AirTag vs Fi Collar: Which is the Best Dog Tracker?

December 14, 2023

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Losing a beloved furry friend is one of the worst feelings for a pet owner. That’s why many owners are turning to tech solutions like AirTags and GPS collars to keep track of their dogs. But with so many options on the market, it can be tricky to determine which dog tracker is right for you and your pooch.

This comprehensive guide will compare the key features and benefits of using an AirTag versus a dedicated GPS dog collar like the Fi Series 2 or Series 3. We’ll look at aspects like cost, durability, battery life, tracking capabilities, and more to help you make an informed decision. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to pick the ideal tracking solution for your canine companion.

An Introduction to Dog Trackers

Before we dive into the details, let’s quickly go over what dog trackers are and why pet owners find them useful:

  • Dog trackers are devices that attach to your dog’s collar and allow you to monitor their location through a smartphone app. This helps you keep tabs on your pet if they wander off or escape.
  • Popular options include Bluetooth trackers like AirTags, and GPS dog collars that use cellular and satellite connectivity.
  • Key benefits include finding lost dogs, tracing escapes or thieves, monitoring senior or anxious pets, and tracking fitness/activity.
  • These devices bring serious peace of mind for pet owners who want to ensure their dog’s safety and security at all times.

Now let’s look at how the Apple AirTag compares to the Fi GPS smart collar, two of the most popular choices.

Apple AirTag Overview

Apple Airtag

The Apple AirTag is the company’s Bluetooth-enabled tracker designed to find lost items using the Find My network. While not specifically made for pets, many owners do use AirTags to monitor their dogs. Here are the key details:

  • Small and lightweight – 1.26″ diameter, 0.39oz. Attaches to collar via accessories.
  • Leverages Find My network of nearby Apple devices to update location. Good for urban areas.
  • Uses Bluetooth LE, up to 800ft range. Updates when in range of iPhone/iPad.
  • CR2032 replaceable battery lasts approx 1 year. Water resistant to 1m depth.
  • Access via Find My app on iOS. Precision Finding and sound features help locate.
  • Inexpensive at $29 MSRP, but additional accessories needed for pets.
  • Some drawbacks for dog tracking use include limited rural coverage, durability concerns, and pet safety risks if ingested.

Overall, the AirTag offers an affordable entry point into location tracking for iPhone owners. But lack of cellular connectivity and formal pet tracking features limit usefulness for dogs.

You’ll need to purchase an AirTag collar holder or pouch accessory to properly attach it. But AirTags themselves aren’t designed for pet use and could present safety issues. Accessories like Magsafe wallets exist but aren’t ideal.

Fi Smart Dog Collar Overview

Fi Smart Dog Collar

The Fi Series 2 and Series 3 collars are dedicated GPS pet trackers packed with dog-centric features. Here’s an overview:

  • GPS + cellular connectivity for real-time location tracking anywhere.
  • Durable waterproof tracker built into collar. Designs specifically for dogs.
  • Useful features like activity monitoring, sleep tracking, temperature alerts, escape notifications.
  • Longer battery life (2-4 weeks) than AirTag. Also has battery-saving modes.
  • Available in many collar sizes to fit any breed. Choice of colors and patterns.
  • App provides advanced tracking options like Lost Dog mode with 1 min updates.
  • Bases start at $129, requires $99/year FI subscription. Higher initial cost but more capabilities.

Overall, the Fi GPS system delivers robust performance, pet-focused features, and peace of mind. It’s the top choice for dog owners who prioritize tracking reliability and dog safety.

Now let’s do a detailed feature comparison of using an AirTag versus the Fi smart collar for effectively tracking your pup.

AirTag vs Fi Collar: Detailed Feature Comparison

FeatureAirTagFi Smart Collar
ConnectivityBluetooth + Find My networkGPS + cellular data
Location AccuracyWithin ~800ftWithin several feet
Rural TrackingLimited by Find My rangeExcellent with cellular data
Water ResistanceIP67, 1m depth maxIP68, 6m depth max
Battery Life~1 year2-4 weeks
Rechargeable?No, CR2032 replaceable batteryYes
Collar IntegrationAccessories requiredBuilt-in tracker
DurabilityLow, can damage/fall offHigh, built for dogs
Dog SafetyChoking hazard if ingestedVery low risk
Tracking ModesBasicAdvanced (Lost Dog, etc)
Activity MonitoringNoYes
Social FeaturesNoCommunity feed, friends
Price$29 + accessories$129 + $99/year subscription

As you can see from the table, while the AirTag excels in certain areas like battery life and affordability, the Fi Series 2/3 smart collar is the clear winner when it comes to robust connectivity, safety, and pet-focused features.

Next, let’s explore some of these key factors in more detail.

Tracking Capabilities Comparison

One of the most important considerations in picking a dog tracker is how reliably it can track your pup’s location in different scenarios. This can often make or break your ability to find your dog if they go missing.

The AirTag leverages Bluetooth connectivity along with Apple’s vast Find My network. This crowdsourced system allows nearby iPhone users to report your AirTag’s location back to you.

The advantage of using the Find My network is extensive coverage thanks to over 1 billion active Apple devices worldwide. This makes AirTags excellent for tracking belongings and pets in urban environments where iPhones are plentiful.

Airtag Ease Of Use

The limitation, however, is reliance on proximity to those other devices. Your AirTag’s location can only update when it comes within Bluetooth range (~800ft) of someone else with an iPhone. No nearby phones means no location data. Some users have experienced delayed location updates which can impede tracking.

This makes AirTags less ideal for tracking pets in rural areas, on trails, or other low population zones. If your dog runs two miles into the woods, your AirTag may lose connection until the next person passes by.

By comparison, the Fi Series 2 and 3 collars use true GPS + cellular data connectivity. This gives them powerful direct tracking capabilities.

Fi App

The Fi collar gets its exact coordinates via GPS satellites, then transmits the location back to you using nationwide cellular networks.

This means it can provide real-time tracking of your dog’s location anywhere that cell towers provide coverage – which is most places except extremely remote wilderness. No reliance on other phones needed.

The Fi collar also offers an important “Lost Dog Mode” not available on the AirTag. When enabled, this boosts the live tracking updates to every 60 seconds so you can closely follow your dog’s path in real time during an escape situation. This can mean the difference between losing your dog for good or recovering them quickly thanks to minute-by-minute progress updates.

Fi App Lost Dog Mode

For ultimate reliability and effectiveness at tracking your dog’s location anywhere, a dedicated GPS dog collar like the Fi is the way to go.

Durability and Dog Safety

No pet owner wants to risk their dog’s health and safety when picking a tracking device. This is an area where AirTags show some limitations.

AirTags are relatively small and fragile. They are easy for dogs to knock loose, damage by chewing, or potentially even swallow. Owners must use additional cases or attachments to secure them. Even then, active dogs can still manage to break or ingest them, posing a choking/blockage hazard requiring emergency surgery.

There are also concerns around the battery – curious dogs may get burned or sick if they bite into the CR2032 battery.

By comparison, the entire Fi Series 2/3 module is contained within a rugged, waterproof housing that is part of the collar strap itself.

This integrated solution means there is no way for your dog to damage the tracker or access the sealed battery compartment. The outer material is also designed to withstand biting, scratching, rugged play.

Further, Fi collars come in a wide range of adjustable sizes to ensure a perfect fit for your dog’s neck and prevent any slipping off or jamming. AirTags require you to find a compatible case and attachment system.

For set-it-and-forget-it durability and maximum dog safety, the Fi collar is the way to go. No need to worry about your pup chewing up the tracker or digging out the battery.

Battery Life and Charging

You want your dog’s tracker to last a reasonably long time before needing to be recharged so you’re not constantly worried about it dying at an inopportune time.

The AirTag is powered by a replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery, which Apple claims can last over a year before needing swapped out. This long battery life is convenient, but you’ll need to periodically buy new batteries.

Airtag's Battery

The Fi Series 2 collar has a rechargeable battery that lasts around 2-4 weeks on average, depending on use. When power runs low, you simply place the collar module on its charging base until it’s topped up again. No battery purchases required.

Fi Series 2 Collar Charging

The newer Fi Series 3 collar improves battery efficiency, now lasting closer to 4-6 weeks according to the company. This is thanks to additional power saving optimizations that turn off GPS when your dog is home and reduce cellular pings.

Considering the Fi collar provides continuous real-time location data over cellular networks, its battery performance is quite strong. For most owners, recharging every month or so in return for robust tracking and peace of mind is a worthwhile trade-off.

Both the AirTag and Fi also offer battery status notifications so you aren’t caught off guard. Overall, the longer lasting and rechargeable Fi collar battery makes it the better choice for dogs. Just plug it in when needed.

Water Resistance

Unless you have one of the few dog breeds that hates swimming, chances are your pooch will get their tracker wet regularly. So water and weather resistance are important.

The AirTag has an IP67 rating, meaning it can withstand submersion in 1 meter (about 3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes.

This makes it plenty rugged for everyday activities like playing in mud, splashing in puddles, or running in the rain. But the AirTag isn’t suitable for underwater use.

The Fi Series 2 and 3 boast an IP68 rating and are waterproof up to 6 meters (approximately 20 feet). This covers virtually any situation from bath time to diving for sticks in a lake. No concerns about ruining the tracker.

For dogs that love to swim, get sprayed by hoses, or otherwise get soaked on adventures, the ultra waterproof Fi smart collar is the safest bet. It can handle full underwater immersion without issue.

Size and Collar Integration

You want your dog’s tracking device to be lightweight and unobtrusive for their comfort. The Fi collar line also offers better physical integration.

The AirTag is a tiny 1.26″ diameter puck weighing just 0.39 ounces. Extremely compact. However, you must attach it to your dog’s existing collar using a compatible case or holder. More parts.

Airtag Dog

The Fi module is larger but still just 2.4” x 1.3”, and quite light at 0.8 ounces for the Series 2 or 0.7 ounces for the Series 3.

Fi Size And Weight

More importantly, the entire tracker is built seamlessly into the collar strap itself for a streamlined single-piece design. No separate parts to fuss with.

This integrated Fi collar construction allows for excellent weight distribution and comfort. Your dog likely won’t even notice it’s there.

Fi’s collars also come in a wide range of sizes from 9 inches up to 30 inches long to ensure a perfect fit, even for large breed dogs. Multiple colors and patterns available too.

So while the AirTag is impressively tiny, the Fi’s well-designed construction and sizing options make for better overall integration and comfort around your dog’s neck.

Social Features and Community

Modern pet trackers are adding more community engagement and social features to their apps. This allows you to stay better connected with other pet owners and your pup’s activity.

The Find My app offers no real social options. It’s purely designed for individual item tracking. You get basic location notifications and that’s it.

The Fi mobile app introduces a variety of social capabilities:

  • See other local dogs on a live map and get notified when friends are nearby.
  • Receive updates whenever your dog leaves home or completes an activity.
  • Pet profiles that others can view and comment on.
  • Photo sharing and direct messaging with friends.
  • User feed for sharing pictures and stories about your dog.
  • Leaderboards for tracking activity and compete for fitness.

These features help you stay engaged with other pet owners in your area and share your dog’s daily adventures. It really embraces the social experience of being a pet parent.

So for those looking to connect more with the pet community and follow their dog’s daily life, the Fi app delivers. AirTag is solely a solo tracking tool.

Cost Comparison

The last factor to consider is the pricing and ongoing costs associated with these two dog tracking options.

The AirTag itself is quite affordable at just $29 MSRP. However, you’ll also need to buy some type of collar attachment or case to use it with your dog, which adds $10-30 in additional costs right off the bat.

Replacing the non-rechargeable CR2032 battery every 1-2 years will run you $5-10 per AirTag.

There are no service fees and the Find My network access is free. Just the initial hardware and periodic battery costs. It’s one of the AirTag’s advantages over competitors requiring subscriptions like Tile.

The Fi Series 2 GPS collar starts at $129 for the tracker with basic membership. This gives you limited 2G data access.

For full functionality you need the $99 per year Fi subscription. This gives you access to 4G LTE data networks for live location streaming plus all the advanced tracking features.

Other membership tiers are available if you want to save by pre-paying for 2 years.

So while the upfront cost is higher for the Fi collar, you are paying for an advanced LTE-connected tracking system with robust capabilities suited for pets, not just basic Bluetooth connectivity. The service fee helps support cellular data usage which Apple doesn’t incur.

Over 2-3 years the costs even out, but you get much more functionality and reliability from the Fi premium system. It really depends on your budget and how much confidence you want when tracking your beloved dog.

Key Takeaways

To wrap up this extensive comparison guide, here are the key takeaways when weighing an Apple AirTag against the Fi GPS dog collar:

  • AirTags leverage the Find My network for decent tracking but have limited usefulness in rural areas away from other Apple devices.
  • Fi’s integrated GPS + cellular collar provides real-time location tracking anywhere with coverage. Critical for escape scenarios.
  • AirTags pose safety risks if chewed or ingested by dogs due to their small size and exposed battery.
  • The durable, waterproof Fi collar strap houses the entire tracker safely with no removable parts.
  • AirTag battery lasts 1+ year but must be periodically replaced. Fi collar battery typically needs recharging every 2-4 weeks.
  • AirTags have basic water resistance while Fi collars can withstand deep water immersion.
  • AirTags require a compatible case and attachments. Fi collars integrate the tracker directly into the strap.
  • Fi app offers helpful activity tracking and social features. Find My is just for individual location monitoring.
  • AirTag is cheaper upfront at $29 but has hidden costs. Fi collar is $129 + $99/year but does more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use an AirTag as a dog collar?

Technically yes, with some DIY work. You’ll need to purchase an AirTag collar holder or pouch accessory to properly attach it. But AirTags themselves aren’t designed for pet use and could present safety issues.

Is the AirTag durable enough for dogs?

Not really. The small exposed AirTag can easily be chewed, damaged, or swallowed by dogs. It lacks waterproofing and infantry protection. Much safer options exist.

How accurate is the AirTag for tracking dogs?

AirTags can track within about an 800 foot radius as long as another iPhone is nearby. Accuracy greatly depends on proximity to other Find My users. Not reliable for rural area tracking.

Can the AirTag work without your phone?

No. AirTags must connect to an iPhone to determine location, either your own or someone else’s in the vicinity. It does not have its own GPS or cellular capabilities.

Do I need a subscription for the AirTag?

No subscription or service plan is required to use the basic AirTag tracking via the Find My network. It’s a one-time hardware purchase.

Does the Fi collar use wifi or cell service?

The Fi collar uses both wifi (when connected to home base) and nationwide LTE cellular networks to stream your dog’s GPS location data back to you in real time.

How long does the Fi battery last?

Approximately 2-4 weeks on the Fi Series 2 collar, or 4-6 weeks with the improved Series 3 model, before needing a recharge. Battery life may vary based on usage.

Can the Fi collar track anywhere?

Yes, as long as there is cellular service available, which covers the vast majority of regions. Rural dead zones may impede connectivity. Satellite service planned for future.

Is the Fi waterproof?

Fi Series 2 and 3 collars are waterproof rated to 6m depth, making them ultra durable in wet conditions including swimming and heavy rain.

Do I need an iPhone to use the Fi collar?

No. The collar connects via cellular networks so any smartphone iOS or Android can run the Fi app and view real-time tracking. No reliance on Apple ecosystem.