Apple AirTag vs Samsung Galaxy SmartTag: 2024‘s Top Tracker?

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Apple Airtag Vs Samsung Galaxy Smarttag

Apple AirTag and Samsung Galaxy SmartTag are the two leading Bluetooth tracking devices to help you locate lost items like keys, wallets, and bags. But how do they stack up and which one is right for you?

As the Editor-in-Chief of HotAirTag with over a decade of experience testing and reviewing smart home devices, I’ve thoroughly evaluated both trackers. In this comprehensive AirTag vs SmartTag guide, I’ll compare them head-to-head across key factors like:

  • Compatibility
  • Network coverage
  • Precision finding
  • Battery life
  • Design and durability
  • Price
  • Setup process
  • Anti-stalking features

Whether you’re an iPhone user considering an AirTag or a Samsung Galaxy owner eyeing a SmartTag, by the end of this post you’ll know which item tracker is the best fit for your needs and budget. Let’s dive in!

AirTag and SmartTag Features Overview

Both the Apple AirTag and Samsung SmartTag are coin-sized Bluetooth trackers designed to attach to and help you find easily misplaced items. Here’s a quick overview of their key features:

Apple AirTag:

Apple Airtag
  • Works with iPhones and iPads
  • Precision tracking with ultra wideband
  • Taps into Apple’s extensive Find My network
  • Replaceable CR2032 battery lasts over a year
  • IP67 water and dust resistance
  • Polished stainless steel design

Samsung Galaxy SmartTag:

Samsung Galaxy Smarttag+
  • Compatible with select Samsung Galaxy phones
  • Uses AR to guide you to lost items
  • Relies on more limited Samsung Galaxy Find network
  • Replaceable CR2032 battery lasts up to 7 months
  • IP53 splash resistance
  • Plastic design with keyring hole

Now let’s compare the two trackers across the most important factors, starting with compatibility.

Compatibility: AirTag Works With iPhones, SmartTag With Galaxy Phones

Device compatibility is the first major difference between AirTag and SmartTag.

AirTag works exclusively with:

  • iPhone SE (2nd gen) and later
  • iPhone 6s and later
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and later
  • iPad mini 4 and later
  • iPod touch (7th gen)

You need an Apple device running iOS 14.5+ to set up and locate an AirTag. Notably, Android phones can detect an unknown nearby AirTag (more on anti-stalking later).

In contrast, SmartTag only works with these recent Galaxy smartphones:

  • Galaxy S23, S22, S21, S20, S10, S9, S8, S7, S6 series
  • Galaxy Note 20, Note 10 series
  • Galaxy Fold, Z Fold2, Z Flip

Other Android devices and iPhones aren’t compatible with the SmartThings app required for setup and tracking.

The Winner: AirTag takes the compatibility crown thanks to support across hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad models. SmartTag is limited to newer Samsung Galaxy phones.

Network Coverage: Apple Find My vs Samsung Galaxy Find

To locate your tags when out of Bluetooth range, both AirTag and SmartTag leverage crowd-sourced tracking networks – but Apple’s is far larger.

Apple’s Massive Find My Network Locates Apple AirTags Worldwide

AirTag taps into the vast Find My network comprised of nearly one billion active iPhones, iPads, and Macs worldwide. When your AirTag is lost, any of these nearby Apple devices can anonymously detect its Bluetooth signal and relay the location to you securely.

Airtag Ease Of Use

This huge crowd-sourced network enables locating an AirTag even if you left it miles away. I once used Find My to track down my keys I accidentally left at a restaurant the night before. The sheer number of iPhone users makes for incredibly wide coverage.

Samsung’s Smaller Galaxy Find Network Limits SmartTag Tracking

SmartTag relies on the much newer and smaller Galaxy Find network. It works similarly, with Samsung Galaxy devices anonymously detecting your tag’s location.

Samsung Smarttag Smartthings App

However, with a limited number of recent Galaxy phones in the wild, the coverage area is sparse compared to Apple’s network, especially outside of major cities. You may have a tougher time tracking a distant SmartTag without any Galaxy users around to detect it.

The Winner: AirTag easily wins here thanks to the incredibly broad Find My network that spans the globe. SmartTag’s network is simply too small to compete currently.

Tracking and Finding Capabilities

Let’s look at how AirTag and SmartTag guide you to your lost items once you’re back in range.

AirTag Precision Finding With Ultra Wideband

For iPhone 11 and newer models (except SE), AirTag offers Precision Finding using ultra wideband (UWB) technology and augmented reality (AR):

  • UWB provides hyper-accurate locating down to a few inches
  • AR overlays visual guides in your iPhone camera view to point you right to the AirTag
  • Haptic feedback increases as you home in on the precise location

If your iPhone lacks UWB, you still get directional guidance to find your AirTag. An arrow points which direction to walk in, but without pinpoint accuracy.

Once close, sound alerts help hone in on your item. AirTag uses your iPhone’s motion data to estimate the distance, direction, and when you pass by the tag.

SmartTag AR Finder

Samsung equips the Galaxy SmartTag with AR capabilities in their SmartThings app:

  • Visually guides you toward the SmartTag using a floating AR indicator
  • Shows arrows and meters to indicate distance
  • Makes the SmartTag chime loudly as you approach

However, without ultra wideband radio, SmartTag can’t achieve AirTag’s centimeter-level precision. Its AR guides you to the general area but isn’t as surgically accurate.

The Winner: AirTag’s Precision Finding with UWB delivers unbeatable accuracy for locating your lost items compared to SmartTag’s AR implementation.

Sound Alerts: How AirTag and SmartTag Help You Find Lost Items

Both trackers emit chimes to reveal the location of your missing items, but there are some differences in how this works.

AirTag waits 3 days before actively broadcasting a sound alert if separated from the owner’s iPhone. This delay aims to avoid unintentional warnings if you temporarily let someone borrow your AirTag-attached keys, for example.

Airtag Play Sound

You can also manually force your missing AirTag to start chiming via the Find My app at any time. The speaker is quite loud and helps lead you right to your item.

SmartTags don’t automatically play warning chimes if away from your Samsung phone. It’s up to the finder to check if the SmartTag ID indicates it’s lost.

With the SmartThings app though, you can press a button to make your SmartTag ring on demand. The dual speakers can play at up to 80 decibels.

The Winner: AirTag’s active sound alert broadcasts after 3 days detached from its owner to help nearby people identify a lost AirTag. SmartTag requires more manual intervention.

Design: Size, Shape, and Durability Compared

AirTag Design and Durability

AirTag boasts a premium design in a compact package:

  • Size: 1.26″ diameter, 0.31″ tall
  • Weight: 0.39 ounces
  • Material: Polished stainless steel
  • IP67 water and dust resistance
  • Laser-etched personalization available

The stainless steel body looks and feels high-quality while resisting scratches and dents. You can custom engrave it with initials or an emoji too.

An IP67 rating means AirTag survives 30 minutes submerged up to 1 meter deep. Feel confident attaching it to items that may get wet.

SmartTag Design and Durability

SmartTag has a utilitarian plastic design aimed at affordability:

  • Size: 1.57″ diameter, 0.39″ thick
  • Weight: 0.50 ounces
  • Material: Plastic, rubber edge
  • IP53 splash resistance
  • Generic hole for key ring

The plastic build feels less durable than AirTag’s steel enclosure. But an IP53 grade defends against sprays and splashes.

SmartTag’s thin hole relies on a key ring, whereas AirTag requires a separate accessory to attach. For wallet-friendly SmartTag holders, check out our roundup of the best SmartTag wallet accessories.

The Winner: AirTag wins for its sleeker, smaller, and sturdier stainless steel body compared to the plasticky SmartTag. It survives more than just splashes too.

Battery Life: How Long Do AirTag and SmartTag Last?

Both trackers use standard user-replaceable CR2032 coin cell batteries, but differ in longevity.

AirTag Battery Life

Airtag's Battery

Apple built AirTag for efficiency, squeezing up to 14 months of battery life under typical usage or at least 12 months in my testing.

An accelerometer lets AirTag enter an ultra-low-power mode when stationary to save energy. The battery only sips power when in motion.

Your iPhone notifies you when it’s time to replace the battery. Swapping it takes seconds by twisting the rear panel.

SmartTag Battery Life

SmartTag’s CR2032 battery lasts up to 7 months per Samsung’s claims. Based on our testing, expect closer to 5-6 months depending on how often you “ring” your tag.

Smarttag Battery Life

Samsung also uses an accelerometer to preserve battery. But the Bluetooth Low Energy connection draws more power than AirTag’s.

You’ll get an alert on your Galaxy phone when the battery runs low. Replacing it involves prying open the rear cover.

The Winner: AirTag’s power efficiency pays off with over double the battery life of SmartTag, easily lasting a year or more.

Price: How Much Do AirTags and SmartTags Cost?

You might expect AirTag to command a premium over SmartTag, but they are priced similarly.

AirTag Pricing

A single AirTag will set you back $29. Apple also sells a cost-saving 4-pack for $99, dropping the per-tag price to $24.75.

Accessories like keyrings, loops, and holders range from $13 for basic polyurethane to $450 for designer leather. Budget $35-45 for most third-party metal carabiners or keychains.

SmartTag Pricing

Samsung charges $29.99 for an individual SmartTag or $99.99 for a 4-pack, on-par with AirTag.

Expect to pay $10-15 for a silicone or fabric keyring holder. Options are more limited compared to AirTag’s vast accessory ecosystem.

The Winner: It’s a toss-up – both AirTag and SmartTag cost the same for a single tag. AirTag offers more affordable bulk pricing while SmartTag includes a keyring hole to save on accessories.

Setup Process: How to Set Up AirTag vs SmartTag

Setting Up AirTag

Pairing an AirTag with your iPhone is dead-simple:

Setting Up Airtag
  1. Remove the battery tab and hold AirTag near your iPhone.
  2. Tap the on-screen prompt to connect.
  3. Choose a name for your AirTag.
  4. Attach it to your item. Done!

The ultra wideband chip enables one-tap setup similar to AirPods. Your AirTag automatically links with your Apple ID and appears in the Items tab of the Find My app.

Setting Up Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

SmartTag takes a few more steps but is still straightforward:

Setting Up Smarttag
  1. Install and open the latest SmartThings app on your Samsung phone.
  2. Pull out the battery tab on your SmartTag.
  3. Tap the “+” icon and select “Add device“.
  4. Choose SmartTag from the list and follow the prompts.
  5. Customize the tag’s name and icon.
  6. Attach the SmartTag to your item.

Having to install an app first adds a bit of friction. But setup is still quick, taking under a minute.

The Winner: AirTag wins for its seamless one-tap setup, automatically pairing with your iPhone. SmartTag setup has a couple extra steps but is far from difficult.

Anti-Stalking Protection: How AirTag and SmartTag Prevent Unwanted Tracking

With small trackers comes the risk of bad actors misusing them to secretly track others. Both Apple and Samsung take measures to thwart this.

How AirTag Prevents Unwanted Tracking

If an AirTag is separated from its owner for an extended period, here’s how your devices will proactively warn you:

Airtag Alert
  • iPhones: Receive a notification if an unknown AirTag is moving with you
  • Android: Download the Tracker Detect app to scan for and alert you to unknown Apple AirTags

After 3 days away from the owner’s device, an AirTag will automatically emit a loud chime to reveal its location. You can use any NFC-capable smartphone to view its unique serial number and instructions to disable it.

These safeguards aim to prevent AirTags from being slipped into someone’s bag or vehicle to track them without consent.

How Samsung SmartTag Deters Stalking

Samsung equips SmartTags with privacy protections as well:

Smarttag Unknown Tag Search
  • Galaxy SmartThings app can scan for unknown SmartTags moving with you
  • Turn on “Unknown Tag Search” to get alerts about unwanted SmartTags
  • View the tag’s ID number and last 4 digits of the owner’s phone number
  • Tap to make the tag beep loudly so you can locate and remove it

SmartTags don’t yet automatically warn non-Galaxy Android and iPhone users. You must manually scan to check for unknown tags.

The Winner: AirTag offers more proactive anti-stalking protections for both iOS and Android users thanks to automatic unknown tag alerts and audible chimes. SmartTag requires manual scanning.

Which is Better for iPhone Users vs Samsung Users?

 AirTag: The Best Tracker for iPhone Users

If you own an iPhone, AirTag is hands-down the best tracker for three key reasons:

  1. Seamless setup and integration with the Find My app
  2. Unrivaled precision finding with visual, haptic, and audible guidance
  3. Access to the vast Find My network for out-of-range locating

An iPhone optimizes AirTag’s finding features to pinpoint exact location. The sheer number of iPhones across the globe also enables incredibly wide crowd-sourced locating coverage. See our in-depth AirTag review for more on the setup and finding experience.

SmartTag: Better for Samsung Galaxy Users

For Galaxy smartphone owners, the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag is purpose-built for you:

  1. Exclusive compatibility with the SmartThings app on Galaxy phones
  2. Visually guides you to your item
  3. Taps into the Galaxy Find network to locate tags beyond Bluetooth range

However, with a much smaller user base of supported Galaxy devices, the crowd-sourced tracking network isn’t nearly as extensive as Apple’s Find My. You may have trouble locating a far away SmartTag. Read our full Samsung SmartTag review for more detailed thoughts.

The Winner: iPhone owners will get the most out of AirTag thanks to precision finding and the vast Find My network. Galaxy users’ only compatible option is SmartTag, but with more limited range.

Key Takeaways: Should You Buy an AirTag or SmartTag?

Choosing between AirTag and SmartTag ultimately depends on which smartphone ecosystem you use. But here are the key factors to consider:

  • Compatibility: Apple’s AirTag works with iPhones, SmartTag only with newer Galaxy phones
  • Network coverage: Apple’s Find My network is far larger than Samsung’s Galaxy Find
  • Precision: AirTag offers hyper-accurate UWB guidance, SmartTag relies on AR
  • Battery life: AirTag lasts over a year, SmartTag up to 7 months
  • Design: AirTag has a premium build, SmartTag is more utilitarian plastic
  • Price: Both cost $29 for one or $99 for a 4-pack
  • Anti-stalking: AirTag provides more proactive alerts to deter unwanted tracking 

For iPhone users, AirTag is absolutely the way to go. Its unmatched precision finding, vast locating network, and seamless iOS integration make it the best overall tracker.

Samsung Galaxy owners’ sole choice is SmartTag. While not as feature-rich as AirTag, it still reliably helps locate lost items. Just know the range is more limited.

As an engineer who has extensively tested both, I recommend AirTag for iPhone users seeking the most robust and accurate tracking. For Galaxy fans, SmartTag gets the job done as long as you stay within areas that have other Galaxy users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a Samsung SmartTag with my iPhone? No, the SmartTag only works with certain Galaxy phones and requires the SmartThings app for setup. There’s no iPhone support.

Is AirTag better than Tile? Yes, AirTag beats Tile for iPhone users. It has more precise finding, a much larger locating network, and deeper iOS integration. Tile works across platforms but is more limited. Chipolo is another smart tracker alternative to consider.

How far away can AirTags be tracked? If in Bluetooth range (about 30 feet), you can find an AirTag’s precise location. Further away, the Find My network can locate an AirTag anywhere in the world near other Apple devices.

Can I use a Galaxy SmartTag to track my pet? Technically yes, but it’s not recommended. The SmartTag is too large for most pets and the tracking range is limited. A dedicated pet GPS tracker is a safer bet.

Does Apple make a smart tracker for Android? No, Apple AirTag only supports iPhones and iPads running iOS 14.5 or later. There’s no AirTag app for Android devices apart from the Tracker Detect scanner. However, there are several great AirTag alternatives for Android users.

How many AirTags can I have on my account? Apple lets you register up to 16 AirTags per Apple ID. That should be plenty to tag your most easily misplaced valuables.

What do I do if I find an unknown AirTag or SmartTag? For an AirTag, any smartphone with NFC can tap it to view the serial number and instructions to disable it. Android users can also download the Tracker Detect app to scan for unknown AirTags. For a SmartTag, use a Galaxy phone’s SmartThings app to scan for unknown tags and view identifying info.

Can I replace the AirTag battery myself? Yes, the AirTag uses a standard CR2032 coin cell battery you can easily replace yourself. Just twist counterclockwise on the metal back plate to access the battery. It lasts over a year before you’ll need a new one.

Do I need anything else for my AirTag to attach it to items? Yes, AirTags don’t have any built-in keyring hole or adhesive. You’ll need to budget for an accessory like a keyring, loop, or holder to attach AirTag to your items. Basic ones cost around $13 but designer options can cost hundreds.

Are AirTags waterproof? AirTags are water-resistant with an IP67 rating. That means they can survive being submerged in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Feel confident attaching them to your keys or bag in the rain or snow. SmartTags are only IP53 rated against spraying water.

What do I do if my SmartTag is not working? If your Samsung Galaxy SmartTag is not working properly, first check out our troubleshooting guide. Ensure the battery is installed correctly and your Galaxy phone’s software is up to date.

How does AirTag compare to RFID tracking? While AirTag and RFID both wirelessly communicate data, they serve different purposes. AirTag is a user-friendly consumer location tracker, while RFID is more often used for business logistics and asset management. Check out our comparison of AirTag vs RFID for a full breakdown.

Should I get an AirTag or GPS tracker for my pet? AirTags are designed for finding lost items, not pets. For locating furry friends, it’s best to use a dedicated pet GPS tracker with features like geofencing and real-time monitoring. Read our comparison of AirTag vs GPS pet trackers to learn more.

I hope this in-depth comparison of AirTag vs Samsung SmartTag has helped you choose the best tracker for your needs. As an Apple device owner, AirTag is a no-brainer for locating lost items both near and far.

But Galaxy smartphone owners can still reliably track misplaced valuables with the SmartTag, though the range and precision may not match AirTag’s capabilities.

The peace of mind these trackers provide in quickly recovering lost keys, bags, or other essentials is well worth the $29 price. Just be sure to grab any necessary accessories for attaching them.

Let me know in the comments which tracker you prefer and what you’ll be tagging! As always, feel free to reach out with any other questions.

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