, below I answer some common frequently asked questions.

Can I view an AirTag’s location history?

The Find My app will only allow you to see the current (last seen) location of your AirTag.

How long will an AirTag last?

An AirTag will last about one year before the battery needs to be replaced.

Are AirTags easy to set up?

Simply hold your new AirTag next to your iPhone and it will pair immediately. Set up itself is easy with only a few steps required.

Final Thoughts On Do AirTags Use GPS

So, in conclusion. Do AirTags use GPS? AirTags do not use GPS for location tracking. Instead, AirTags rely on other nearby Apple Bluetooth devices in the Find My network to send secure and encrypted location and position information to iCloud so that you can easily track and find an AirTag using the Find My app.

Stay Curious.
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