Tile is a company that specializes in Bluetooth trackers. These small gadgets — also known as key finders — allow users to locate keys, wallets, and other personal items through a connected smartphone app. One of the biggest companies on the Bluetooth tracker block, Tile offers a variety of different trackers. All of them work in conjunction with the free Tile app, which is available for Apple’s iOS devices through the App Store, and for Android devices through the Google Play store. How does the tracker stand up to the competition? Read on for our full Tile Tracker review.
Currently, Tile offers four different Bluetooth tracker models. Tile Mate is Tile’s standard, barebones tracker (it retails for $25). Tile Slim ($30) is a thin tracker — as thin as two credit cards. It can fit in a wallet, but can work in other tight spaces, too — perhaps behind the card in a luggage tag. (Tile actually does sell a separate luggage tag for Tile Slim.) Tile is no longer selling its Original Tile tracker.
Tile’s newest models are Tile Sport and Tile Style. Sport is a dark gray, and a bit larger than Style, which features a more “stylish” white and gold look. Both retail on Tile’s website for $35, and both Sport and Style boast expanded range (200 ft. compared to 100 ft. for Mate and Slim), and double the alert volume of the older Mate and Slim, as well. Sport and Style also offer better waterproofing and dust resistance.
Of course, you may be able to find any of these trackers for lower than the MSRP. Tile and other outlets also sell the trackers in bundles and packs.
How It Works
Bluetooth trackers are gradually becoming more popular as a way to keep track of your keys, wallet, and other personal items. But how do they work?
A Bluetooth tracker — or key finder — is essentially a small accessory that attaches to an item of your choice and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The tracker’s phone app tells you where the tracker is — or was last seen. If you’re in Bluetooth range, you can direct the tracker to beep, right from your phone. Lots of trackers, including Tile, 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 and other items 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. That can be helpful, but it may not be enough — especially if the item was stolen, or if it’s been moved.
This is where Tile’s user network comes into play. If your Tile tracker is lost, you can mark it as missing — doing so will put out a signal that allows other Tile users to find your item. Other users don’t have to actively search for your missing tracker, though. Just as you run the app in the background on your phone, other users are doing the same. Anyone running the Tile app who comes into range of the tracker will notify you of its whereabouts, unbeknownst to them. You’ll then see the tracker’s location on a map. There’s no sort of added fee for this feature.
It’s also possible to share one Tile with another email address. This way, two users can track the same item and share the same complete access to the tracker.
It’s important to note that while many people refer to Bluetooth trackers as key finders, there are a number of other uses. Outside of your keys or wallet, 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.
The app is an important part of any Bluetooth tracker experience, and Tile’s app is well done. (We used the iOS app.) Install the free app, and setup is easy right out of the box. We were able to setup a Tile tracker within minutes, and the app is capable of tracking multiple Tiles at once. To use Tile tracker as it’s intended, you must enable location services and let the Tile app run in the background.
Of course, the app is what you use to make your Tile ring. Hit “Find” within the app and you’ll hear your Tile ring out, if it’s within Bluetooth range. Tile also gives users the option to choose from eight different Tile ringtones.
The map feature in Tile’s app shows users where your trackers are now, or where they were last located if out of range. Our map also showed an increasing number of Tile members around us in New York City — more than 24,000 people at last check. This means that a lost Tile tracker has a very good likelihood of being found in our area.
In addition to the Map tab, Tile’s app has a tab for notifications, and a tab to keep track of all linked Tile trackers, as well as your phone. From there, you can see details for each tracker, including their current or most recent locations on a map. You can even assign each tracker a different category that tells you the item being tracked — keys, for instance.
Bluetooth Range And Battery Life
Bluetooth range (the distance from which your phone will be able to connect with the tracker via Bluetooth) on Tile’s trackers differs by model. Tile Mate and Tile Slim have a range of 30-100 feet, while the newer Tile Sport and Tile Style boast a range of 200 feet. In our testing, these distances proved accurate, though walls will interfere a bit. A proximity meter will tell users how far away they are from their Tile when in range. If you have a large home, it might be worth it to get the Tile Sport and/or Style for the increased Bluetooth range alone.
One of the few issues we have with Tile’s trackers is a big one. In fact, it may be enough to turn some customers away completely. Tile has no swappable battery. Once a Tile tracker’s battery runs out — and it’s guaranteed to last for one full year — it’s done. It’s time to get a new Tile.
Tile, as you might imagine, frames this as a positive, and the company makes some fair points. The tracker is “99 percent” recyclable, the tracker is more durable without any opening parts, and its battery will last longer than a typical replaceable battery. The company also offers a program, reTile, that offers a new Tile tracker at a slightly discounted price.
Even so, some users may not find this to be enough. Plenty of customers would prefer to have a tracker that they could keep indefinitely while changing the battery every so often, rather than a tracker that becomes worthless after a year.
We used all current Tile models during our testing, but we mostly concentrated on the newest trackers, Sport and Style. Though they cost a bit more money, we think the added range and volume make them worth the extra $10 if you’re considering a Tile tracker. They’re also nicer looking and more durable.
None of the Tile trackers are exactly the same size. Mate is the smallest. It’s a 34mm square and it’s 4.65mm thin. Style is slightly larger than Mate, and Sport is slightly larger than Style. But even Sport is a tiny 40mm square. All three of the smaller trackers are likely interchangeable in almost every setting. Slim is a larger 54mm square, but is the thinnest at 2.4mm.
Other than a slight size appearance and their look/color, there’s no discernible difference in performance between Style and Sport. Tile bills Sport as “rugged,” but both the gray Sport and the white-and-gold Style offer the same waterproof (up to 1.5m deep for 60 minutes) and dustproof ratings.
With Sport and Style, users are able to change the volume of alerts from the Tile app — some may want to keep the alerts at a lower default setting, and pump up the volume to the higher setting if the trackers still can’t be found. Mate (and Slim) only feature the lower volume setting. This seems like another reason to spend a few more bucks on the newer Sport and Style trackers, as it may make all the difference in a noisy area (or if your tracker has slipped between two cushions).
Compared to other top competitors, we found that Tile trackers seemed to connect and show their locations the quickest after opening the app. We also think Tile’s app itself is the best we’ve seen thus far among Bluetooth trackers.
Who It Might Be Good For
- Users who want a Bluetooth tracker with a large user network to help locate lost items.
- Users who want a tracker with increased range and volume (Tile Sport and Style models).
- Users who want a tracker with a well-designed, easy-to-use app.
- Users who want an attractive, durable, waterproof tracker (Sport and Style).
Who It Might Not Be Good For
- Users who want a Bluetooth tracker with a replaceable battery.
Tile makes some of the best Bluetooth trackers on the market, and Tile trackers should be considered by anyone looking to buy these useful, tiny gadgets. (We’ll be taking a closer look at a few of Tile’s competitors in the near future.) We recommend the newer Sport or Style trackers for most users, as they offer improved volume, range, and durability.
However, if you think your Bluetooth tracker should have a replaceable battery, Tile is not going to be the right choice for you.