AirTag vs GPS Tracker: Choosing the Best Tracking Device in 2024

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Jason

Airtags Vs Gps Tracker

Looking to keep better track of your valuables? Wondering whether an AirTag or a GPS tracker is right for you? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare AirTags and GPS trackers to help you decide which is the best tracking device for your needs in 2024.

We’ll cover:

  • How AirTags and GPS trackers work
  • Key differences between the two devices
  • Pros and cons of AirTag vs GPS tracker
  • Features comparison
  • Real-world use cases for each device
  • Price considerations
  • Expert advice for choosing the right tracker

By the end, you’ll know exactly which option to choose for tracking devices, bags, keys, pets, vehicles and more.

How Do AirTags and GPS Trackers Work?

How AirTags Work

Apple Airtag

Apple AirTags are small, round tracking devices that you can attach to important items like keys, wallets and more. For an in-depth look at their features and performance, check out our comprehensive AirTag review.

AirTags connect via Bluetooth to Apple’s Find My network. This network consists of hundreds of millions of Apple devices that can detect Bluetooth signals from lost AirTags and relay their approximate location back to the owner.

If your AirTagged keys go missing, any nearby Apple devices will “see” your AirTag’s Bluetooth signal and anonymously send its location to Apple’s servers. You can then check the Find My app and see the AirTag’s last known or current general location on a map. Do AirTags have GPS built-in? No, they rely on Bluetooth and the Find My network instead.

If you’re within Bluetooth range, you can play a sound on the AirTag’s built-in speaker to help track it down. For extra precision when searching, Precision Finding uses audible and haptic feedback to guide you directly to the AirTag.

Airtag Play Sound

How GPS Trackers Work

GPS trackers use global positioning satellites and cellular data networks to pinpoint the real-time or historical location of people, vehicles and animals.

A GPS tracking device contains:

  • Cellular chipset to connect to mobile networks
  • GPS chipset to communicate with satellites

The GPS satellites send signals to the tracker about their precise orbital location. By calculating its distance from multiple satellites, the tracker can triangulate and determine its own geographic coordinates.

This location data then gets sent over the cellular network back to the owner. You can log in on a phone app or website and view the tracker’s live location on a map from anywhere, as long as it has cellular service.

Some GPS trackers contain extra features like:

  • Geofencing to receive alerts when something leaves a designated area
  • Long battery life
  • Weather resistance
  • Real-time tracking

Key Differences Between AirTags and GPS Trackers

Now that you know how each technology works, let’s compare some of the main differences between Apple AirTags and GPS trackers. For a deeper dive, see our article on Bluetooth vs GPS trackers.

  • Tracking technology – AirTag uses Bluetooth and crowdsourced location, while GPS trackers use cellular data and satellites.
  • Range – AirTags rely on being near Apple devices to work, while GPS has unlimited range.
  • Real-time tracking – GPS trackers offer live location updates, AirTags only show the last known location.
  • Works indoors – AirTags can be located inside, most GPS trackers need outdoor signals.
  • Battery life – AirTags last over a year on a replaceable battery. GPS battery life ranges from weeks to over a year depending on power-saving modes.
  • Water resistance – AirTags are splash and water resistant. Some GPS trackers are weatherproof and even underwater capable.
  • Alerts and notifications – GPS trackers can send custom alerts like speeding, geofencing or SOS notifications. AirTags don’t have smart notifications.
  • Accessories – AirTags have limited accessories. GPS trackers have mounts, harnesses, cases and more for versatile use.
  • Pet safety – AirTags have small parts that can be bitten or swallowed by pets. GPS trackers designed for animals are bite-proof and safer.
  • Price – AirTags cost $29 each. GPS trackers range from $25 to $200+ depending on features.

As you can see, both technologies have unique advantages and limitations depending on your use cases. Keep reading to learn more about how these differences apply in real-world tracking scenarios.

AirTag vs GPS Tracker Pros and Cons

To help summarize the key points so far, here is an at-a-glance comparison of the main pros and cons of using an AirTag versus a GPS tracker:

AirTag Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Long battery life
  • Compact, discreet
  • Easy to use
  • Integrates with Find My app
  • Can be located indoors
Airtag Additional Features

AirTag Cons

  • Limited range relies on Find My network
  • Imprecise location tracking
  • No real-time location updates
  • No custom notifications or alerts
  • Not designed for pets
  • Small parts can be choking hazard

GPS Tracker Pros

  • Unlimited range
  • Works globally
  • Real-time precise tracking
  • Customizable notifications and alerts
  • Rugged, weatherproof designs
  • Made for tracking pets, cars, cargo

GPS Tracker Cons

  • Requires cellular plan
  • Battery must be recharged
  • Larger size than AirTags
  • Most don’t work well indoors
  • More expensive than AirTags

Feature Comparison: AirTag vs GPS Tracker

FeaturesAirTagGPS Tracker
Tracking TechnologyBluetooth, Ultra WidebandGPS, Cellular
RangeLimited by Find My networkUnlimited
Real-time trackingNoYes
Works without cellular dataYesNo
Works indoorsYesNo*
Battery life1+ yearWeeks to 1+ year
Water resistanceSplash and water resistantVaries, up to fully waterproof
Custom notifications/alertsNoYes
Ideal for petsNoSome models
Average price$29$50-$200

*Some GPS trackers work indoors using WiFi positioning or Bluetooth enhancement

As shown in the table, GPS trackers tend to offer more robust features, versatility and range – but for a higher price. AirTags excel at the basics for a budget price point.

Real World Use Cases: When to Choose AirTag vs GPS Tracker

Whether an AirTag or GPS tracker is better suited depends significantly on your intended use case.

Here are some common scenarios and expert recommendations for when an AirTag or GPS tracker is the best choice.

AirTag Use Cases

Airtag Use Cases
  • Keys – The compact AirTag is perfect for attaching to a key ring to help find lost keys. Its tapping features help you locate keys nearby.
  • Wallets and bags – Slip an AirTag in a wallet or purse to keep tabs on frequently lost items. Knowing the last place you used them helps retrace your steps.
  • Luggage – Discreetly track your checked bags on trips in case they get lost by the airline. Monitor them through the Find My network.
  • Belongings – Stick AirTags on TV remotes, cameras, laptops and more. You can check their last known location if misplaced at home.
  • Items that stay close – AirTags work great for items that are always with you or stay within Bluetooth range. Their limited range makes them less ideal for tracking things farther away.

GPS Tracker Use Cases

  • Cars – Hide a real-time GPS tracker on a vehicle to recover it if stolen. Advanced trackers have GPS and accelerometers to detect towing or movement. See the cheapest ways to GPS track a car for budget-friendly options.
  • Valuables – Conceal a GPS tracker in a suitcase, safe, or collectible to track across states or countries. Monitor remotely even when far away.
  • Pets – Attach a pet-safe GPS collar or tracker to monitor dogs, cats, elderly pets who may wander off. See their location and get alerts if they leave a safe zone. Check out the best GPS trackers for cats and other pets.
  • Children – Keep tabs on kids’ location with a GPS tracker watch or clip. Features like geofencing and speed alerts help ensure their safety.
  • Elderly – GPS trackers can provide extra peace of mind for families with elderly loved ones at risk of getting lost. Discover the best GPS trackers for the elderly with features like fall detection and two-way calling.
  • Supplies – Use a heavy-duty, waterproof GPS tracker in shipments, crates, trailers and containers across long distances.
  • Outdoor gear – Strap real-time GPS units on backpacks, snowmobiles, ATVs and other equipment for backcountry adventures.
  • Fleet vehicles – Outfit company cars, trucks, heavy machinery with GPS to monitor locations, routes, speed, unauthorized usage and more.
  • High value assets – Track vehicles, boats, equipment anywhere globally with satellite GPS tracking for added security and logistics monitoring.

As you can see, GPS trackers are ideal for outdoor use cases where unlimited range, real-time tracking and location history are important.

AirTag vs GPS Tracker: Price Considerations

One of the main purchasing considerations is cost, so let’s break down what to expect:

There are a wide variety of GPS trackers at different price points:

  • Basic GPS trackers – $25-$80
  • Advanced real-time trackers – $80-$150
  • Premium trackers with extensive features – $150-$200+

Other costs to factor in:

  • AirTags require an iPhone or other Apple device
  • Most GPS trackers need a paid cellular data plan ($5-$20/month)
  • Advanced tracker features like crash detection may increase service fees
  • Some GPS trackers have no monthly fees, but may have lower location accuracy or update frequency

AirTags are affordable, but have limited functionality. GPS trackers cost more upfront but provide robust tracking features. Focus first on matching the tracker to your use case rather than cost alone.

Expert Tips for Choosing AirTag vs GPS Tracker

When deciding between an AirTag vs GPS tracker, keep the following expert tips in mind:

  • AirTags excel at tracking items close by, especially when combined with Precision Finding. Choose a GPS tracker for out of range use cases.
  • If real-time location monitoring is essential, a GPS tracker is the only option. AirTags only provide last known locations.
  • AirTags are not designed for tracking pets – opt for a bite-proof, waterproof GPS pet tracker like the Halo collar instead to avoid injury.
  • For indoor tracking of small items like wallets or remote controls, an AirTag is likely the better choice.
  • Install Apple’s Tracker Detect app to get notified if an unknown AirTag is moving with you and avoid unwanted tracking.
  • Purchase a GPS tracker bundle that includes the hardware, apps, SIM card and service plan for straightforward setup.
  • Ensure the GPS tracker you choose matches the environment it will be used in – waterproof, rugged and extreme models are available.
  • Opt for a GPS tracker with multiple locating options (cell towers, WiFi, Bluetooth) for better coverage across different locations.
  • When choosing a pet GPS tracker, read Whistle and Fi collar reviews to compare features.
  • For setup complexity, check out this SportDog fence review.
  • Compare models like Wagz vs Halo when selecting the right pet GPS tracker.
  • See Garmin vs SportDog and SportDog vs Dogtra for feature comparisons.

Key Takeaways

  • AirTags use Bluetooth and crowdsourced location, while GPS trackers use cellular data and satellites for real-time tracking.
  • AirTags have limited range but long battery life. GPS trackers have unlimited range but shorter battery.
  • AirTags are ideal for tracking belongings that stay close by. GPS trackers excel at monitoring pets, vehicles, kids and cargo on the move.
  • AirTags are more affordable, compact and easier to use. GPS trackers are more robust, versatile and expensive.
  • For pet tracking, use a GPS collar like Whistle or Fi designed for animals, not an AirTag. Compare features across brands.
  • Install Apple’s Tracker Detect app as a safety measure against AirTag stalking.
  • Purchase a GPS tracker bundle with service for simplest setup. Pick based on intended use and environment.

FAQs

Can AirTags be used to track pets? No, AirTags are not designed for pets and can be a choking hazard. It’s best to use a dedicated pet GPS tracker that is bite-proof and attaches safely to a collar.

Do GPS trackers work if there’s no cell service? Most GPS trackers require cell service to transmit location data. However, some high-end models can store GPS data offline and upload it once back in cellular range.

What’s the battery life of AirTags vs GPS trackers? AirTags have a replaceable battery lasting about 1 year. GPS tracker battery life varies from a few weeks to over a year depending on the model and location update frequency.

How much do AirTags and GPS trackers cost? AirTags cost $29 each or $99 for a 4 pack. GPS tracker prices range from under $50 for basic models up to $200+ for advanced units with more features. GPS trackers also require a monthly cellular data subscription.

Are AirTags precise enough to find lost items? For nearby items, AirTags can provide precision finding within inches using Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband. For distant items, AirTags show the last known general location based on the Find My network.

What’s the range of AirTags compared to GPS? AirTags rely on nearby Apple devices, typically within 30-100 ft for Precision Finding. GPS trackers work anywhere with cell service for unlimited range.

Can AirTags or GPS trackers be used to stalk someone? Any tracking device could potentially be misused to follow someone’s location. Apple has built-in AirTag anti-stalking measures like audible alerts and unknown AirTag detection in the Tracker Detect app. Only use GPS trackers and AirTags to keep tabs on your own belongings or family members with their full knowledge and consent.

What accessories are available for AirTags and GPS trackers? AirTags have limited accessory options like keychains, loops, and adhesive mounts. GPS trackers offer a wider variety of accessories like rugged cases, pet collars, lanyards, carabiners, and magnetic or screwed vehicle mounts for different uses.

Which GPS pet trackers are recommended by experts? Leading GPS pet trackers include the Whistle GO Explore, Fi Series 2, Tractive GPS Dog Tracker, and Jiobit Location Monitor. Compare their specific features to find the best fit for your pet’s needs.

How do I choose the best GPS tracker for my needs? Consider your primary tracking goals, desired features, and budget. Evaluate the tracker’s size, battery life, durability, and subscription costs. Read expert reviews and compare top brands and models. Pick a GPS tracker that meets your specific use case, whether it’s for vehicles, valuables, pets or family safety.

Conclusion

Choosing between an AirTag and GPS tracker ultimately depends on your specific tracking needs. AirTags are ideal for keeping tabs on everyday belongings around the house or checking bags while traveling. GPS trackers provide more robust features for tracking people, pets and assets in real-time over longer distances.

Consider your primary use cases, desired features, and budget when making a decision. Consult expert reviews for guidance on top brands and models.

Most importantly, incorporate privacy safeguards like Tracker Detect to prevent unwanted tracking. With the right device and precautions, AirTags and GPS trackers provide valuable peace of mind for securing what matters most.

When it comes to choosing between an AirTag and GPS tracker, here’s my expert advice:

For locating keys, wallets, or nearby items, pick an AirTag. Its Precision Finding, low cost, and seamless Find My integration make it perfect for tracking essentials around the home or office.

To monitor people, pets, or property on the move, choose a GPS tracker. Its real-time updates, unlimited range, and customized alerts enable you to keep tabs on who and what matters most, even when separated by distance. Compare the top GPS tracker picks for cats, dogs, elderly, kids, and vehicles to find your ideal match.

By carefully evaluating your tracking priorities and selecting a device suited to your lifestyle, you’ll gain greater control, convenience and connection to your most cherished belongings and loved ones. The right tracker is out there – now you have the knowledge to confidently choose.

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