I’m always excited when a product that was previously only compatible with iOS devices finally makes its way to Android. But with Tile, a pocket-sized, Bluetooth-enabled gadget that keeps track of your stuff, the wait may not have been worth it.
A small gadget with a big purpose
Let’s start from the beginning: Tile was crowdfunded back in 2013 by thousands of backers who felt that this was the kind of device that could properly track their stuff. The gadget eventually arrived last summer for iOS devices.
Tile costs $25 a piece (with discounts for mutli-tile packs) and is about as big as a matchbook. You will have to buy more than one Tile if you plan to track multiple things. It has a keyring hole so you can easily attach it to your keys, or you can stick it to things with the included adhesive square. It's a tad on the thick side—about as thick as two quarters stacked up on top of one another—and though it isn’t bulky, it’s still a significant addition to your keychain, or wherever you put it. It’s also water resistant and constructed out of durable material, so you don’t have to worry about it falling apart.
Tile is helpful for people who tend to misplace common things, like keys or a wallet. If you do lose something with a Tile attached to it, you can ping it via Bluetooth and it will play an adorable chiptune melody until you’ve confirmed that you found it. If it’s too far out of range, you can then use the Community Find feature available within the app to locate it. Since Tile doesn’t have GPS tracking built-in, it relies on other users with the Tile app to locate your missing square. That location information is then registered as the last place it was seen. It’s like a virtual lost and found and you don’t have to be a Tile user to help out others.
The good news is that all of Tile features work well, save for a few awkward times that the Tile app couldn’t figure out that my keys were right next to my phone. Tile’s Bluetooth range extends up to 100 feet, and as long as other Tile users have Bluetooth on, you’ll be able to track where you stuff is. The tunes that Tile emits are loud enough to hear in a noisy house, too.
Here’s the bad part
Instead of providing a user-replaceable battery, Tile is completely sealed. This is what supposedly makes it resistant to water, but since there’s no way to replace any of its innards on your own, you’ll have to buy another one when the device eventually dies. Tile promises that the device will last for an entire year, and the company says it’s working on a renewal program of sorts to offer new Tiles at a discounted price, but that means there’s still an annual upkeep fee that you’ll have to consider.
There’s also the question of whether remembering to trade in your Tile on an annual basis is actually worth the utility of the device. Sure, you might misplace your keys every once in a while, but is that worth it? Isn’t the point of Tile not to worry if your life gets so busy that you misplace things? How do they expect busy worker bees to remember to trade in their Tile for a new one on top of everything else in their lives?
The other issue is that Tile’s Community Find feature will only work as intended in an area with lots of other Tile users. It doesn’t seem to me that it’d work well beyond big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, or New York.
I can see Tile being a really handy device for travelers who want to track lost luggage, or as a cheaper alternative to tracking a pet around town, but I can’t get behind paying $25 a year or more for a device that helps me realize I'm always leaving my keys in the kitchen.
After its battery dies, I'm not sure I will still be so worried about where my stuff is that I'd pay for Tile all over again.
- Water resistant and durable, so you don't have to worry about weather killing it
- Small enough that it fits in most places
- Battery isn't user-replaceable
- Community Find relies on a large user base, which some areas may not have
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