US$28 / AU$44; US$90 / AU$140 (4-pack) at Chipolo
The Chipolo One Spot offers highly accurate location tracking
using Apple's Find My crowdsourced network. It's nearly as good as
Apple's AirTag in some regards and better in others.
Chipolo provides a worthwhile alternative in the small category of
tiny, low-power, long-lived trackers.
That's a nifty feat from a company vastly smaller than the
multi-trillion-dollar Cupertino behemoth. Apple licensing access to
its Find My network makes this possible—even if the company might
have done so under duress.
Find My integration
Apple's AirTag introduced a new degree of capability to an
existing category of device: a low-power Bluetooth-based location
tracker that could help you find lost, left behind, or stolen items
to which it was attached or embedded in, like in a knapsack, purse,
The AirTag built on Apple's Find My network, a crowdsourced
system that lets hundreds of millions of iPhones, iPad, and Macs
relay encrypted Bluetooth transmission from expensive hardware and
AirTags. Tile and Chipolo had previously released similar
trackers, but they rely on the network of either Tile or Chipolo
users to achieve ubiquity. Apple had scale.
Apple offers Find My for both what it calls devices and items. A
device is an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Watch, and certain Apple and
Beats earbuds and headphones. Any device can either determine its
location directly (via satellite, cellular, and Wi-Fi with an
iPhone) or through a nearby paired device (as with AirPods Pro
since a firmware update that was part of iOS 15.1/iPadOS 15.1).
Devices that can't reach the internet to post location updates will
broadcast a Find My network signal to nearby devices instead.
The AirTag and Chipolo One Spot are both items. This category
only broadcasts its encrypted Bluetooth ID. No Find My item can
directly connect to the internet, but they can talk to a paired
iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth if within range. A Find My item
requires either its paired device or a nearby iPhone, iPad, or Mac
opted into the Find My network to relay its location.
Chipolo built a
key-ring hole into the One Spot, a reason you might prefer to an
Apple designed the Find My network for security and privacy.
Both devices and items that use it broadcast only a
randomly-generated Bluetooth identifier that only the owner of the
device can effectively decode. This ID changes at intervals to
avoid providing a persistent identity someone else could track.
Nearby relaying devices record the Bluetooth signal, pair it with
location information they derive from one or more sources, and then
upload an encrypted bundle of Bluetooth ID and location to
In a native Find My app in iOS, iPadOS, or macOS, a Find My
item's owner can see the current location as provided by a relay.
The native app is required because the encryption keys necessary to
retrieve the tracking bundles from Apple and decode the location
information are stored only on user devices—Apple has no access to
Tile and Apple are in an ongoing clash over Apple's control of
its ecosystem, but Chipolo decided to join up instead of fight. The
Chipolo One Spot shows that a third party can compete against Apple
on its turf. That's strategic on Apple's part, but it still means
you have a choice, and one that's slightly cheaper than Apple's and
has a key-ring hole to boot.
Chipolo One Spot knows
where it's at
The Chipolo One Spot has a lot in common with the AirTag. Both
are the only pure trackers that can use the Find My network. Apple
trumpeted three Find My network licensees back in April, and those
remain the only ones: the other two are Belkin for its Soundform
Freedom wireless earbuds and VanMoof, which incorporates Find My
The One Spot is a flat black disc 1.25 inches in diameter and
0.25 inches thick with IPX5 water resistance. It uses a standard
lithium-ion coin-cell battery that should last about a year and is
easy to swap out. Though it makes its non-Find My trackers in other
colors, black is your only choice with a One Spot. The company's
logo is debossed slightly and has a slight shine to it. A keychain
hole is above the logo.
With no exterior markings, the One Spot easily avoids being…s
potted. In fact, my 14-year-old attached one to their
noise-canceling headphones to avoid losing them if they misplace
them at school. The matte-black finish blends in almost seamlessly
with the headphones ear cups.
Pairing a One Spot requires slightly more effort than with an
AirTag. In the Find My app in iOS or iPadOS, tap the + (plus) sign
in any view, and tap Add Other Item. Squeeze the middle of the One
Spot to depress an internal button and trigger its discoverability.
iOS/iPadOS recognizes the tracker and guides you through pairing
it, including naming it and assigning an emoji, if desired.
Once paired, the One Spot appears in the Items view in the
native Find My app in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. Because of the
device-based encryption used with the Find My network, you can't
use the Find My iPhone web app at iCloud.com for the One Spot or
any Find My item.
Chipolo decided to put a loud sound-generation system inside the
slim One Spot package, just like its non-Find My trackers. Chipolo
says it peaks at 120 decibels (dB), or the level of a plane taking
off; Apple doesn't disclose this spec. In testing with an
iPhone-based meter, the One Spot spent most of its time near 80 dB
and peaked at 85 dB, or between vacuum cleaner and lawnmower
territory, while an AirTag was largely in the 65 dB area with a
series of brief peaks around 85 dB.
The more consistent loudness of the One Spot was striking,
however: its slightly higher pitched and definitely more annoying
pattern seems more like to capture attention than the more polite
Anyone who has associated a Chipolo with their iPhone or iPad
can trigger it to play a noise if it's in the vicinity. They can
also mark it as lost, whether nearby or not, allowing them to
provide more contact information to someone finding it. They can
also set their iOS or iPadOS device to notify them if they leave
the tracker behind—and their computer, bag, or something else
important with it.
radios make two tasks harder
The company has left out two things found in an AirTag: an
ultrawideband (UWB) radio for precision short-range finding and an
NFC transceiver for near-field or tap-to-access features. UWB in an
AirTag works with a dozen feet or so, making it useful for finding
a missing item that's not obvious; I don't notice its absence from
a One Spot.
NFC in an AirTag lets Apple offer tap-to-link functionality on
an iPhone or any device with an NFC reader: the AirTag has an
embedded URL that uses an encrypted path to reference its internal
serial number. That URL links to additional information if someone
finds an AirTag. However, someone has to know an AirTag works that
way to try it.
has to conform to Apple's anti-tracking rules, which allow an
iPhone or iPad to alert someone if a tracker is near them for a
period of time as they move around.
With a Chipolo, someone finding a One Spot can only identify it
from an iPhone or iPad using a lengthy set of steps:
- Launch Find My.
- Tap the Items icon.
- Swipe down to reveal Identity Found Item.
- Select the One Spot when it appears, click Continue, and follow
instructions for more information.
That's a lot to ask, but someone finding a One Spot would
ostensibly search online for what a Chipolo was and find those steps, just like they might ID an
AirTag and search for its details.
Chipolo has to follow Apple's rules for the Find My network, as
Apple manages all the data flow. That includes all the
anti-tracking techniques Apple has embedded in the system. If an
iPhone or iPad notices the same device is traveling with it over a
period of time, it triggers a notification. That iPhone or iPad can
then play a sound on the One Spot. (Apple promised an Android app
later in 2021 that could monitor for items traveling with someone,
too, and the year is nearly over.)
Under Apple's rules, the Chipolo tracker also produces a loud
sound at intervals starting 8 to 24 hours of being separated from
its paired device as a way to ensure it can't be used as a silent
Why pick a
Chipolo One Spot instead of AirTag?
Apple's AirTag is a perfectly good piece of technology, but it
has a very particular design. If you want a small object that's
silvery on one side and shiny plastic on the other, and which has
no key-ring hole, it might do the job. Apple does include engraving
on the AirTag's white side at no extra cost, not an option for a
One Spot at all.
But if you want a flat matte black disc that can be attached to
a keychain without the additional expense or trouble of a holder,
and that produces a very loud noise while remaining unobtrusive to
those who might try to grab your stuff, the Chipolo One Spot is an