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Tech review: Tile’s new longer-lasting trackers make it even easier to find your lost belongings


Sometimes these reviews write themselves.

This week, I’ve been testing new Bluetooth trackers from Tile.

It sent me one each of its new models — the Tile Mate ($25, www.thetileapp.com) and the Tile Pro ($35).

I’ve had a Tile on my keychain for several years now, so I really don’t need to be convinced of their usefulness. But on the very day I wrote this review, my wife lost her keys.

She called me from work (she’s a teacher) to tell me that she thought they might be locked in her car. She was stuck and needed help.

“You won’t believe this, but I almost asked you to put a Tile on your keys this morning, but I must have forgotten as I hurried out of the house,” I told her.

It was the truth.

I spent today with the Tile Pro on my keychain and the Tile Mate in my front pants pocket.

We met at her school but we didn’t find her keys inside her car.

She was at a loss. She’d looked everywhere — in her room, in the office, in her school bag — with no luck.

Once I started looking in her school bag, which has wheels and a retractable handle, I decided to look in the area at the base of the handle, which is its own little pocket. You guessed it: The keys were there. I just got lucky.

If I had remembered to put the Tile Mate on her keychain, she’d have been able to launch the Tile app on her phone and press an on-screen button that would cause the Tile Mate to emit a loud ringtone.

She’d have found them on her own.

Same great Tiles

Tiles have a good reputation for helping people find lost things. They’re also small enough to tuck into a pocket of your purse or computer bag, or to hang on your keychain.

And they’re tough. They can take some decent abuse and they’re splash-proof (but not water-resistant).

They use Bluetooth to talk to your smartphone or tablet, so the effective range of the location of lost Tiles is the distance of a Bluetooth signal. This range, up to 100 feet or so, is pretty good for finding your keys when you know they’re in your house somewhere.

You initiate the location process by opening the Tile app. Find your Tile’s name on the app’s front page and press Find. If the Tile is within range, it will play its ringtone.

If your Tile is out of range, the app will show the last known location on the map.

The app also works to find misplaced Tiles using the power of everyone who has the Tile app installed. If you really lose your Tile, you can put it in “lost mode,” and the Tile will silently ping anyone with the Tile app running on their phone.

When someone with the Tile app comes within range of your lost tile, you’ll get a notification of the location. The person who found your tile will never even know they helped you.

Your Tile can help you find a lost cellphone (if it’s in range). Just double-tap the button on the Tile, and your phone will ring.

But they are improved

Previous versions of Tile were sealed and the battery was not user-replaceable. It had a lifespan of a year and then you had to buy a new one.

This year, Tile listened to all of us users. The batteries in the Tile Pro and Tile Mate are now replaceable. Batteries last a year, and then you can pop in a new one.

Tile was also able to increase the range, making Tiles even more useful. Previous Tiles had a range of about 100 feet.

The Tile Mate has a range up to 150 feet, and the Tile Pro has a range of up to 300 feet.

Indoors, obstructions like walls will cut down the range.

The new Tiles are also louder. The Mate is 1.5 times louder than previous versions, while the Tile Pro is 3 times louder.

Tile Premium

Previously, Tiles’ one-year life span meant you ‘had to buy a new one, which translated into more revenue for Tile.

Now that Tile batteries are user-replaceable, Tile has introduced an (optional) subscription service called Tile Premium. The $30 a year service covers all the Tiles in your account.

Services include:

— Auto battery replacement. Tile will send you new ones.

— Extended warranty. The company will replace it for three years if it dies.

— Unlimited sharing. You can share the location of your Tiles with others to let them help you find lost ones.

— Location history. You can see a 30-day trail of where your Tile has been.

— Premium customer care. You’ll have access to a special customer service text line.

— Smart alerts. You’ll get notifications when you become separated from your Tiles.

In my last Tile review, I listed the cons as “planned expiration,” and Tile solved that problem. The new Tiles are a tad larger than their predecessors but not overly so. The size difference is to accommodate the battery doors. They are no longer disposable, and they work even better than last year’s models.

They’re cheap enough to buy a few to keep track of things you’d rather not lose. Plus, they make great gifts.

Tile Mate and Tile Pro

Pros: Replaceable battery, better range, louder ringtone, premium service option.

Cons: None.

Bottom line: Tile has made a really good locator even better.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at jrossman@dallasnews.com.

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©2018 The Dallas Morning News

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