It’s been about two years since I picked up the Tile Mate 2022 model. In case you’re not familiar, Tile is this nifty Bluetooth gadget designed to keep tabs on anything you attach it to – think keys, bags, wallets, TV remotes, you name it. It falls into the broad category of item trackers, a part of the consumer tech scene. Now, while Apple’s $29 Airtag and Samsung’s $29 Smart Tag are making waves as top-tier options, especially if you’re deep into their ecosystems, I opted for the Tile squad. Why? Well, it’s a smaller company, and the cool part is it plays nice with both iOS and Android setups. And to sweeten the deal, it’s $5 cheaper on the pocket.
For the last two years, I have attached my Tile Mate to my car keys with the primary objective of tracking them through the Tile App. Those keys have pulled a disappearing act on me a couple of times, but the Tile App has been a lifesaver, helping me locate them swiftly, whether they were playing hide and seek in the cushions, nestled in trouser pockets, or hiding out in bedsheets. I’ve got to hand it to this tracker; it’s spared me a few moments of frustration, especially when I was all set to head to the grocery store or a meeting, only to realize my car keys weren’t where I thought I’d left them.
The Tile Mate comes equipped with a built-in, non-replaceable battery, and according to the company, it’s supposed to last a solid three years. Well, they weren’t bluffing. My Tile Mate, purchased in late 2021, has surpassed the two-year mark, and the battery is still going strong. Now, when the inevitable moment arrives, and the battery finally calls it quits, Tile’s solution is to swap out the old tracker for a brand-new one since the battery isn’t replaceable. While my eco-conscious side has a bit of a qualm with this approach, the pragmatist in me argues that getting three years of reliable tracking for $24 is a pretty good deal. Keep in mind though, that there are Tile models that come with 1-year replaceable battery as I will show later on.
During my two years of putting this device to the test, I’ve pinpointed two noteworthy issues: the build quality and the Tile network.
After two years of securing my Tile Mate to my car key holder, the device is showing signs of wear and tear. Unlike devices with screws, the Tile Mate relies on plastic covers glued together to protect its internal circuitry. Unfortunately, the glue holding these covers in place has deteriorated over time, prompting me to reapply adhesive—like super glue—to keep them intact. While I haven’t explored Tile’s premium alternatives, it seems like this could be an area where they might have an edge.
The Tile Network, also, reveals another vulnerability in this device. The Tile Mate relies on Bluetooth technology to communicate with the Tile App on your smartphone and keep tabs on your belongings. Now, we’re well aware that Bluetooth operates within a short range, approximately 30 feet (10 meters). If your tracker ventures beyond this range, say you left your keys in a restaurant and you’re now at home, locating them through the Tile App becomes impossible.
Read more: How to setup a Tile Tracker
Tile attempts to address this limitation with a workaround: an ad-hoc network formed by hundreds or even thousands of Tile trackers. These trackers are supposed to relay real-time location data to each other and, ultimately, to the Tile cloud. It’s through this cloud that any tracker out of Bluetooth range can theoretically be located. The catch? To make this system effective, a substantial number of people in the vicinity need to have Tile trackers. Unfortunately, in my location, this isn’t the case. Consequently, my Tile tracker proves useful only when the lost item is within the 30-foot or 10-meter range. In reality, this isn’t always the scenario, but luckily for me, my misplaced car keys were always within reach of the Tile Mate tracker.
So if you plan to attach this tracker or its competitors which also work the same way to things such as pets for instance, then you should be aware of these limitations. The tracker has to be within Bluetooth range or you should be in an active Tile network or the tracker’s battery should still be charged. Otherwise, If any of these factors don’t align, finding the lost item becomes impossible.
That said, even with these constraints, having the Tile Mate is still better than having nothing. I’ve found this tracker particularly valuable when locating my car keys stashed away in unexpected places like the couch. Without it, the search could have taken much longer. Given its usefulness in specific scenarios, I’m considering purchasing more of these or waiting for a potential upgrade. My hope is that Tile could enhance the overall design of the tracker and perhaps extend the battery life to at least 5 years or provide an option for a replaceable one.
So if you’re conceived and you’re in the market for a Tile tracker, there are a few choices available. The Tile Mate(2022) is the base model with a replaceable battery is currently priced at $24.99 on Amazon. If you’re willing to invest a bit more, the Tile Pro (2022) is equipped with a replaceable battery and is priced at $34.99. The Tile Slim (2022) is available for $32.99 but comes with a non-replaceable battery lasting three years. For those targeting TV remotes, the Tile Sticker (2022) is an option priced at $29.88, featuring a three-year non-replaceable battery. Each option comes with its own set of features and trade-offs, so it’s worth considering what suits your needs best.