Apple recently jumped into the thing-tracking market with the AirTag, a small coin cell battery-powered Bluetooth device that you can attach to your stuff and ping with your smartphone. The device started shipping Friday, so of course, gadget teardown site iFixit has gotten a hold of one and ripped it apart—and then took a power drill to it?!
Like with most Apple products, it looks like some serious engineering went into the $29 tracker. The device is barely larger than the user-replaceable CR2032 battery that powers it, putting competing devices like the Tile and Samsung Galaxy SmartTags to shame with their comparative bulk. Inside, a single circuit board uses a unique donut-shaped design that crams all the components into a ring under the battery.
The hole in the middle of the circuit board lets Apple pack in a surprisingly huge voice coil speaker. The speaker is just for playing ringtones so you can find your AirTagged thing when you lose it, but apparently, the ringtones will be super-high quality. For comparison, the Tile and Samsung trackers both use cheap little piezoelectric speakers for ringtone playback, which iFixit rightfully points out would be right at home in a “McDonald’s Happy Meal toy.” This speaker is just for acoustic location, so anything that will make a shrill noise will work—Apple is just being extra here.
The other very Apple-like quality of the AirTag is that it almost seems designed to sell accessories. The most popular use for these trackers is to help find your car keys, but out of the box, there is no way to attach a keychain to an AirTag. Instead, Apple has enabled a wide ecosystem of AirTag cases ranging from a $13 keyring holder to a $449 (yes, that’s four-hundred-forty-nine dollars) Hermes’ luggage tag.
iFixit’s solution to the much-demanded keyring hole is—what else—a power drill! The teardown experts found some suitable dead space inside the AirTag that somehow isn’t blocked by either the battery, speaker, or circuit board, and after some careful drilling, iFixit’s AirTag now has a keychain hole with the least possible bulk. “The AirTag survived the operation like a champ and works as if nothing happened,” the site says. iFixit went on to note that the sound profile “didn’t seem to change much,” but the IP67 dust and water resistance rating is now greatly compromised.
The site has helpfully marked out the safe-to-drill areas if you want to try this at home, with the understanding that you might brick your $29 tracker if you mess the procedure up. Apple sells the AirTags in a $99 four-pack if you want some practice.