Bluetooth trackers — sometimes referred to as a key finders — are small accessories that attach to an item of your choice and connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. A tracker’s phone app tells you where the tracker is, or where it was last seen. If you’re in Bluetooth range, you can direct the tracker to beep, right from your phone. Lots of trackers also offer “reverse finding,” as it were — press the tracker itself and your phone will ring. So while your tracker may be a key finder, it will also work as a phone finder.
As useful as all of this is for tracking down missing keys around the house, it may not be as helpful if you leave your tracked item away from home, far out of Bluetooth range. Bluetooth trackers can still help in a few ways in this situation, though. First off, your phone should always be linked to the tracker, so your tracker’s app should be able to tell you the last location it registered for the item. Which is good, but it may not be enough — especially if the item was stolen, or if it’s been moved.
Most trackers have a crowdsourcing network, which allows other users of that tracker to search for your missing item. Just as you run the app in the background on your phone, other users are doing the same — a missing item found by one of these users can then be identified on a map.
Bluetooth trackers can do more than find keys, of course. Some users may want to attach a tracker to their pet’s collar, a piece of luggage, a backpack, a bike, or much more. The possibilities are vast, and you can always get multiple trackers. Many companies also make thin trackers designed to go in a wallet.
We’ve reviewed a number of the top trackers currently on the market. Here are our picks for the best Bluetooth trackers in a number of important categories, which should help you make a decision based on what features matter most to you.
- Best App: Tile
- Best Battery: Cube
- Best Bluetooth Range: Tile Sport and Style
- Best Bonus Features: Chipolo
- Best Crowd Network: Tile
While there’s some competition in this category, we prefer Tile‘s app above all others. Tile’s iOS app is clean and easy to navigate, and a new layout shows users all connected Tiles right away. TrackR and Chipolo also have solid, intuitive apps, but in the end, Tile is our choice.
Tile’s battery lasts a year but can’t be replaced, so it’s out of the running here. TrackR estimates its battery can last a year, and though its batteries are replaceable, we’ve already seen low battery levels much earlier than that cited 12-month period. Chipolo’s Classic offers nine months of battery life, and the ability to replace (you can’t replace the Chipolo Plus battery).
That leaves us with Cube, the bulky tracker which boasts one-year battery life when connected, and up to two years when disconnected. Furthermore, users can swap out a Cube’s battery once it’s expired, and the tracker still offers waterproofing — a special removal tool is included with the tracker to get to the battery. It’s the best option in this regard, and one other trackers should emulate.
Best Bluetooth Range
Both Chipolo and Tile boast 200-foot Bluetooth range with their current trackers, and Cube’s 150-foot range isn’t bad either. However, we don’t think any of the Bluetooth trackers truly measure up to those distances in real-world conditions, especially when considering walls. Those results are only likely to exist when conditions are at their peak.
That being said, Tile‘s trackers got the best results for us in our testing, holding a connection the longest when walking multiple rooms away from the tracker. Chipolo’s Classic was a close second, though.
Best Bonus Features
Outside of the standard features every Bluetooth tracker offers, Chipolo gets the nod. Its tracker can act as a Bluetooth selfie shutter (Cube’s tracker can do the same). Additionaly, Chipolo gives users the option to track their smartphone’s location through a website. This means the company won’t just help you find lost tracked items — it could actually help you find a lost phone with the help of this feature.
Best Crowd Network
A robust crowdfinding network is key to locating any tracker that has actually gone missing — it’s the only way to do so once you’re out of Bluetooth range. Again, Tile‘s trackers are the top pick here, as they seem to have the most users in most given areas. Not surprisingly, TrackR seems to take second place here, though Chipolo is also in the mix. This is where a tracker’s overall popularity helps.
As our winner in three of the most important categories, Tile’s Pro Series Sport and Style trackers are standouts and top overall picks for your Bluetooth tracking needs. However, Sport and Style aren’t perfect — the batteries aren’t replaceable, so the trackers will only last a year, if that. You can get a new Tile tracker at a discount after a year, but that still might seem unnecessary to some users — who wants to have to buy a new Bluetooth tracker every year?
Chipolo deserves further consideration with its Chipolo Classic tracker, and though TrackR didn’t win any categories in this roundup, it’s a strong overall contender with two different trackers — each offering a replaceable battery.