Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag2 is just as good as an Apple AirTag, if not better
Rita El Khoury / Android AuthorityEver since I was a kid leaving for school, my mom would repeat to me, “your raincoat, your backpack, your water bottle, and you!” I grew up with this habit of double-checking I had everything on me before leaving home or school, but still, that didn’t stop me from losing or mistakenly leaving an item or two behind over the years. Now that I hop around Paris and nearby towns and countries a bit more, the dread of losing luggage, keys, or anything important is even higher.An Apple AirTag seems like the perfect solution, except I don’t use an iPhone as my daily driver. So I’ve looked at AirTag alternatives for Android users and came away dubious. If anything, I’m really excited about Google’s upcoming Find My Device network and trackers — whenever they launch. In the meantime, Samsung has the next best thing: the Galaxy SmartTag 2.
Do you use a Bluetooth tracker?36 votesYes, an AirTag.17%Yes, a Tile, Chipolo, SmartTag, etc.36%No.47%You need a Samsung Galaxy smartphoneRita El Khoury / Android AuthorityThe SmartTag 2 only works with Samsung phones running Android 9.0 and above. It not only requires SmartThings as a companion app, but the app has to be specifically installed on a Samsung phone. This already excludes more than half of Android’s worldwide users from ever using the tracker.It also only uses other Samsung devices as part of its SmartThings Find tracking network, which obviously means a less potent network than Google’s Android-wide Find My Device. (And it won’t be compatible with it once Google launches it.) Depending on which country you live in and whether Samsung or Apple are more popular there, it might also mean a smaller network than Apple’s Find My ecosystem.With that clarification out of the way, I was curious to see how well Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag 2 and its SmartThings Find network work in Paris. My experience, comparing the SmartTag 2 to the Apple AirTag and a Tile Pro, has opened my eyes to how crucial a large Bluetooth network is and how few features Apple has implemented in its AirTag.
How does the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2 work?The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2 is a Bluetooth tracking device designed to help users locate keys, wallets, bags, and even pets. You attach the tag to the item you want to track, pair the tag to your Samsung Galaxy smartphone or tablet, and set it up in the SmartThings app. If the item is within Bluetooth range, you can ring it to find it or use the “Search Nearby” feature to get directions (left, right, up, down, forward, backward) to it. When the item is far away, the SmartTag can anonymously communicate its location through other Samsung Galaxy devices that are part of the SmartThings Find network, helping you find your lost possession. The SmartTag 2 uses a replaceable coin-cell battery for power and lasts 500 to 700 days of use on one battery.
Is the Samsung SmartTag 2 good at finding nearby objects?
When my phone is within Bluetooth range of the SmartTag 2, I can ring it, but I can also use the tracker’s built-in Bluetooth and Ultra WideBand (UWB) to navigate to it. Arrows on the display point me in the right direction, or I can use the Augmented Reality mode with the camera for a bit more precision, including height (up or down) directions. And for a bit more technological oomph. This worked very well and very reliably around my apartment. Not once did it fail.
The SmartTag 2 has great range and precision when finding your lost keys or wallet at home.
The AirTag was almost as good, albeit without the AR mode or up/down directions and with a few minor drawbacks. Samsung’s tracker was a bit more precise in its directions and had a much better range, while Apple’s arrows were sometimes off by about 10° or 15° from the tracker’s real position. Plus, the AirTag’s range is only about 10 meters, after which my iPhone no longer sees it. The Galaxy SmartTag 2 can stay connected at a theoretical 120-meter distance, but in my experience, with walls and obstacles, that was about 30 meters tops. The Tile Pro lacks UWB, so all I could do was ring it and rely on my hearing to find it.
AirTag nearby findSmartTag 2 nearby findSmartTag 2 augmented reality (with height)Can the Samsung SmartTag 2 locate lost objects?Rita El Khoury / Android AuthorityThis was the biggest question. Apple’s AirTag reputation is built around its massive network of devices that act as location nodes whenever your tracker is not connected to your phone. So I sent all three trackers with my husband during a workday (he knew it, I’m not a creep) and kept an eye on his location at random moments. He has a Pixel 7 Pro, so his own phone could play no role in keeping any of the trackers updated.The Tile Pro only located him twice, once in the morning, and once when he was about to head back home in the evening. Now, obviously, this will vary depending on Tile’s popularity where you live, but the gist is it’s not a universally reliable network for finding lost items.
Apple might have a better network for finding lost items, but Samsung isn’t that far behind. And it has location history to boot.
Samsung and Apple were surprisingly neck-in-neck the entire day. They both kept his location frequently updated, with the AirTag having a minor leg up. It kept refreshing every one to two minutes, whereas the Galaxy SmartTag 2 refreshed every two to three minutes on average. Not a groundbreaking difference, but a testament to the strength and ubiquity of both networks, especially Apple’s Find My.
AirTag remote location trackingSmartTag 2 remote location tracking
Where Samsung won, by a mile, is with location history. Apple doesn’t keep tabs on that, so you can only see where your lost tag is right now (or its last known location). With Samsung, you can see all of the tag’s movements across various days. So you can really track where you lost it, where it’s been, and maybe guess where it’s going next.
SmartTag 2 location historyMore SmartTag 2 location history
Let’s summarize my findings like this:
If I were in the middle of the woods, I’d want the 120m range of the Galaxy SmartTag 2.
If I lived in a small, iPhone-dominated town, I’d want the ubiquity of the Apple network.
If I were in a low-income area, I’d bet on cheap Samsung phones to help me find my items.
If I mostly moved around dense and popular zones, both should work.
Samsung SmartTag 2 vs Apple AirTag
It’s highly unlikely that any buyer would be comparing these two trackers; the choice was already made for you the moment you bought your phone. Have an iPhone? Get an AirTag. Have a Galaxy phone? Get a SmartTag 2. There’s no agonizing over the decision there.But we tech folks should still compare these two Bluetooth trackers — for scientific purposes. Below, you’ll find a quick specs rundown of each one. Apple’s offering is clearly smaller, but you’ll need a case and hook to attach it to most objects. It has a more limited range, a shorter advertised battery life (and no battery-saver mode), and no physical buttons.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Apple AirTagBatterySamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2CR2032Apple AirTagCR2032Battery lifeSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2500 days (700 days with Battery Saver Mode enabled)Apple AirTagMore than 365 daysIP ratingSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2IP67Apple AirTagIP67ConnectivitySamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Bluetooth Low Energy v5.3 + UWBApple AirTagBluetooth Low Energy + UWBBluetooth rangeSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2120mApple AirTag10mDimensionsSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 228.8 x 52.44 x 8 mm13.75gApple AirTag31.9 x 31.9 x 8 mm11gCompatibilitySamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Samsung phones running Android 9.0 and aboveApple AirTagApple iPhones running iOS 14.5 and aboveKeyring hookSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Built-inApple AirTagOnly with separately-purchased keyring holderOtherSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Physical button (Stop ringing, find your phone, control your smart home)Apple AirTag-Rita El Khoury / Android AuthorityBut more importantly, I want to highlight the disparity in features between the two. I love all the extra functions Samsung has managed to offer. Customizable ringtones, different ring volumes, and location history are excellent additions. So is the built-in keyring hook and the button that lets you ring your phone from the tracker, turn off the ringing when you find the tracker, or kickstart a smart home routine.
AirTag optionsSmartTag 2 optionsMore SmartTag 2 options
I set up the SmartTag 2 so that a single press would turn on my Nanoleaf Canvas smart lights and now, each time I get home, I just press the button and internally whisper “Lumos!” A press-and-hold turns them off if I want. If you’re more involved in the SmartThings ecosystem, you can attribute full-blown routines with much more complex actions to the button.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Apple AirTagNearby findSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Yes, UWB + ARApple AirTagYes, UWBRemote findSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Yes (Samsung SmartThings Find network)Apple AirTagYes (Apple Find My network)Notify when foundSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagYesLocation historySamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagNoEncrypted locationSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Yes (enabled manually)Apple AirTagYes (by default)Left behind alertsSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Yes + safe placeApple AirTagYes + safe placeShare with other usersSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagYesRing phone from trackerSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagNoCustomizable ringtonesSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagNoCustomizable volumeSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2YesApple AirTagNoUnknown tracker alertSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Yes (enabled manually, Samsung SmartThings users only)Apple AirTagYes (enabled by default, iOS and Android devices)OtherSamsung Galaxy SmartTag 2Button for smart home automationsApple AirTag-
By contrast, the two factors working in Apple’s favor are the out-of-the-box location encryption, which I had to manually enable on the SmartTag 2, and the fact that the AirTag shares unknown tracker notifications across iOS and Android. This won’t technically matter to you as the owner of the tracker, but as a decent human being, I’d want the tracker that I own to not be used for or associated with creepy stalking. Only Samsung SmartThings users who activate unknown tracker alerts can know if an unattached SmartTag 2 is following them, while the Apple AirTag will alert all iPhone and Android users.
How to enable location encryption on the Samsung SmartTag 2?Open the SmartThings app, go to the Life tab, tap on Find > ⋮ (top right) > Settings > Encrypt offline location. Set up a PIN and turn on the encrypted location for your devices.
How to enable unknown tag detection on Samsung phones?Open the SmartThings app, go to the Life tab, tap on Find > ⋮ (top right) > Settings > Unknown tag detection and turn on Unknown tag alerts. Keep in mind that this only lets you know if a Samsung SmartTag (or trackers compatible with SmartThings Find) is following you.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag 2?Rita El Khoury / Android AuthorityOverall, if you have a Samsung phone and you know that Galaxy phones are popular around you, you can’t go wrong with this $30 Galaxy SmartTag 2.Samsung has an excellent proposition on its hands here. The SmartTag 2 works just as well for finding misplaced nearby objects as it does for remote tracking of lost items. And the Samsung SmartThings Find network seems pretty solid and ubiquitous, especially in big cities and towns. In smaller and less populous areas, you might have to see how popular Samsung’s Galaxy line-up is to get an idea of how precise and efficient the SmartTag 2 would be as a lost-item tracker.In all likelihood, though, you’re better off with the SmartTag 2 than a Tile (Mate or Pro) or Chipolo because there will certainly be more Samsung phones around you than Tiles or Chipolos. The only reason to consider those options, in my opinion, is if you’re a non-Galaxy Android user and can’t wait for Google’s Find My trackers to launch.And that’s the rub. The ghost of Google’s own Find My Device network looms and I’m afraid that once that launches, Samsung’s inevitably smaller reach will be to its detriment. By definition, there are more Android phones than there are Samsung Galaxy phones, so Google should have the upper leg. We don’t know what extra features Google’s trackers will have, though, so Samsung might still pull ahead in usability when all is said and done.
Samsung SmartTag2Samsung SmartTag2Easy setup • Long battery life • Water-resistant.
Las Vegas News Magazine