You know the drill, and if you’re like us, you know it all too well.
You’re rushing out the door (already running late), and just as you perform the habitual “phone, keys, wallet” pat-down, you realize something’s amiss. Cue the mad dash from room to room, retracing every step in an attempt to find whatever it is that’s missing.
Whether you’re forgetful, a bit careless, or just unlucky, Bluetooth gear trackers have arrived to bring this age-old conundrum to an end. While there are a few keychain gear trackers on the market now, here are two of our favorites.
The plastic, rounded-corner Tile Mate (from $25) is super-slim (less than 5 millimeters) and measures just about 1.3 inches square, making it an inconspicuous addition to whatever it is you’re trying to find. Slip it on a key ring, slide it in your wallet, or attach it to virtually anything you’re prone to losing — bike, tablet, luggage, dog… seriously, anything. Whether it gets away from you or you leave it behind, you can find its location in an instant.
How does it work? Setting up your Tile Mate is a no-brainer thanks to its Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Simply launch the Tile app on your Android or iOS device, tap the option to add a new Tile, and then hold down the silver button. Tile Mate will sync with the app in seconds, and from that point on, you can keep tabs on your most prized possessions.
The mapping feature within the app displays the exact location your Tile-equipped item as long as it’s within the 100-foot range. If you venture beyond that radius, the app will indicate the item’s last known location on the map.
If you prefer audio clues to visuals, you can use the app to trigger the Tile Mate’s built-in alarm, which will immediately emit an 88-decible melody. Additionally, users can engage the alarm feature for the opposite effect: Say you’ve lost your phone, but have access to your Tile Mate; quickly double click the silver button, and your phone will begin blasting an alarm at full volume (even if it’s on silent mode).
The Community Find feature is another innovative benefit we love. If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to find your misplaced item, mark it as lost within the app. This essentially launches a virtual search party, anonymously leveraging all active Tile users in the area of your item as part of your posse. When any of their Tiles moves within 100 feet of yours, you instantly receive a notification detailing that location. The best part is, that Tile user is never bothered; they never even knew they helped you track your lost goods — an invaluable benefit when you consider the sheer size of the Tile community is over 6 million Tiles worldwide (mainly in North America, Europe, and Australia).
Once activated, each Tile battery is guaranteed for a full year. 11 months after purchase, you'll get a notification that your Tile(s) is about to expire. Simply reorder a new Tile(s) via the app at a discounted "reTile" rate — $15 per unit. It will be sent to you and you mail the old unit back for recycling.
Now, it should be noted that the unit's battery may last longer than one year; Tile claims there's no definitive way to tell how long each one will actually last, but every Tile Mate is guaranteed to last at least 12 months. After that, replacement is on you. This sort of back-handed subscription/insurance program is, in our estimation, the only potential drawback to an otherwise flawless product: Even if you rarely use or need your Tile Mate(s), you have to spend $15 every 12 months to replace it. Otherwise, there's no guarantee it will work if you ever do need it. For pet owners, frequent fliers, and business travelers, the benefits of a Tile Mate are obvious. Otherwise, it might be worth considering simply buying new Tile Mates before each trip.
If you're trying to keep track of shared items, such as the family pet or television remote, the TrackR Bravo might be the way to go. With similar features as the Tile Mate, this coin-shaped tracking device is also compatible with Android and iOS smartphones. It also employs its own app for two-way tracking, and provides community search support, similar to the Tile Mate.
The TrackR Bravo is different, though, and it's hard to deny its distinctions. One, with available custom laser engraving and image printing it can double as a sort of smart dog tag. Additionally, fans of Amazon Echo can use their Alexa-enabled devices to track lost goods. Two, instead of paying the company to replace the battery every 12 months, the swing-arm design makes replacing the Bravo's battery a relatively simple task. Finally, TrackR's family sharing lets multiple smartphones track a single Bravo, making it ideal for shared items like pets, spare keys, or remote controls.
After comparing both models, the Tile Mate is the best overall bang for your buck for personal items like luggage, keys, and wallets, thanks to its wider Bluetooth range, larger user community, louder alarm, and more intuitive app. However, for tracking shared devices, the TrackR Bravo is definitely worth looking into.