Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a bit of a chronic worrier, so naturally I jumped at the chance to try out Tile’s Bluetooth item tracker. Billed as an easy way to keep track of the things that mean most to you, Tile is like having Apple’s Find My iPhone feature for your entire life. The original Tile tracker launched in 2013 on the back of one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever, having raised more than $2.6M.
Just last month Tile launched its second generation Tracker that’s pretty similar to the original, but is just different enough that it’s worth exploring. Stay tuned to find out if these new refinements make a real difference in helping you get your lost keys back…
Tile is a 1.3 x 1.3 x 0.2-inch white square with rounded edges and a hole that’s used to attach it to your valuables. Upon taking Tile out of its packaging I was surprised at its size. It’s much thicker than I imaged based on images I’d seen. Tile is a seamless slab of hard white plastic except for the letter ‘e’ in its logo that doubles as button.
Setup took all of 3 minutes and couldn’t have been any easier. To get started all you have to do is download the Tile iOS or Android app, create an account, and then sync your Tile with the app via Bluetooth. The app walks you through the entire process so it’s nearly impossible to screw up. You can name your Tile and even attach an image to it to help you remember which items you’re tracking. The app then lists your active Tiles and allows you to trigger a tracking tune or see their last known location. There’s also a Tile Apple Watch app that lets you track your items right from your wrist.
The second generation Tile emits a tone that’s three times louder than its predecessor, which in my testing made a huge difference. I threw both versions of Tile on my couch and covered them with pillows. From about 25-feet away I could clearly hear the second gen model over my TV and fan, while the original Tile was just barely audible under the same conditions. Just imagine if you lost your Tile-equipped keys in a couch at a busy restaurant, you’ll definitely have a better shot at tracking them down with the updated Tile.
I also used Tile to make sure my dogs weren’t taking off from my yard at night. A quick glance at the Tile app showed they were still in range so I wouldn’t have to get up to check on them. That’s absolutely a first world luxury, but I’ve got to say it’s pretty damn nice to have.
The other major change in the new Tile is that it can also ping your mobile device. Just double click the ‘e’ button on Tile and your iPhone will play a tune even if it’s in silent mode. This is just like Find My iPhone, but activating it is a much easier task with Tile. But just remember this feature will only work if you’re within Bluetooth range of your device (about 100-feet). This feature was a big help for my wife who constantly loses her iPhone around our house.
If you fall out of range of your Tile tracker you can use its last known location as a starting point for your search. But if you still can’t find it, you can enlist the help of the other Tile users by marking it as lost. Once you do this you’ll be notified of its location if another Tile user comes within range of it. Of course this is going to work better in crowded cities, but it’s a better last resort than wandering around aimlessly trying to find your item. The good news is that this process is done behind the scenes, meaning other users are never aware that they were near a lost item.
Just like the original Tile tracker, the new version doesn’t have a user replaceable battery. You can expect to get a year out of the battery, at which point you’ll have the opportunity to buy a replacement tile at a discounted rate (~$12). Tile sends out reminders at 11 months so you aren’t caught off guard by your tracker dying. This is the biggest drawback of Tile.
For the most part, my Tile trackers worked as advertised. However, a couple times the app showed my trackers as out of range even though they were sitting on the coffee table in front to me. I killed the app and toggled Bluetooth mode, and a couple minutes later everything was working properly again. This wasn’t a big deal to me because I was just running tests in my house, but there’s no doubt I’d be ticked off it happened while I was tracking a valuable item. On the topic of improvements, I’d like to see alarm functionality added to Tile so that I could be alerted if one of my trackers goes out of range or beyond a user-defined perimeter.
You can use Tile to keep tabs on anything that’s important to you like your keys, carry-on suitcase, bicycle, iPad, or even your pets. By being limited to Bluetooth coverage, Tile isn’t a long-range GPS tracker, but it is a good solution for finding lost items within your home or office. I appreciated the peace-of-mind Tile afforded me knowing that my keys and pets were nearby. Even though the second generation Tile is by far louder than the original version, its tone still gets lost outdoors or when there’s serious background noise. The ability to ping your mobile device is also super handy. I would recommend Tile to anyone looking for a short range item tracker as long as your OK with having to go through the battery replacement program every year.