tile - bluetooth tracker

Tile has addressed one of the most enduring complaints since first launching its trackers by making new units with replaceable batteries.

If you’re not familiar with Tile, they are Bluetooth trackers that can help find important items, like your keys, wallet, phone, pet, and anything else that you can attach it to. The Pro and Mate are small, roughly the size of a standard pack of matches. Inside, they have Bluetooth antennas that can help keep track of where certain items are through the Tile smartphone app.

Tile design and setup

Unlike other gadgets, Tile trackers are pretty straightforward. The key difference here is making it easy to replace the battery inside. Previously, Tile trackers were basically ‘one-and-done’ devices. You bought them, used them for up to 12 months, and then had to toss them into an e-waste bin to buy replacement units.

It was a strategy that needed a better solution. The new Pro and Mate units use coin cell batteries, like those often used in wristwatches and other portable devices. These batteries look like coins, and are widely available. The slide-out trays in the new units simplify replacement in seconds.

Tile has always been app-heavy in that the iOS or Android app is your primary method for setting up and managing the trackers. For example, to set up both units, I only had to go “to set up” (the + button) on the app and press the middle button on the tracker. It recognized the tracker instantly and was then added to the dashboard.

The Pro is slightly larger than the Mate, and for that reason, I’ve always felt the Mate was better for keys or a phone. Both have obvious keyrings, so the choice is ultimately yours. Tile doesn’t include anything in the box to actually stick it onto something, so placing it on the back of a phone case does require some do-it-yourself work. Two-sided tape is an option, though I would refrain from gluing it. That will only make replacing the battery harder to do.

tile - batterie and back-view

Tile app

The app isn’t hard to navigate because it’s pretty linear. The dashboard shows what devices are linked to the Tile app, while the map shows past and current locations over the past seven days. Notifications appear in the next section over.

Tapping the three-dot menu on each device in the dashboard brings up settings for that Tile. Here, you can change the ringtone and category. By category, you either choose among the types of products listed or type in your own. For example, if it’s a wallet, purse, car, bike, backpack, passport, luggage, laptop or something else, it’s easy to put that in.

That makes it easy to keep tabs on what Tile is for what, especially when using multiple ones, or sharing tracking with someone else. You can change the category or ringtone at any time, so once a Tile is linked to something, you’re not beholden to that.

Track and seek

The whole point of using a Tile is to not lose something. It helps when you make things a little louder. Tile wisely boosted the Pro’s range up to 300 ft. total, while the Mate can go up to 150 ft. These are stated upward limits, mind you, so real-world results could vary. Bluetooth signals can cross each other up, which is why I would reckon you expect consistent 80-90 per cent of the stated range.

Tile also boosted the decibel level for the alarms in both units. It’s great, but take distance into consideration. Could the Pro handle 300 ft. in range? Close enough, yes, but I couldn’t always be sure because there was no way to hear the siren from that far away. Plus, tracking on the map required I move closer to approximate its position.

In a noisier environment, it was virtually impossible to hear the alarm unless I got as close as 20-30 feet away. In quieter areas, I could hear something up to 100 ft. away. Those numbers may seem small, but in fairness, it’s hard to put a loud-speaker into something this small. For closer confines, however, they are plenty loud to get your attention.

It also works in reverse. Say you have your keys (with Tile attached) but can’t seem to find your phone. Double-pressing the tracker’s button will sound an alarm on the phone to track it down.

Then there’s the crowdsourcing part. Tile set this up in such a way that the community can unknowingly help find something you lost that had a Tile still attached. Tap “Notify when found” on the app and if a Tile user happens to be within range, you get an alert. The only catch is that said user has to be running the Tile app at that time. Assuming they do, you will get the exact location.

Tile Premium

Tile Premium is a new subscription-based service adding six additional features. They include free battery replacements for an unlimited number of Tiles, with the company sending fresh ones before current ones die out.

While you can already add others to get notifications for a Tile, the service expands that by letting them manage the Tile, too. It’s worthwhile for couples and families to track something in the home they don’t want to lose, especially keys. Plus, the app expands location history to 30 days, so you get a wider picture.

The extended warranty covers the new Tile for three years, so you’re covered in case they fail for any reason. Bear in mind the Tile isn’t waterproof. They can withstand a splash, but once submerged, they’re toast.

The one feature I was keen to try was Smart Alerts. It let me set an alarm whenever I left without a Tile, meaning if I walked out without my wallet (with a Tile inside), my phone would sound an alarm and pop up a notification telling me I forgot it.

The fact this was still in its beta-testing stage was obvious when I purposely left the Tile behind. One time, I never got a notification at all. Another time, I got an alert when I was at least 3 km away. Yet, another time, it popped up as soon as I drove away. There was no consistency whatsoever. Beta features are always buggy, but we’ll have to see how it improves over time.

The Premium subscription costs $34.99 annually or $3.39 per month. You can do the free 30-day trial to try it out first.

Battery life

There’s not much I can say on this because there’s nothing to recharge here. These Tile trackers will work for up to 12 months before I need to replace the batteries. As always, Tile gives a heads up prior to them dying, so there’s no chance of forgetting.

Final thoughts

One of Tile’s more intriguing traits is its integration with other devices. For example, the Skullcandy Venue headphones have Tile built-in: this makes them trackable out of the box. More are coming, adding something unique to devices that never had such a thing before.

To say Tiles are made for people who are forgetful depends on your point of view. To me, they can be useful to anyone although they aren’t devices you think about. They work in the background, low-key, and ready to act when you are. I do worry that helicopter parents or jealous partners might abuse the features to relentlessly track others, but I can’t weigh in on that. These are mostly an insurance policy of sorts to help keep your things in your hands.

Check out BestBuy.ca for the new Tile Pro and Tile Mate available now.

Ted Kritsonis
Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.


Comments are closed.