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Tile Mate review: The original AirTag alternative
What we like
What we don't like
There’s not much worse than misplacing your keys or your wallet when you’re trying to hurry out the door. We’ve all been there, and it can be a frantic few minutes. That’s where the convenience of a portable Bluetooth tracker comes in, but the market is getting crowded. The Tile Mate sits among the original Bluetooth trackers, but how does it stand up against the newer competition? Let’s find out in our Tile Mate review.
Check out another Tile: Tile Slim review
What you need to know about the Tile Mate
- Tile Mate (One-pack): $24.99/€24.99/£19.99
- Tile Mate (Two-pack): $47.99/€47.99/£37.99
The Tile Mate is a small Bluetooth tracker that you can use to track your most important possessions. It features a small hole that can attach to a keyring, a cat collar, or even your backpack. Even though it’s one of the older Bluetooth trackers you can grab, a 2020 refresh has helped bring the Mate up to speed against its top competitors.
Mentioning competitors, the Tile Mate sits in the same class as Apple’s AirTag and the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag, but it has a few advantages over both. For starters, the Tile Mate costs $5 less than both Apple’s and Samsung’s trackers. It doesn’t lock you into a specific ecosystem, either — you can pair your Mate with iOS or Android with a simple download.
You can take your Tile Mate a bit further with a subscription to Tile Premium for $2.99 per month or $29.99 for a full year. Tile Premium is your gateway to features like Smart Alerts when you drift away from your tile, free battery replacements, and 30 days of location history. Tile Premium Protect adds up to $1,000 in item reimbursement for a $99.99 per year fee.
The Tile Mate keeps things fairly simple in its design and controls, so let’s get right into the best features.
The Tile Mate is just the right size — it’s about as wide as a grocery store rewards card and not much thicker. I can appreciate the flat design, as it sits flush between my keys and anything else I keep in my pocket. It’s very easy to forget that you have your Tile Mate with you, and the basic white and gray finish helps it blend right in.
Bluetooth trackers are all about convenience, and it doesn’t get much better than replacing the battery yourself. Each Tile Mate takes a single CR1632 cell, and you just have to remove the back panel that you can see above. You shouldn’t have to worry about the battery too often, though, as it should last for about one year.
Android? iOS? The Tile Mate gives you the freedom to choose.
No matter how much I like the Tile Mate itself, the most important feature is flexibility. Apple’s AirTag locks you to iOS, and the Galaxy SmartTag only works with Samsung devices, but Tile is here for anyone and everyone. If you have devices on both operating systems, you can download both versions of the Tile app and log in with the same information.
The app itself is your gateway to the Tile universe. You can add trackers as you please with the small plus-shaped icon in the top left corner, and each device shows up as a card in the main tab. From there, you can check the map to see your devices, as well as a circle of your local area. You’ll also need the app to control your various settings, such as your ringtone and your Tile’s location history, and manage premium settings like Smart Alert.
Tile’s controls are also as easy as they come. You can double-press the tracker itself to ring your phone or tap the Find button in the app to ring your Tile. Once you track it down, you’ll just have to give a single squeeze to stop the tone.
What’s not so good?
While the majority of my Tile Mate experience was enjoyable, there are a few flaws. The tracker is crafted entirely of plastic, making it not quite as durable as its Tile Pro sibling — not to mention that the AirTag incorporates durable metal into its construction as well. Tile’s Mate is also water-resistant but not waterproof, though this is common for Bluetooth trackers. I haven’t had any issues so far, but you have to avoid anything more than splashes, or a quick dunk. Don’t take it swimming with you.
While we can overlook the durability concerns on an affordable $25 Bluetooth tracker, there’s one feature that makes life a bit more difficult. You can’t simply remove a Tile Mate from your account. You can replace its data on a new Tile, or you can transfer it to another user, but the Tile is active for life. Of course, if you want to move a Tile from your keys to your cat, you can do so in just a few seconds in the Tile app.
You can replace the Tile, you can transfer the Tile, but you just can't remove it.
Tile offers a constant tracking feature that relies on other users to ping the location of your device. It works well provided you live near other Tile users, but it can be tough to gauge the popularity before buying. I can see around 300 active Tile users in my local area, whereas I know that there are far more Samsung Galaxy and iPhone users. This relative lack of a bespoke network is counterbalanced by Tile’s partnership with Amazon Sidewalk. This effectively adds Amazon Echo and Ring devices in your area to the tracking network — or at least those that haven’t been deactivated. It’s worth noting that this feature is exclusive to the US, however.
Of course, Bluetooth tracking is only meant to go one way, but there are times when a few bad eggs might try to track you with your Tile. Unfortunately, Tile does not have any user-facing anti-stalking features to counteract this. This is where a slightly more limited user base can come in handy as it means fewer data points to track from. But, with Amazon Sidewalk being added to Tile trackers, the increased tracking capabilities do open them up for more unscrupulous uses.
Finally, the Tile Mate claims an impressive 200 feet of Bluetooth range. However, to achieve that range, you need a perfect line of sight from your phone to your tracker. That’s rarely achievable, especially for a small tracker often used in and around a house or an apartment with plenty of interference.
Tile Mate review: Should I buy it?
The Tile Mate is a solid choice if you want an affordable Bluetooth tracker that works with Android and iOS. It beats the AirTag and the Galaxy SmartTag on price, and it offers a more enticing option if you own an Android phone along with an iPad. However, you might find better functionality by pairing a Galaxy SmartTag with a Samsung device or bringing an AirTag to your iOS party.
You’ll also have to weigh out whether or not you plan to pay for Tile Premium. It adds a few key features, but the $29.99 per year rate can add up compared to other trackers with native support for smart alerts. The lack of anti-stalking features is also a potential privacy concern.
Overall, the Tile Mate offers great flexibility for anyone who walks the line between Android and iOS. It’s tough to top the replaceable battery, and the high-pitched ringtones are easy to pick out in a crowd. At $24.99, you might find yourself picking up a two-pack or even more.