Tile review: What is it, how does it work

Tile products reviewed, its service explained and competitors investigated

Tile Essential 2022 pack

by William Lobley |

Tile is a brand of tracking device that has been around since 2012. The brand produces tracking devices that use Bluetooth connections to keep tabs on personal belongings, like keys, wallets, purses and handbags. The basic Tiles can connect via keyring, but other options include the Slim, which is similar to a credit card, and the Sticker which can attach to objects via a sticky pad.

Here, we look at Tile, what it offers and review a few products from the range.

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How does Tile work?

Tile is a brand of trackers. The range includes several devices that use Bluetooth connectivity to locate their position. If you combine a Tile tracker with one of your possessions, you’ll be able to track down misplaced property.

Once registered to a user, a Tile tracker can communicate with a smartphone and disclose its location. So long as you’re in range of the Tracker, which can be anywhere up to 120 metres depending on conditions and product, then the Tile can be tracked and the app/ringtone combination will bring you right to it.

If you’re out of the Bluetooth range, tracking a Tile will show you its last recorded location on a map. It’s then up to you to return to this area, where hopefully the Bluetooth can reconnect and your possessions are found.

Some brands partner with Tile to include tracking in their products. For example, Fitbit and Skullcandy have included Tile tracking to help users keep an eye on equipment.

Tile Network and community tracking

There is another tier of long-distance tracking available in the form of the Tile Network. If you are far away from your Tile tracker, or it’s been lost or stolen, you can ask your Tile app the alert you when another Tile product passes close by the missing tracker.

In effect, this feature alerts all other Tile trackers in circulation that yours is missing and that they should be on the lookout for it. When someone passes by your missing tracker you will receive a notification of its last-seen location. It’s then up to you to get to that location and try the standard finding method.

The tracking style used by the Tile Network is a form of community tracking. It's an automated and encrypted service that does not compromise your privacy. Other Tile owners will not be aware that their device is helping you out, and it's the same case in reverse.

Community tracking isn’t a feature exclusive to Tile but because of the brand's widespread user base, the Tile Network is more effective than many of its competitors. Basically, the more users there are using Tile, the more chance that someone will pass by your missing tracker.

Scan Me If Found: how people without Tile can help

Tile Mate wet and dirty, with QR code being shown
A missing Tile Mate: it's wet and dirty, but it can still be found ©William Lobley/What's The Best

On the rear of the 2022 editions of the Tile Pro, Tile Mate and Tile Slim, there is a QR code. If someone who doesn't use Tile products finds a missing device, they can still alert the owner that it's been found.

This function is called Lost & Found and is a feature that Tile has launched in an effort to further increase the likelihood that your missing item is found.

Tile and smart homes

Tile trackers can be linked to smart assistants, allowing you to search for your items using vocal cues. For example, Alexa users can ask “Alexa, ask Tile to ring my wallet”, and the tracker assigned to that item will be tracked.

This is very handy around the house, instead of having to rely on the smartphone app. Compatible smart assistants include Google, Alexa and Siri.

Tile setup and app

Setting up the Tile trackers couldn’t be easier. Downloading the app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store is the longest part of the process. Once this is installed, you log in to your account or create a new one.

The home screen is simple. Tapping “Add Tile” brings up the instructions; simply press the button of the Tile app you wish to activate and you’ll hear a little tune. Within a second or two the Tile is paired and you can select a reference name for the tracker tag. Then you’re good to go.

Once activated, you can go into the options. From here, you can change the tracking tone, whether it can find your smartphone, share the Tile tracking with another Tile user, and more. It’s highly intuitive and incredibly easy.

The layout of the app is well organised, with the trackable tags sitting front and centre in a grid. The tag names and icons are viewable, with a small ‘Find’ button sitting underneath. If your item has recently been tracked, there should also be a 'last seen' location displayed.

Along the bottom of the app, there are three menus. The home screen discussed above, a second GPS menu and a notification screen. The GPS is a really interesting feature, as it allows you to see the position on the Tile trackers overlaid onto a map. This is ideal for finding a tracked item without needing it to ring.

Tracking a Tile

Tapping the ‘Find’ button in the app brings up a new screen. It looks a little like sonar, and it tells you how far away you are from a Tile tracker. It guides you by describing the signal strength, which can be a little vague and not unlike playing ‘hotter-colder’ as a child. However, as soon as you are within earshot of the Tile tracker ringtone, things get a lot easier.

It’s a reliable, easy-to-use and intuitive system that can be understood quickly, even by the most technologically unfamiliar. Depending on your use, it's very unlikely that a Tile tracker is going to be a regular-use item, but when you inevitably misplace some belongings, they show their true value.

Tile Essential (2022) review: Tried and tested

Resident tech-head William Lobley recently received a review sample of the 2022 Tile Essential kit. After four weeks of testing, how do the devices fare?

Tile Essential

Tile Essential
Amazon

View offer

Includes: Mate x2, Sticker, Slim

Tile Essential Pack: First impressions

The design of the entire Tile range has smoothed over the years, and this is a welcome change. Compare the Tile of today against the 2020 model, and you’ll quickly see a new lozenge-like design. These smoother edges are not only aesthetically pleasing and nicer to the touch but there are practical benefits, too. This is particularly true with the credit card-like Tile Silm, which slides nicely into the wallet and purse compartments without catching on the material.

The pack includes a Slim, Sticker and two Mate tracking tags. This makes the Essential pack a great purchase for either a solo user looking to track several of their items or a small family looking to keep tabs on an item each.

During testing, our reviewer used the Tile trackers to look after their keys, wallet, car and backpack. But what other way can the Tile trackers be used? We’ve included a few ideas underneath each review.

Tile Slim Review

Tile Slim shown in a wallet
©William Lobley/What's The Best

The Tile Slim slipped into my wallet and was forgotten about. I like a low-profile wallet (in fact, I think my wallet is designed for travel cards), so initially, the Tile Slim felt bulky. It’s roughly the thickness of two or three credit cards. However, I soon got used to it. In a normal wallet, you wouldn’t notice any real difference.

In the app, I had the Slim set up to be tracked only. What with it going in my pocket, I figured there was a high chance that I would accidentally activate the smartphone-calling feature through sitting, standing, or just generally searching my wallet.

I’ve used the Slim several times. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use it in an emergency, but it sure speeds things up when you can’t remember where you’ve left it.

Buy the Tile Slim

Range: 76 meters

Can you change the battery? No, lasts up to three years

More ideas: Passport cover, eReader case, the inner pocket of luggage

Tile Mate Review

Tile Mate on a keyring
©William Lobley/What's The Best

The Essential pack comes with two Tile Mates. These are ideal for keychains and could be connected to the zip of a backpack or handbag. For me, they were put straight onto my house and car keys.

With the Mate, I set up the two-way tracking feature. This allowed me to find my keys via the smartphone app, or press the Tile Mate three times to find my phone. As you can imagine, this was ideal for getting ready to leave for work.

The Essential pack includes two Tile Mate tags. As I only have one set of keys, the spare stayed in its package for most of the test period. That was, however, until I headed off to London for the day. I knew my bag would be laden with my camera, a spare lens and, most importantly of all, my lunch. So, I set the spare Mate up and tucked it away in the bottom of my bag. Again, my time in London was without drama, so I had no reason to use the Mate - but I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me a welcome peace of mind.

Buy the Tile Mate

Range: 76 meters

Can you change the battery? No, lasts up to three years

More ideas: Dropped down the seating tube of a bicycle, pet collar with a keychain, inside a child’s favourite stuffed toy

Tile Sticker Review

Tile Sticker tucked under a bike seat
©William Lobley/What's The Best

I didn’t stick this one down. Instead, I dropped it into my car’s door pocket. If I were more concerned about car safety, I would have been able to attach the tracker under the dash or on the roof of the glove compartment - these are the places would-be car crims would struggle to find instantly. In my case, it was most useful for tracking where I had parked my car in busy supermarkets and multistorey car parks.

Buy the Tile Sticker

Range: 76 meters

Can you change the battery? No, lasts up to three years

More ideas: Underside of a bike seat, inside a glovebox of your car, TV remote, pet collar, water bottle at the gym, USB stick, laptop

IP Rating: Waterproof and dustproof

All of the Tile Essential trackers are water resistant. They each carry an IP rating of IPX7, which means that they can withstand being under water for over 30 minutes. This provides great protection against rain and damp.

The Mate and Slim are technically rated as IP67. The first digit, the '6', means that aswell as fending off water, the devices are safe from dust ingress. The Sticker does not have a dustproof rating. In my testing there was no trouble with dirt and grime, but it's something to be aware of.

Tile Essential Pack Verdict

Here are William's final thoughts: “I quickly came to rely on the Tile Mate for finding my keys, and Tile Slim for finding my wallet. In my life, having trackable items isn’t essential but there’s no denying it’s helpful. I imagine that for people in different circumstances, these gadgets could be a real saviour.

“The additional Mate and Sticker were initially surplus to requirements, but I eventually found a use for them. When travelling, knowing that your items can be found if misplaced is extremely reassuring, especially if you’re carrying expensive tech.

“The app was easy to use, and when I tested short- and long-distance tracking, I had zero faults.

“Though I’ve not been testing them long enough to have run the batteries low, I’m not thrilled that the gadget is probably dead for good after three years. Hopefully, Tile will work out how it can get the changeable battery from the Tile Pro into its other items.”

Pros Cons
• Excellent tracking and widespread anonymous network • Better features locked behind paywall
• Versatile selection in the kit• Batteries can’t be changed
• Defended against dust and water

What’s the competition?

Apple AirTag in a hand and Chipolo on a bag

There are several tracking tags available to purchase. In addition to Tile, there is the Apple AirTag and brand Chipolo.

Apple AirTag is widely considered the cream of the crop, which is no surprise given the Apple pedigree. However, while its tracking powers are excellent, there are some limitations. Firstly, AirTag doesn’t work with Android phones. Secondly, there’s no keychain hole which means you’re trapped into buying an expensive AirTag carrier.

Chipolo is very similar to Tile, except many of the features included in the Tile Premium package come as standard. The tech is also compatible with Apple iOS and Android. Batteries can be changed, too, which is a welcome touch. Sadly, UK users might struggle to justify the purchase as the user base is small, meaning the community find feature is less reliable.

In short, unless you use Apple ecosystem and are happy with the cost, Tile is the most sensible option out there at the moment.

Tile Premium

Tile Premium features: New battery alert and smart alert phone notifications
©Tile

As with lots of security products, such as Ring, the Tile functions included in the retail price are, while useful, only the most basic. In this case, it means you’re getting near and far finding, in addition to phone finding (where you can track your phone by tapping a Tile tracker). While useful, some users may want more from the product. If this is you, then you’re going to need Tile Premium.

A free 30-day trial of Tile Premium is available through the app.

Here’s what you get extra, as described by Tile:

Smart Alerts: “You never have to worry about leaving without important things. Get a notification when you leave home without them or if you happen to leave them somewhere else.”

Free Battery Replacement: “Tiles with replaceable batteries work for about one year before needing a new battery. You’ll get one in the mail when it’s about to expire so you can replace it yourself.” Note: Battery replacements are only available in certain regions. Not all Tile products can have the battery replaced.

Worry-free Warranty: “If your Tiles are damaged or defective, we send you replacements. No worries. We got you.”

Tile Products - Products with Tile built-in

Some brands include Tile tracking to help you keep hold of your valuable gadgets. These products operate just like standalone Tile trackers. Here are some brands that include built-in Tile technology:

• Skullcandy

• Fitbit

• Lenovo

• Bose

• HP

William Lobley is a Deputy Editor and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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