Tile pro key finder review: Bluetooth tracker for iPhone and Android users

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Almost a decade before Apple revealed the AirTag device tracker, a fellow Californian company Tile created a very similar product. Simply called Tile, the device connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and to your keychain, bag or other possessions. Then, if you misplace that item, the Tile app can be used to track it down.

Tile has expanded its product range several times over the years, with numerous generations featuring improvements to battery life, water resistance, Bluetooth range and the loudness of the built-in speaker used to help reunite you with your lost things.

The latest flagship of the 2022 range is the Tile pro. It has a larger footprint than its simpler siblings, but boasts a tough metal chassis, a year of battery life from its replaceable, coin-style battery, and Tile’s longest Bluetooth range yet, of 120m. It also has the company’s loudest speaker.

If a misplaced Tile is within Bluetooth range, the app can be used to play a loud alarm from the Tile itself, helping you find it. If it’s out of Bluetooth range, you can call upon help from the wider Tile Network, where you are alerted via the app and shown the approximate location of the lost Tile when a fellow Tile user’s phone comes within Bluetooth range of it.

Tile once had this market to itself, but now faces stiff competition from Apple and the AirTag, as well as the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag and fellow possession-tracker company Chipolo. How does the 2022 Tile pro perform? Read on to find out.

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How we tested

After connecting the Tile pro to our iPhone, we hooked it onto our keys and got on with our lives for the next few days. That’s the thing with trackers like this; once they are set up, you can mostly forget about them, safe in the knowledge that they’ll spring into action when you need them.

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We can’t yet speak for the claimed one-year battery life. However, we have owned various models of Tile since 2016 and always find the battery lasts for slightly longer than the manufacturer’s claim.

(Tile)

Rating: 8/10

The latest-generation Tile pro is available to buy now and is priced at £25 (Amazon.co.uk), making it slightly cheaper than the Apple AirTag (£29, Apple.com). Tile also sells bundles of its products for discounted prices; a pack of two costs £49.99 and a pack of four is £89.99 (Tile.com).

Design

The Tile pro is larger than the Tile matte and sticker, and bulkier than the Apple AirTag too. It measures 58mm x 32mm x 7.5mm, and has an integrated hole for hooking onto your keys, bag or other items.

Tile offers the pro in black or white, and the only notable design feature is the Tile logo on the front, which doubles as a button. This is used for connecting the Tile to your smartphone during the initial set-up process, and a double-press can be used to play an alert from your phone, helping you find it.

Unlike the all-plastic Tile mate, the pro has a study metal frame to which the plastic front and back panels attach. A hole for hooking into your keys is cut into this frame, and the whole thing feels very well made. We think it’s extremely unlikely that the Tile pro would become detached from whatever you hook it onto.

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The plastic components feel equally tough, but we noticed our black sample picked up scratches very easily. We suspect it’ll start to look aged rather quickly when sharing a pocket with a bunch of keys, but the same can also be said of the scratch-prone stainless steel back of the Apple AirTag.

The Tile pro’s battery compartment is accessed by sliding off a portion of the rear cover. It opens and closes with a satisfying click, leaving us in little doubt over the Tile’s claimed IP67 water resistance (meaning it’ll survive being submerged in 1m of water for 30 minutes). The coin-style battery is a CR2032 and Tile says it’ll last about a year before needing to be replaced. The Tile app lets you know when the battery is running low.

How does it work?

There are three stages to how the Tile pro works. Firstly, it connects to your phone and the free Tile app via Bluetooth. If within range (which is up to 120m in open air for the pro), the app can show the Tile’s approximate location using an indicator of concentric circles. You can also have the Tile play a loud tune to help you find it.

(Alistair Charlton/The Independent)

If the Tile is out of Bluetooth range, you’ll need to call upon support from the wider Tile-owning community. Mark your Tile as lost in the app, and you’ll be alerted with its approximate location when a fellow Tile user comes within Bluetooth range of it.

Lastly, there’s a QR code on the back of the Tile pro. If someone finds your Tile and scans this with their phone, they are shown your contact details – but only if you have previously set this feature up in the Tile app – and you are alerted.

How good is it really?

To put the Tile pro to the test, we conducted two experiments. We walked to where our car is parked a couple of streets away, then left the Tile pro in there. We then headed home, to simulate what would happen if the Tile pro had been dropped while out on a walk.

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To find the Tile, it’s simply a case of opening the Tile app, which shows where the device last had a Bluetooth connection to our phone. If this were real, it would then be easy to walk to that location and have the Tile play an alarm until we found it.

Next, we wanted to try out the Tile Network. We repeated the process, but this time we left our phone at home. That way, the last known location (our home) is incorrect, as the Tile is in our car on another street. This would simulate losing a Tile while on a walk without our phone, and now it’s up to the Tile Network to find it. We headed home, reported the Tile as lost, and waited… Eventually, a Tile user strolled into the Bluetooth range of our “lost” Tile and its location was updated in the app.

Lastly, Tiles can be located using Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Just ask one of the voice assistants to find your Tile, and it’ll start ringing.

What is Tile Premium?

Tile Premium is a subscription service that unlocks extra features. The service is priced at £2.99 a month, or £29.99 a year, for an unlimited number of Tiles. It’s easy to subscribe within the app, and doing so unlocks Smart Alert, free battery replacement, location history, an improved warranty, the ability to share your Tiles with as many people as you like (such as family and housemates), and an exclusive customer care text line.

(Alistair Charlton/The Independent)

The most useful of these is Smart Alert, which aims to notify you if the Tile system thinks you have something left behind. For example, if you always carry keys, phone and work laptop bag from your workplace to home, the app will notify you if you take only your keys and phone, but leave the laptop bag (with a Tile attached) behind.

The system isn’t quick enough to buzz you if you walk out the self-locking front door without your keys – believe us, we know – but it’s a handy additional feature nonetheless. So too is the free battery replacement programme; the batteries are fairly cheap, but automatically receiving new ones each year is a nice perk.

Location history isn’t quite so useful, at least in our opinion, but it can help you retrace your steps if you’ve lost something. Say you drop your keys and they don’t have a Tile attached, but there’s a Tile in the bag that’s been with you the whole time; you can use the location history feature to retrace your steps in a bid to find those keys.

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Lastly, the improved warranty means replacement Tiles will be sent out for free in the event of accidental and unintentional damage.

A Tile Premium feature limited to the US for now sees subscribers receive a $100 reimbursement if their lost item cannot be found using Tile. Furthermore, a $100 annual subscription to Tile Premium Protect increases this reimbursement to $1,000, effectively turning Tile into an insurance policy.

The verdict: Tile pro

New for 2022, the Tile pro is a well-rounded product that does one job very well. It is smartly designed, will hook onto your keys and slip into a pocket with minimal fuss, then offers a lifeline if those keys are misplaced. All Tile devices are very easy to set up, and it really is a set-it-and-forget-it product; one that quietly gets on with its job in the background, ready to spring into action should you ever need it.

We would argue that paying for Tile Premium probably isn’t worth it, at least with the current feature set. But if the smart alerts system fits better into your life and daily routine, then you might think differently.

Tile trackers used to have the market to themselves, but now have Apple and the AirTag for competition. Carrying an almost identical price to the Tile pro, the AirTag works in broadly the same way but benefits from UWB (ultra-wideband) technology for more precise location tracking, and an army of a billion iPhones helping to find lost AirTags, compared to “ mere” tens of millions of Tile users.

The Tile pro still works perfectly when in Bluetooth range, and its speaker is especially loud. But, when lost in the real world, its ability to be found depends as much on population density, and therefore the number of nearby Tile users, as luck. That said, a major difference is how Tile trackers work with Android smartphones as well as iPhones, whereas the AirTag is iPhone-only.

Tile pro, 2 pack

Voucher codes

For the latest discount codes on Apple and other tech offers, try the links below:

Want to compare the Tile pro to Apple’s AirTag in detail? Why not check out our AirTag review

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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