Samsung and Apple Both Offer Luggage Trackers. Which Is More Accurate?

Here’s how the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2 and the Apple AirTag compared when tracking luggage on a recent trip to Japan.

Black and white Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2s on a blue ombre background

Here’s how Samsung and Apple’s devices performed when tracking luggage on a recent trip to Japan.

Courtesy of Samsung and Apple

Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items that we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.

We’re a house divided: I’ve only ever had iPhones, whereas my fiancé, Shaun, is a long-time Samsung loyalist.

So when the opportunity arose to do a head-to-head comparison of the Apple AirTag (which I previously reviewed for AFAR) and Samsung’s new Galaxy SmartTag2, we jumped on the chance to find out whose preferred provider was actually superior—at least in terms of tracking devices.

For our test, we put both an Apple AirTag and a Galaxy SmartTag2 in each of our checked bags for a flight path that would take us from Denver to Tokyo on a recent trip to Japan. Once we arrived, we further tested the devices by having the bags shipped by ground from the airport to a hotel in Niseko, where we’d be staying three days later. All told, we’d be without our bags for about four days. During that time, we hoped the tracking tags would keep us in the loop about where our bags were at any given moment. Here’s how it went.

Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2 review for travelers

Buy now: Samsung SmartTag2, $25 for one (was $30), $76 for four (was $99)

How it works

Samsung released the Galaxy SmartTag2 in late 2023. Like its competitors, the Galaxy SmartTag2 uses Bluetooth technology to help its owner track whatever item it is in or attached to—including your purse, suitcase, keys, or dog’s collar—through Samsung’s SmartThings Find app.

The pill-shaped device that’s a little smaller than a USB drive is a complete redesign of Samsung’s original Galaxy SmartTag, which was square shaped. The sleek tracker comes in two colors—black and white—and has a metal loop on one end to easily attach it to key rings. Weighing less than half an ounce, its design is lightweight and minimalist enough to seamlessly integrate into your everyday life without drawing unwanted attention.

For it to work, you’ll need a Samsung Galaxy phone running Android 9.0 or higher. It doesn’t support Google’s Find My Device network—it only works with devices within the Galaxy ecosystem. Samsung claims the SmartTag 2 has a 500-day battery life—and a power-saving mode that could allow it to extend to 700 days. (In comparison, Apple says its AirTag is designed to “keep going more than a year” on its battery.)

Road test

Setting up the Galaxy SmartTag2 was fairly easy. Within seconds of being removed from the box and held up to Shaun’s phone, it automatically detected the tracker. With just a few clicks through on-screen prompts, it was paired. Within the app, Shaun could give the tag a name and change the ringtone it would emit.

Before handing the bags off to the airline staff, we played with some of the Bluetooth features. While we were within close range of the device, we could hit a button within the app so the tracer would emit a ringing sound that’s meant to make it easier to find (though hidden within layers of clothes stuffed into a suitcase, it was a fairly dull noise). There were also arrows on the screen pointing in cardinal directions to where it was (which later proved helpful when we misplaced the tracker in the hotel room).

two suitcases with a hand holding up Samsung's tracking app

The SmartTag2 can be tracked using Samsung’s SmartThings Find app on any Galaxy phone running Android 9.0 or higher.

Courtesy of Samsung

After the suitcases were checked, we were able to monitor their location in real time—it never took more than two or three minutes to update their location. Though the bags were obviously outside of our range, it was able to keep updating its location by anonymously pinging off other Samsung devices. Even in Japan, while the bags were shipped by ground mail, it kept updating constantly, so there was no period that we were in the dark.

Since being home, we’ve further tested the devices by keeping one hidden in our car. While it won’t deter thieves, it could make it easier for police to recover the vehicle if it were stolen (and it’s just fun to see how accurate the SmartTag2 is). Recently, my fiancé picked up a friend to drive to an out-of-town concert, and he said the SmartTag accurately identified both his friend’s exact address and the row within the massive venue parking lot where the car was parked.

How does the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2 compare to the Apple AirTag?

Within the United States, the two devices were practically neck and neck—we could watch the bags navigate through the airport, get loaded onto a luggage cart, be shuttled across the tarmac, and get loaded onto the plane in both Denver and Seattle. Where they diverged in the frequency of updates was in Japan. Because the Apple AirTag works on the Find My network, its location is only pinpointed when it’s near other Apple devices. Because Apple doesn’t have the same chokehold on Japan as it does the United States, the AirTag was significantly slower to update abroad. In fact, there was a several-hour period where the AirTag didn’t update, but based on the Samsung SmartTag’s frequent updating, we knew it was on a quiet stretch of highway between Sapporo and Niseko.

Where Samsung’s tracker really excelled was with its location history. Apple only shares where your AirTag is at the moment (or where its last known location was), whereas the SmartTag allowed us to see all the places our bags had been since it left our sight. Similarly, the SmartTag shared more accurate locations—the exact address where possible or the coordinates if not.

When it comes to pricing, the devices are essentially the same. A single AirTag retails for $29 on Apple’s website, while the Galaxy SmartTag2 is $30 on Samsung’s website with further discounts for both on Amazon. Design-wise, the Apple AirTag doesn’t have a built-in key ring hole like the Galaxy SmartTag2 does, so you have to purchase a holder separately if you’d like to use it that way.

Bottom line

All that said, the Apple Airtag only works for iPhones, and the SmartTag 2 only works for Samsung’s Galaxy phones. If you’re a house divided, like us, and only want to buy or bring one or the other tracker, the SmartTag 2 is probably the better, more accurate bet. However, any tracker is better than nothing.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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