The Chipolo ONE Spot has become the first shipping third-party tracking device that uses Apple’s Find My network. The Find My network relays a compatible device’s regularly refreshed encrypted ID via Bluetooth through every nearby iPhone, iPad, and Mac that hasn’t opted out. These relays add location data, enabling a tracker’s owner to find a device with a pinpointed location, just like Apple’s own tracker, the AirTag. (See “Apple’s AirTag Promises to Help You Find Your Keys,” 20 April 2021.)
The ONE Spot works nearly identically to the AirTag; it even costs about the same. Apple offers AirTags with free shipping at $29 for one and $99 for a four-pack; engraving is optional and free. The Chipolo ONE Spot costs $28 for one and currently $90 for a four-pack; shipping is free for an order of $50 or more.
Because of Apple’s rules regarding participation in the Find My network, the same anti-tracking strategies apply to Chipolo’s products as to Apple’s:
- If a ONE Spot is moving with someone whose device would relay its signal and the owner of the ONE Spot isn’t nearby for a period of time, the owner receives an alert. (See “When You’re Told an AirTag Is Moving with You,” 4 June 2021.)
- If a ONE Spot isn’t near the owner for an extended period of time, currently set by Apple to a random interval between 8 and 24 hours, it will play a sound. (See “13 AirTag Tracking Scenarios,” 15 May 2021.)
The ONE Spot is 1.5 inches (37 mm) in diameter and .25 inches (5 mm) thick. It has an integral button you compress as part of the pairing process in the Find My app on an iPhone or iPad. An AirTag is 1.25 inches (30 mm) in diameter and the thickness at its widest point is also .25 inches. The ONE Spot requires iOS 14.3 or iPadOS 14.3 or later.
As similar as the ONE Spot is to the AirTag, there are a few significant differences:
- Precision: The ONE Spot includes only Bluetooth connectivity. It lacks the ultrawideband (UWB) radio built into AirTags that enables precision short-range finding within about 30 feet (10 m) that’s useful within a house, car, or other space. The lack of UWB support makes the ONE Spot useful for finding objects vaguely nearby or at a distance. It also makes the price tag harder to justify, given that it costs nearly the same as an AirTag. Perhaps that’s not surprising—Chipolo doesn’t have Apple’s massive economies of scale—but it makes a consumer purchasing decision more difficult.
- Loudness: Holy smokes, this thing is loud. Chipolo says it produces a sound that may be as loud as 120 decibels. That’s in the chainsaw/aircraft takeoff range. An AirTag is much quieter. Chipolo says it doesn’t need UWB because “Ultra-wideband technology is used for precision finding at close distances, which the Chipolo ONE Spot already covers with a very loud ring.”
- Key-ring hole: Chipolo included a nifty hole in the ONE Spot so you can thread it onto a key ring. That may improve the ONE Spot’s price comparison, given that you’ll need to buy an accessory to attach an AirTag to a key ring.
- Materials and robustness: While an AirTag is a durable combination of metal and a coated hard plastic, the ONE Spot is entirely uncoated plastic. It has a nice finish, but I expect it to mar easily and not survive the same kinds of crunches an AirTag would.
- Different ID method for finders: While Apple’s AirTags rely on NFC to allow any device with a reader—including iPhones and Android phones—to pull up a Web page associated with a found AirTag, Chipolo’s reliance on Bluetooth forces a more complicated approach. The finder of a ONE Spot must launch Find My on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch; tap the Items button; and then tap Identify Found Item. Apple appears to require Bluetooth-only ID for all third-party items; we’ll see if that remains true. [Bullet added 2021-09-06.]
Beyond those differences, the ONE Spot also channels Henry Ford, letting you pick whatever color you want, as long as it’s black. Oddly, Chipolo’s non-Find My devices come in a few different colors.
Why buy a ONE Spot over an AirTag? If you’d prefer to buy non-Apple gear, want a built-in key-ring hole, or want a tracker that produces a truly astonishing sound when marked as lost, the ONE Spot is your device.