AirTag vs Milwaukee Tick: Which is Best for Finding Lost Tools?

March 6, 2024

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Losing tools on a jobsite is a huge headache for contractors and tradespeople. Tool theft alone costs the construction industry over $1 billion annually. Even when tools aren’t stolen, wasting time searching for misplaced equipment hurts productivity and profits.

That’s why Bluetooth tracking tags have become a must-have for many pros. But with new products like Apple AirTag entering the market, which option is best for keeping tabs on your gear?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the leading tool trackers—AirTag and Milwaukee Tick—to help you decide:

  • What is Bluetooth tracking and how does it work?
  • AirTag vs Tick: Key feature comparison
  • When to use AirTag vs Tick trackers
  • Tips for selecting and implementing a tracking system
  • FAQ on Bluetooth trackers for tools

Follow along for everything you need to know to pick the right tracker and take control of your tool inventory.

How Bluetooth Tracking Works for Lost Tools

Bluetooth tracking tags allow you to locate missing tools, equipment, and other valuables using wireless technology. Here’s a quick rundown of how they work:

  • A small Bluetooth transmitter is attached to the item you want to track. This is called a tag or tracker.
  • When the item goes missing, you use a smartphone app to make the tag emit a Bluetooth signal.
  • Nearby smartphones detect the signal. Their locations are anonymously sent to the app company’s servers.
  • The app uses the crowd-sourced location data to show where the tag—and your item—was last seen on a map.
  • As you get close, the tracker signal gets stronger, helping pinpoint your gear. Newer iPhones with ultra-wideband chips provide precise direction and distance.

This tracking network relies on a widespread user base running the app in the background. The more people with the app installed in an area, the better the coverage.

Bluetooth trackers only work at short range, usually around 100 feet. That limits their usefulness for recovering stolen tools that have left the job site. But they’re extremely handy for finding misplaced items nearby.

Now let’s see how the two most popular options for pros—AirTag and Milwaukee Tick—stack up.

AirTag vs Tick: Key Feature Comparison

AirTag Overview

Apple Airtag

AirTag is Apple’s Bluetooth tracker designed to find lost items using the Find My app. It was released in April 2021.

The key advantages of AirTag include:

  • Huge existing user base – Over 1 billion active iPhones worldwide
  • Precision Finding – Newer iPhones can provide exact distance and direction to AirTag when in range
  • User-replaceable battery – CR2032 lasts over 1 year
  • Sleek, compact design – 1.26 inches wide by 0.31 inches tall allows for creative AirTag mounting options like necklacesearrings, and shoe inserts.
  • Wide range of accessories – Keychains, straps, holders. Attach almost anywhere.
  • Affordable price$29 individually, $99 for four pack makes widescale deployment feasible. AirTag wallet finders provide an inexpensive way to safeguard valuables.

However, AirTag lacks ruggedness and has limited attachment options out of the box. It’s not water or dust resistant and the smooth design doesn’t lend itself to sticking on tools.

Shop AirTag on Amazon

Milwaukee Tick Overview

Milwaukee Tick

Milwaukee Tick is a Bluetooth tracker designed specifically for tools and equipment. It was released in 2017.

The Tick’s advantages include:

  • Made for trades – Durable, weatherproof casing survives job site abuse
  • Attach anywhere – Strong adhesive, screws, or straps stick to anything
  • Long battery life – Lasts over 1 year on single replaceable CR2032
  • Tool tracking focus – Integrates with Milwaukee’s One-Key app for inventory management
  • Improved range – 100+ foot Bluetooth range for tracking down misplaced gear
  • Tool brand agnostic – Can track any brand, but works best with Milwaukee One-Key enabled tools

The main downsides are convoluted setup, limited compatibility, and higher cost. It only works with the Milwaukee app and has a clunky pairing process.

Shop Milwaukee Tick on Amazon

When to Use AirTag vs Tick Trackers

With an understanding of each tracker’s capabilities, when should you use AirTag versus Tick?

AirTag is ideal for:

  • General purpose tracking of smaller assets – Keys, bags, laptops, etc.
  • Finding highly stolen items – Better recovery odds thanks to massive Find My network. Airtags on carsbikes, and drones have higher theft recovery rates.
  • iPhone owners who want simple setup
  • Situations where precise location is needed – Pinpoint gear using Precision Finding
  • Lower cost tracking of multiple items
Airtag Ease Of Use

Milwaukee Tick excels at:

  • Tracking tools and equipment – Durable for harsh conditions and secure attachment
  • Inventory management – Integration with One-Key app provides detailed tool organization
  • Finding missing gear on job sites – Longer range than AirTag improves on-site locates
  • Avoiding setup hassles – NFC and QR code pairing is easier than AirTag linking
  • Tracking assets without iPhones – Android compatibility
Milwaukee Tick 1

Key Considerations

Here are some other important factors when deciding between AirTag and Tick:

  • What’s your budget per tracker? Tick costs more upfront.
  • What items do you need to track? Tick is better for tools, AirTag for personal items.
  • Do you prioritize durability and attachment? Tick was designed for rugged use.
  • Is iPhone compatibility important? AirTag limited to Apple devices.
  • How large is the local tracking network? More Find My users means better AirTag performance.
  • Will you track on remote job sites? Tick offers better off-grid coverage.
  • How many trackers do you need to deploy? AirTag more affordable at scale.

Tips for Selecting and Implementing a Tracking System

Beyond choosing the right tracking tags, proper setup and usage are key to getting the most out of your investment. Keep these tips in mind:

Pick targets wisely

Don’t waste expensive trackers on low-value consumables. Focus on your most important and commonly misplaced gear. Portable power tools, scopes, radios, and laptops are prime candidates.

Standardize on one platform

Trying to manage multiple hardware and software systems is a headache. Find the option that best fits your needs and roll it out across your entire inventory.

Attach devices securely

The best tracking tag does no good if it gets ripped off and lost with your gear. Use tamper-resistant adhesive, concealed mounting, metal enclosures, or steel wire threading to prevent removal.

Educate your team

Train everyone on using the system properly. Encourage reporting missing tools ASAP before they wander too far. Reward those who return found instruments.

Consider upfront cost vs. long term payoff

Buying enough trackers for all your equipment is a big investment. But weighed against the cumulative cost of constant replacement and lost productivity, it quickly pays dividends.

Combine tracking methods

Use Bluetooth tags for convenience and QR codes/barcodes for redundant identification. RFID inventory control can also complement Bluetooth recovery.

Leveragenetwork effects

The more people running the app in your area, the better it works. Have all employees install the software, even if they aren’t using it directly.

Bluetooth Tracker FAQ

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using AirTag, Tick, and other Bluetooth finders for retrieving lost tools and gear:

Does Bluetooth tracking work if gear is stolen offsite?

Bluetooth trackers rely on proximity to smartphones running the app, so they won’t work if stolen tools are taken far away. However, police can sometimes use tracker pings that occurred before theft to identify the culprit.

What affects Bluetooth signal and tracking range?

Thick walls, metal enclosures, distance, interference from other devices, network congestion, and dead batteries will all reduce a tracker’s signal strength and limit range.

Can you track tools anywhere in the world?

No, Bluetooth tracking is meant for local positioning, not global GPS tracking. The tracker has to be within range of phones running the app to update its location. Widely used platforms like Find My have the best worldwide coverage.

How long does AirTag/Tick battery last? Is it replaceable?

Both use replaceable CR2032 coin cell batteries rated to last over 1 year with typical use. Getting the low battery notification gives ample time to swap in a fresh cell.

Can you track tools without a smartphone?

Usually a phone is required to receive location updates from the tracker and pinpoint gear. However, some tags have built-in speakers that can play a sound to help find items hidden in range.

What steps prevent tracker theft/removal?

Tamper-resistant adhesives, concealed installation, passive RFID tags, serial number etching, steel wire threading, and hidden GPS units help secure trackers. But determined thieves can still remove them.

Do I need an iPhone to use AirTag? What about Tick?

Yes, AirTag only works with Apple devices. Tick is compatible with both iPhone and Android. Tick requires the Milwaukee One-Key app.

What industries and professions benefit most from Bluetooth trackers?

Construction, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, facilities maintenance, IT, aviation, automotive, transportation, medical, security, military, government, retail, rental companies, and more all use trackers to protect valuable assets.

How are tool trackers different from other Bluetooth tags?

Tool trackers are designed to withstand harsh conditions, solidly attach to equipment, and integrate with tool inventory software. They prioritize ruggedness and job site performance over aesthetics.

What are the limitations of Bluetooth tracking?

Limited range, need for widespread user base, potential signal interference, and lack of off-grid location make Bluetooth imperfect for tracking stolen items across long distances or in remote areas.

Can you combine Bluetooth with other tracking technologies?

Yes, Bluetooth can complement tracking methods like GPS, cellular, RFID, WiFi and QR codes. Dual-mode tags that add Bluetooth to devices with other wireless tech are popular.

How does UWB improve AirTag finding ability?

The ultra-wideband chip in new iPhones allows Precision Finding to visually guide you to within inches of an AirTag using direction, distance, and feedback. It greatly improves recovery of nearby items.

Do tool trackers work outside the U.S.?

It depends on the tracker’s global availability and the presence of an adequate tracking network. AirTag works in over 150 countries. Tick functions where Milwaukee One-Key is supported. Some don’t work abroad like the Orbit tracker.

Key Takeaways

  • Bluetooth tracking tags use smartphone crowd-sourcing to locate lost and misplaced items when in range. They excel at finding gear that may be nearby, not across vast distances.
  • AirTag provides affordable, high-tech item recovery for Apple users. But the design lacks ruggedness and attachment options suited for tools.
  • Milwaukee Tick was purpose-built for securely attaching to tools and handling abuse. But it has limited compatibility and a clunky setup process.
  • Consider your specific needs, budget, and existing infrastructure when picking the right platform. Combine approaches for the best protection.
  • Proper mounting, employee education, inventory integration, and sufficient network density ensure you reap maximum value from tagging gear.


Losing tools and equipment cuts into profits, delays projects, and hurts labor productivity. Investing in an effective Bluetooth tracking system pays for itself by reducing these inefficiencies.

For general tracking of personal items, Apple AirTag is a cost-effective solution with advanced finding features if you’re in the iPhone ecosystem. To regain control of your professional tool inventory, Milwaukee Tick delivers the durability, attachments, and recovery range needed for the job site.

Whichever tracker you pick, following best practices for implementation will help ensure you leverage the solution to its full potential. With the ability to remotely locate misplaced gear in range, Bluetooth trackers provide vital productivity and security for today’s tool users.