Tile is the current front-runner in the awkwardly-titled “little Bluetooth ringer gadgets that help you find your stuff” category. With refreshed Tile Mate, Tile Pro, and Tile Slim products for 2019, it remains so.
The latest versions of the square Tile Mate and Tile Pro look largely unchanged. They’re ideally suited for keys and other common items, but they’re now louder and work across longer distances. Both still have coin batteries that you can replace when necessary.
The Tile Slim has a new body with a credit-card footprint. It’s perfect for slipping into an easily-lost wallet and a definite step up in terms of usability.
The last member of this refreshed line—and the only completely new product—is the Tile Sticker. This is the cheapest, smallest Tile yet, but it’s also objectively the worst. Outside of some very specific uses, it’s a hard sell versus the much more versatile Tile Mate.
The New Tile Mate
The workhorse of Tile’s line is the Mate—a 1.4-inch square with a removable watch battery. It has a hole so you can slip it onto your keyring, and then you can find it with your phone via its chirpy little speaker. If you press the button on the Tile Mate, you can find your phone, instead.
The revised Tile Mate claims you can activate it from up to 200 feet away, which is pretty optimistic, according to my tests. With a line of sight, I could only get it to ring at about 150 feet away. And it failed to connect at a little over 50 feet in my house through several walls and a backpack. When I went to a different room (eliminating one wall), it rang from 40 feet away after it searched for a bit. If you have a larger home and don’t mind wandering, this should be more than enough for most people.
The mate is nice and loud. It registered 70 decibels on my phone’s audiometer. Its battery claims are a bit harder to test, as I don’t have a year to write this review. But even if they’re not completely accurate, since you can remove the battery cover and find a CR1632 cell at any department store, this is forgivable.
New Tile Slim
The former Tile Slim was a big square coaster. It fit with Tile’s branding but was only practical for purses, backpacks, laptop bags, and other things that already have enough space for a Tile Mate. Or you could stick it on a tablet or laptop if you supplied the tape. The redesign is much sleeker, with a standard credit-card footprint. The internal speaker, Bluetooth radio, non-removable battery, and activation button are crammed into just 2.5mm (0.1 inches) of vertical space.
As a dedicated wallet-finder, the Slim is brilliant. It slips into my small bifold a bit tightly, but not so much that the cheap stitching on my wallet was endangered. It’s loud—the same 70-decibel level as the Mate. And it works even better; I was able to get a connection at the full 200-foot range with line of sight. In my interior test, it couldn’t quite take the maximum 50+ feet of my house, with two walls and a backpack in-between. However, from 40 feet and through just one wall, it connected almost immediately. I assume all that extra surface area allows its interior antenna to work better.
The only downside is the super-flat battery is a custom job, and it’s nonremovable. You’ll have to use the reTile recycling program to replace it after the three-year battery life expires.
The New Tile Pro
The Tile Pro is the big daddy of Tile’s lineup. It’s the most expensive option with the longest wireless range. At 1.65 inches square, it’s a bit bigger than the Mate, with a tougher aluminum frame, and either black or white plastic. It also has a replaceable battery (CR2023) that’s good for one year.
Tile claims the new Pro’s Bluetooth signal can reach an astonishing 400 feet—that’s 100 feet farther than the 2018 version—and I believe them. During my line of sight test, I activated it from about half a block away, which was just over 400 feet, according to Google Maps.
During my interior test, it blasted through walls and bags and instantly locked on from one side of my house to the other. At 80 decibels, it’s a good bit louder than the Tile Mate, but not so much that you’ll hear it at a rock concert.
Its astonishing range and extra volume are worth the extra $10 over the Tile Mate—especially if you need to find constantly-lost stuff over a large area .
The Tile Sticker
The Tile Sticker is the sole newbie in the lineup, and its freshman year is a bit disappointing. A clear competitor to ultra-compact finders, like the TrackR Pixel, it’s barely bigger than a quarter (27mm). Of course, it’s fairly thick (7.3mm) to accommodate the electronics and battery. Rather than attaching to a keychain or carabiner, it sticks (as the name implies) with 3M adhesive glue to whatever you want to track.
The Sticker is, well, sticky: once it’s set in place for twenty minutes or so, it’s not going to come undone with anything less than a fairly firm impact. But it requires something perfectly flat and smooth for an ideal bond. Testing it on my garage door opener (the gray fob in the photos above), I found that even after the adhesive had cured, I could pull it off with my fingers with only medium effort. I wouldn’t trust the Sticker to stay in place on any curved or bumpy surface.
The form factor is also pretty awkward. Since it’s ostensibly taking over some of the functionality of the older Tile Slim, it’s hard not to point out that it’s pretty thick. The bump tended to catch on my tablet sleeves and bag, as if my gadgets had grown a rubbery plastic wart.
The Sticker is waterproof, but its adhesive isn’t, and it’s only rated for one “stick.” If it comes undone, there’s no guarantee it will stick to anything else. With no loops or hooks to secure it to anything else, once it comes off you’ll need some other way to carry it around, like a pocket in a bag. It’s not an ideal solution.
Given the selective stickiness, a weaker speaker (50 decibels), notably poorer wireless performance (150 feet during a line of site test; 40 feet during a multi-wall, interior test), and the nonremovable, three-year battery, I’d pass on the Sticker versus the Mate. It’s just a better tracker, and should be applicable to almost all of the same situations, despite being considerably larger.
It also doesn’t help that the cheapest way you can buy the Sticker is in a $40 two-pack.
The Tile App
Tile’s hardware is nice. Its app (iOS, Android) is what really makes it worth the premium over its competitors, though. Setup is a breeze, and so is customizing each Tile hardware product with premade labels.
After you set up your account, you can connect a new Tile to the app in under one minute.
The app allows you to do pretty much anything you want with your Tile. If you find your keys, but not your phone, just tap the Tile twice, and your phone will ring. Do you share your Tile hardware stuff with a family member? No problem—it does that! Do you want it to search for an out-of-range Tile in the background while you do other stuff? It does that, too.
The location history is particularly useful. The Tile app tracks the last time it pinged all your stuff. It can give you the approximate time and location of a Tile the last time it connected. If your stuff is well and truly lost, other people who use Tile can ping it with their phones, and its location can be anonymously sourced from the cloud.
A recent addition to the app allows you to use it to find other gadgets. So, say, you’ve got the Tile app on both your iPhone and iPad; you can ring your iPad from your iPhone. All of that is in addition to the more pedestrian capabilities, like customizing ringtones and zeroing in via Bluetooth signal strength.
The app works with Google, Amazon, and Apple smarthome tech, but it does so through a web service. This is a little more awkward than it needs to be. For example, if I say, “Okay, Google, find my keys,” it doesn’t know what to do. But if I say, “Find my keys with Tile,” a separate Tile voice pops up, and I have to talk to that, instead. It’s more clunky with some items and their labels than others, but overall, this could be much smoother.
The Tile Premium Service
You can try the Tile Premium service free for 30 days, after which, it costs $3 per month or $30 per year. This gets you free battery replacements for the Mate and Pro (which you can replace yourself for much cheaper), unlimited Tile sharing (one person, per Tile on the free tier), and 30 days of location history (limited to the last location on the free tier). It also offers “premium customer care” and three-year warranties on all hardware, versus the default one-year.
Those are fine, but not really worth the extra money unless you share Tile’s finding capabilities with a big family. Having to know where your Tile was before the last place it was spotted isn’t especially helpful. The big functionality Tile is pushing is Smart Alerts. These keep constant track of specific tiles—like your wallet, purse, or work ID—and alert your phone if the GPS senses you left home without them.
This could be a godsend for forgetful folks who often leave essential items behind. If you have a two-hour commute and can’t get through the office security doors without your badge, it’s worth turning around if Tile detects you’ve forgotten your ID. It might also be worth the $3 a month.
Score a Slim, Maybe a Mate, or Perhaps a Pro, but Skip the Sticker
You can’t beat Tile in its category. If you want to invest in a system to track your stuff, this is it! Individual and package prices on the new gear are as follows:
- Tile Mate: $25; four-pack for $70
- Tile Pro: $35 in black or white; two-pack for $60 or four-pack for $100
- Tile Slim: $30
- Tile Sticker: Two-pack for $40; four-pack for $60
- Essential Combo Pack: Two Stickers, one Slim, and one Mate for $70
- Mate/Slim Combo Pack: Two Mates and two Slims for $70
If you’re starting from scratch, I heartily recommend the new Tile models. However, the lackluster range and more limited utility of the Sticker isn’t worth the lower price.
If you already use Tile, the new Mate doesn’t demand an upgrade, but the new credit-card-sized Slim and super-extended range of the Pro might be tempting.
Here’s What We Like
- Rock-solid Pro and Mate hardware
- New Slim is perfect for wallets
- Fantastic app interface
- Plenty of user settings
And What We Don't
- The Tile Sticker is too flimsy
- Could use better smarthome integration
- A bit pricey by comparison