You’ve got to hand it to Apple, it really knows how to energize a healthy product ecosystem. AirTags, the long-rumored Bluetooth location trackers announced during the Spring Loaded event, aren’t just another add-on product like a case for your iPhone.
It’s a core product around which it and third-party companies can make a wealth of accessories, and Apple’s latest piece of tech jewelry. And like a piece of jewelry, you won’t stop at buying just one piece.
A new ecosystem
The iPhone and the Apple Watch have a very healthy product ecosystem built around them, ranging from thousands of different straps, chargers, and even cases. The $29 AirTag is an accessory just like the Apple Watch — in that you need an iPhone for it to work — and has been designed in such a way that it’s ripe for personalization, also just like the Apple Watch.
Apple’s not making any secret about its hopes for the AirTag. Right from the start, you can order one with a free engraving, automatically personalizing it, plus it has a range of cute accessories ready too. Apple makes a leather loop, a leather key ring, and a polyurethane loop too, all in different colors, ready to accept the tiny AirTag and attach it to the possession of your choice. Long-time collaborator Hermés is also on board with its own tags and charms for the AirTag.
Make no mistake, the AirTag may be cheap, small, and relatively inconspicuous, but it’s tech jewelry and made to be seen. Like all jewelry, the costs involved vary wildly, but there will be something for everyone. Like the Apple Watch at the start of its life, the AirTag is all set to be a must-have summer fashion accessory. If we don’t get photos of D-list celebrities’ children with an AirTag around their neck, encased in some kind of necklace, at some point, I will be very surprised.
Prepare to pay up
The $29 entry price for an AirTag makes it look like a reasonably priced Apple product, right? It’s absolutely not, and that price can soon rocket up, mainly because Apple has made the product in a way that forces you to buy an accessory. The AirTag is a solid disc, so unless you’re using it to track something with a pocket into which it can slip, there’s no way to attach it to anything.
I quite like the idea of attaching an AirTag to my car keys and my house keys, for example. This makes a total of four sets of keys, so I’ll need the $99 pack of four AirTags, and the key rings to attach them. The Apple leather tag is $35, so I’ll need four of those. That’s $240, or not far off the price of an Apple Watch SE. Laughably, if I went for the $350 Hermés key ring, the total would be $1,496, or more than a top iPhone 12 Pro Max.
It’s not all like that. Belkin will be one of the first companies to offer accessories for the AirTag. It has made a key ring and a secure strap, both come in different colors, show off the AirTag engraving, and cost a far more reasonable $13 each. Well, I say reasonable, but $13 for a key ring still borders on the extortionate and still makes my total $151 if I want to keep track of all my keys.
But keyrings are only the start of Apple’s accessory master plan.
Accessory companies are already coming up with ideas that will reverse the normal accessory buying process, by which I mean you will see a cool accessory first, which will then prompt you to buy another AirTag. It’s the ultimate “I didn’t know I needed that” situation, and where the AirTag deviates from the Apple Watch and the iPhone, where ownership of the watch drives accessory purchases and not vice versa.
Nomad is one of the first to think differently with its AirTag Glasses Strap. As the name suggests it’s an AirTag holder attached to a strap for your glasses, offering double the protection. They’re not going to fall off your face and onto the ground, and you’re not going to lose them in a coffee shop either. Nomad’s charging $30 for the strap at the moment, but it’ll go up to $40 if you don’t pre-order.
Due to the AirTag’s design, it needs a specially designed holder to be truly useful, and creative brains are almost certainly figuring out ways to attach it to anything and everything already. Moment already has sticky AirTag mounts, for example. If it’s not something that’s nailed down, expect some kind of AirTag holder to be available for it over the next months.
It may all start with the little AirTag disc then, but it won’t stop at a key ring. The more creative accessories that get made, the more AirTags will be purchased to go along with them. That’s before Apple inevitably introduces seasonal colors for the AirTag key rings, or a special Nike edition arrives, and so on, all pushing follow-up purchases to go with the AirTag. This is tech made fashionable, and fashion changes all the time.
The AirTag definitely has its uses, and many of the accessories will be very well designed and made. But you can’t help smile at the audacity of making an accessory that needs an accessory, which we then attach to our accessories. If this wasn’t genius enough, there will be many and varied accessories in the future specifically designed to prompt us to buy the accessory first, and then a new AirTag to go with it.
Round and round we’ll go. The address of Apple’s Campus in Cupertino, California is 1 Infinite Loop, and the AirTag is already well on its way to becoming an infinitely looping product.