Samsung Smartag + test: Apple AirTags, less network

The battle for connected beacons has begun. Apple has its Airtags and Samsung its SmartTag +. The Korean giant’s gadget is supposed to make your life easier by making it easier to find your lost items. Does he keep his promises? What is it worth against Apple’s solution? This is what we will see.

It’s not just smartphones that Apple and Samsung compete against. The now inevitable connected objects that synchronize with our mobiles are also one of the battlefields on which the two giants clash. The Galaxy SmartTag + is the perfect illustration of this.

Released a little before the AirTags, these SmartTag + work exactly the same as the Apple beacons. Once connected to your phone, they will help you find your keys or your lost wallet at home, thanks to the use of ultra wideband technology which allows hyper precise localization, to the nearest ten centimeters.

The SmartTag + is only compatible with the most recent Samsung mobiles // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

The question of the network

However, Samsung’s solution differs from Apple’s on one fundamental point: that of the network. Where at Apple, all iOS devices automatically serve as a relay beacon to communicate the position of an AirTag to its owner, at Samsung the network is much, much less dense.

This difference is simply explained by the fact that Samsung mobiles are not automatically enrolled in the SmartThings Find program, which serves as the backbone of the manufacturer’s found objects network. Each Samsung smartphone owner must register for the program to transform their smartphone into a relay beacon.

As a result, mobiles in circulation with the option activated are very rare and you should not rely too much on the help of the community to find your keys lost during a drunken evening. For this test, I hid a beacon in the street near my home to see if a phone would relay its position. After a day of waiting, no alert was sent.

Some will see this as a flaw that prevents the beacon from being as useful as an AirTag. Others will see it as the assurance that a SmartTag cannot be used to track down a person without their knowledge. Samsung, for its part, does not put too much emphasis on this community feature, preferring to focus on the aspect of locating lost objects at home.

Less discreet than an AirTag

The SmartTag + is certainly more bulky than the Apple AirTags. Samsung has opted for a more square and more massive design for its tags. But there are good reasons for this. First, the Samsung gadget has a ring that easily allows the tag to be hooked onto a pair of keys, unlike AirTags which require the purchase of an accessory to accomplish the same purpose.

The SmartTag + (left) in front of the AirTag (right) // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

The beacon also has a clickable button (which we will come back to) and a traditional speaker mechanism (unlike the AirTag which actually uses the entire body of the accessory to produce sound). These technical choices mean that the SmartTag + is bulkier than an AirTag.

A somewhat laborious installation

If there is one aspect in which Apple AirTags shine, it is in their ease of use. By approaching a beacon to your iPhone, you can pair it in a few clicks and then forget it until the moment you need it. On the SmartTag side, it’s another matter.

To be operational, the beacons must connect to the Samsung SmartThings application which is not preinstalled on all of the manufacturer’s smartphones. You will also need to sign in to your Samsung account or create one if you haven’t already.

An overview of the SmartThings app which is used to locate its tags // Source: Screenshot

In absolute terms, none of this is too complicated, but the pairing process would benefit from being simplified. The SmartThings application is also designed primarily for home automation, your beacon will be listed next to any connected bulbs or Samsung TVs. We would have liked a slightly more minimalist interface, just to see things more clearly.

A precise connection, but unstable

However, once the beacon is paired, it is relatively easy to use. The Samsung application allows you to search for a SmartTag or ring it in two or three clicks. With that, Samsung’s tag doesn’t have much to complain about, the basic features are there and they work well.

At both Apple and Samsung we offer the possibility of ringing the beacons // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

Samsung uses augmented reality to give you a clear idea of ​​where your lost items are. The application will use the camera and superimpose arrows and point clouds to guide you in your research. This allows you to find your objects a little more easily than with an Airtag, since the indications at Samsung are more precise (especially concerning the elevation of an object).

Localization tools from Samsung (left) and Apple (right) // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

On the other hand, the connection between the SmartTag and the phone is not always the most stable and it will sometimes be necessary to wiggle your phone a little for the two devices to succeed in communicating again. AirTags and iPhones maintain a more stable connection between them.

Finally, the SmartTag + can ring with a generous volume, which greatly facilitates searches. The maximum volume of SmartTag + is not much higher than that of AirTags, but Samsung’s tag maintains a constant sound level, where AirTags fluctuate.

The bonus button

As we indicated previously, the SmartTag + have an almost invisible clickable button at the level of the center of the beacon. The latter can be assigned to a whole bunch of home automation shortcuts, such as turning on your lights or turning off the TV, for example (provided you’ve connected your phone to your home automation services).

The discernible circle on the device is in fact a customizable clickable button // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

A long press will also allow you to send a personalized notification to one of your contacts. Useful if you want to discreetly send an alert to someone, for example when you feel unsafe outside. Unfortunately, here too the functionality is linked to the Samsung account and you will only be able to send alerts to people who also have one.

Samsung’s idea of ​​adding a button to its tag is clever, but its usefulness is limited unless one is fully versed in the manufacturer’s ecosystem.

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