Apple AirTag on the back of a Google Pixel 6
Justin Duino

How do you know whether a stalker has slipped an AirTag into your possessions? If you have an iPhone, you’ll quickly get an alert that an AirTag is following you. If you’re an Android user, the AirTag will just start beeping three days after it begins tracking you. Here’s how to scan for AirTags.

Update, 1/25/22: Apple released an official app for Android that allows you to scan for nearby AirTags. This guide has been updated to include instructions on how to use Apple’s Tracker Detect app.

RELATED: Apple's New Android App Detects Nearby AirTags

How It Works: AirTags Use Bluetooth

Here’s how this works: AirTags use Bluetooth so nearby devices on Apple’s Find My network can spot them. If you use a Bluetooth scanner app—the kind of app that shows nearby Bluetooth devices—you will see any nearby AirTags appear in the list of nearby Bluetooth devices.

It’s a little more complicated than it sounds. The Apple AirTag won’t show up as an “AirTag” in the list, but it will appear as an unnamed Bluetooth device—and it does say it’s an Apple device, so it might be easy to spot the AirTag if you don’t own any Apple-made Bluetooth gadgets.

Also, once you’ve spotted the device that appears to be an AirTag, you can move your Android phone around and pay attention to signal strength to pin down its location.

How to Scan for AirTags on Android Using Tracker Detect

Apple’s Tracker Detect app allows you to find nearby AirTags, but it does not automatically notify you if an AirTag is following you. You have to manually scan for the Bluetooth tracker, wait 10 minutes to ensure the AirTag stays nearby, and then you can play a sound to help locate the item.

Note: In our testing, the Tracker Detect app does a good job at identifying nearby AirTags, but fails to activate the Bluetooth tracker’s built-in speaker. We recommend trying one of the below methods for locating AirTags using an Android device if you run into similar problems.
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Start by downloading Tracker Detect from the Play Store and then open the app on your Android phone or tablet. From the first screen, press the “Scan” button.

Open the Tracker Detect app and then press the Scan button

Your Android device will begin scanning for AirTags. After several minutes, if any are nearby, they will appear listed on the Results page. Tap on one of the unknown AirTags.

Wait a couple of minutes for the app to scan and then tap on an any found AirTags

You’ll now have to wait 10 minutes to ensure the AirTag is near you and doesn’t leave the general area. After those 10 minutes have passed, you can select the “Play Sound” button.

Wait 10 minutes and then press the Play Sound button

If the Tracker Detect app works as desired, it will connect to the AirTag and activate the Bluetooth tracker’s built-in speaker. You can then use the sound to help find the hidden AirTag.

How to Manually Scan for Bluetooth Trackers on Android

To scan or nearby AirTags, you’ll need a Bluetooth scanner app. We used LightBlue, a free Bluetooth scanner app available on the Google Play Store. Install the app on your Android phone, launch it, and perform a scan.

You’ll see all nearby Bluetooth devices here—everything from Bluetooth mice and keyboards to headphones to AirTags. If you live in an apartment building or you’re currently in a public location, bear in mind that you may see other people’s nearby devices in this list.

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So, if you want an easier time spotting AirTags in the list, it might be helpful to get away from other people’s devices. You’ll have an easier time spotting an AirTag in your bag if you’re in the middle of an empty field than if you’re sitting in the middle of an airport.

The AirTag will appear as an “Unnamed” device. If you tap it, you’ll see that the “Manufacturer specific data” field says this particular entry is an Apple device, which is a hint that this particular device might be an AirTag. It could also be another piece of hardware made by Apple, of course.

Note: Note that the AirTag’s device ID—that’s the string of values that appears as “42:9A:35:A7:99:51” in the below screenshot—will automatically change to new random values over time. You can’t rely on the ID alone to spot an AirTag over time.

The LightBlue app on Android showing an AirTag.

How to Manually Find a Nearby AirTag

If you’re pretty sure there’s an AirTag near you, you can use the device’s signal strength displayed in the app to help find it. The closer your phone gets to the AirTag, the more the signal strength meter will fill up.

By moving your phone around, you might be able to get a better idea of where the nearby AirTag is located.

The signal strength for a nearby AirTag displayed in LightBlue.

Scan the AirTag with NFC

Once you find the AirTag, if it’s in Lost Mode and is tracking you, you can scan the white side of the AirTag with NFC to view contact information and a message the AirTag’s owner might have set. Just tap the back of your Android phone (or an iPhone) against the white side of the AirTag.

Obviously, This Isn’t Ideal

Clearly, this isn’t an ideal solution. With the launch of AirTags in early 2021, iPhone users will get a quick notification that an AirTag is following them—but Android users have to wait three days to hear a beep or scan for AirTags either using Apple’s app or manually. That’s far from ideal.

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What happens if Google releases a similar Bluetooth tracker in the future? Do Android users get a quick notification a Google Tag is following them, but iPhone users have to wait three days to hear a beep?

Clearly, more interoperability would be ideal—if Apple and Google created a cross-platform standard that would let Android quickly detect nearby AirTags in the same way, that’d be great. Unfortunately, we’re not holding our breaths for that kind of cooperation.

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Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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Profile Photo for Justin Duino Justin Duino
Justin Duino is the Managing Editor at How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on CBS News and BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry.
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