When Apple launched the AirTag at the end of last month, the question rose among the cycling community as to whether this sleek, coin-sized device could outperform existing anti-theft GPS systems for bicycles.
But how does the AirTag really compare to the devices already on the market? And, more specifically, how does it compare to our own MODMO tracking system?
The first thing to note is that the AirTag wasn’t built for bicycles in particular.
Priced at $29 USD per piece and weighing just over ten grams, it is essentially an iPhone accessory marketed at the broader Apple community that can be attached to anything you want to track.
It’s meant to keep your keys safe, lead you to your car when you can’t remember where you’ve parked, help you find your wallet when you leave it “somewhere safe” and forget where that safe place is, etc. Apple doesn’t market it as an anti-theft device.
So why the interest in using it for anti-theft? Well there is no denying the power of the Apple brand - sleek, high performance, expensive, etc. We may not want to admit it but those words and the lifestyle they represent have their impact.
And then there is the price - the AirTag actually costs less than the average U-Lock and certainly a lot less than more established bicycle GPS trackers.
But could it really perform as an anti-theft tracker for cyclists?
If you’re a MODMO fan you will know that we have developed our own powerful, in-built tracking system hidden inside the Saigon. Our tech is in league with some of the e-bike industry’s leading brands and we’re constantly evolving what we do, so we couldn’t wait to take a proper look at the AirTag and see how we compare.
Here’s what we found...
MODMO Anti-Theft vs Apple AirTag
1. “Find My Network” vs Pioneering U-Blox Technology
The AirTag uses Apple’s Find My network to send its location to your phone. This means it uploads information anytime there is another Apple device nearby (but with end-to-end encryption so your data is kept private).
This might sound cool but it actually has its limits - what if you’re in a location where there are fewer people and therefore fewer phones? Or where everyone is in "club Android"? You can only track your bike if there are people with Apple devices around it.
By contrast, with MODMO’s app you can track your bike whether you’re near it or not (and no matter what OS your phone uses) as long as the bike has cellular reception, and because our system uses 4G/2G with U-Blox’s NINA-B111 bluetooth module, it’s unlikely that you would be in a situation where it does not.
2. Anti-Stalker Alert vs Strong and Silent
Then there is the AirTag’s anti-stalker feature. This is actually a great feature if you're not using the device to protect against theft. Apple was quite rightfully concerned about the potential for people to use AirTags to harass or follow others, so it included some functions whereby the AirTag will alert those around it as to its presence after a certain amount of time.
If the AirTag spends too much time away from its owner's phone and close to an Apple device that it is not paired with, that device will realise it is there. Added to this, if the AirTag is still not found after a certain period of time, it will let out a physical noise to draw attention to itself. This is obviously counter-productive to tracking a thief - your spyware is literally giving the thief a heads up that you’re onto them.
But our GPS is completely silent - if you didn't know about our bike, you may not even know it was there.
Because the Saigon is highly connected, with wireless communication options spanning from Cellular/Bluetooth to GNSS location information, our GPS device can be totally integrated and hidden inside the bike. And it doesn’t send out any alerts to anyone but the owner of the phone paired to the bike via our app!
This is something that only a few e-bike companies in the industry have managed to do, and so far none have reached the 4G range and stability that we offer or have such a comprehensive and accessible array of anti-theft features.
3. We offer Safe-Zoning, the AirTag Does Not
One thing the AirTag lacks is a way to let you know the moment your bike is moved, which means you may not know it is stolen until you check your tracker by which time it could be anywhere.
But our anti-theft app has this covered with its “lock” function. When you have paired your app with your Saigon, just tap “lock” and the MODMO software will set up a five-meter digital perimeter around the e-bike. If the e-bike moves outside the perimeter, it will send you a notification and you can track the e-bike’s GPS location in-app. The feature runs using motion sensors that operate like a power switch; when you move the bike, the “switch” turns on, and when you park it, and it remains still, the “switch” turns off.
The MODMO app
4. MODMO offers Real-time tracking
Thanks to U-Blox’s LARA-R211 cellular module connectivity, your Saigon’s real-time location can be uploaded to a cloud server and retrieved from a mobile phone, so you are not only alerted when the bike is moved out of your designated safe zone, but you can follow where it goes next.
The AirTag doesn't have this function.
5. iPhone vs Android?
This is fairly obvious - Apple’s tech is for Apple users, so it’s pretty useless if you use a phone with a different OS. Our app is built for both iOS and Android so it doesn’t matter which side you belong to, you will be able to track your bike.
6. Battery life
One of the pros about the AirTag is its long battery life when compared to other GPS systems - over a year on one battery - but our system doesn’t even require a battery. It is powered off the main e-bike battery in your Saigon which charges in up to 4hrs and can last for up to 200km depending on which of our batteries you have installed.
7. Precision locating
This is one area in which the AirTag out-performs our system. The AirTag will send a precise location to your phone but this isn’t something we have in our app yet. We currently ask users to go to google maps. So this is something we’ve now added to our constantly evolving list of cool things to implement at MODMO. You’d better be ready for what we have in the pipeline!
The Takeaway? Simple
So what’s the takeaway? Well there is no denying that the AirTag is a cutting-edge and down right beautiful piece of tech. We admire Apple for how it is constantly innovating and pushing boundaries while maintaining the same vision and high standards in technical quality and customer experience - if you want to stop losing your keys or putting your phone in the fridge, definitely get yourself an AirTag.
But this particular device might not be the best option for keeping your bicycle safe. If that's what you're after, there are better options, both accessories and integrated systems like ours.
And as the makers of one of the sexiest urban e-bikes on the market, we are proud to bring you a bicycle that is inherently and comprehensively theft-safe, and gently suggest that you go check it out here...