FAQ: Can You Use Apple’s AirTags with Older iPhones? Well, Yes.. and No

AirTag Credit: Noah Evans / Twitter
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Apple’s long-rumored AirTag location trackers are finally a reality. Though they are marketed towards all iPhone owners, not everybody’s experience will be the same.

Unfortunately, older iPhone owners won’t be able to access all the gee-whiz features of the location tracker. Below is a discussion of what you can do and what you cannot do with an AirTag if you own an older iPhone.

What’s Missing in Older iPhone Models?

Older iPhone models do not have Apple’s U1 chip, allowing the AirTags to pinpoint a location with precision. The U1 Ultra Wideband (UWB) processor works much like the echo-location system that a bat uses to fly.

The chipset releases rapid burst radio waves and measures how long it takes these waves to travel between compatible devices. This data is then used to calculate the location of a device and is sensitive enough to pinpoint the device within inches.

Sadly, the older iPhone models are not equipped with Apple’s U1 chipset.

The U1 was introduced in 2019 and first debuted in the iPhone 11. Instead of using an Ultra Wideband connection, these older iPhones will connect to an AirTag via Bluetooth.

You Can Still Use Tracking

If you purchased an AirTag and have an older phone, don’t despair. The AirTag will still work with your phone. You can pair it with your phone and use it with the Find My app to locate the tracker. Attach it to your keys, and you’ll be able to find them.

Tracking Is Handled by Apple Maps

Tracking on an older iPhone model will be handled by Apple Maps. You can open the Find My app and select the AirTag you wish to track. Instead of remaining in the Find My app, an older iPhone will be directed to Apple Maps, which will display the route you must take to find your AirTag.

You Lose Precision Tracking

What you lose with an older iPhone is Precision Tracking. Precision tracking is a feature of the AirTags that lets you find them with incredible accuracy.

If you lost your keys in the grocery store parking lot, Precision Tracking will pop-up an arrow and distance to guide you to the exact location where you lost them, down to inches. Without precision tracking, you may only see that they are in the southwest corner of the parking lot.

Which Models Don’t Have a U1 Chip?

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 series are equipped with Apple’s U1 chipset. iPhone models starting with the 2018 iPhone XS and older do not have the U1 processor. Last year’s iPhone SE 2020 also does not have the U1 locator chip.

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