Amazon teaming up with Tile to fight AirTags — but what is Sidewalk?

(Image credit: Apple/Tom's Guide)

When Apple entered the tracker market with AirTags, it had a huge advantage over long established players like Tile. With the potential for every iPhone, iPad and MacBook in the world to aid the search for missing items via the ‘Find My’ network, Tile’s community is tiny by comparison (something which may have contributed to AirTags’ repeated delays, as Apple made anti-competitive changes). 

Now Tile will be fighting back with the help of another giant of the technology world: Amazon. The company has announced that Tile will be joining the Amazon Sidewalk platform on June 14.  

Sidewalk is Amazon’s system for allowing devices to communicate with each other without Wi-Fi. According to the company, Sidewalk uses a mix of “Bluetooth Low Energy, the 900MHz spectrum and other frequencies” to “unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items.” 

Crucially, Sidewalk can tap into neighborhood devices. As Amazon explains, “you'll have the option to help your neighbors by sharing your Bridge’s approximate location to provide benefits like helping them locate their pet.” 

This is where Tile’s membership becomes invaluable for owners of the tracker. Currently, if you lose a Tile out of Bluetooth range, you’re relying on somebody with the Tile app installed on their phone to pass it and (anonymously) send you location data. 

As of 2020, Tile said that it was finding up to 6 million items every day, but suffice it to say this number should be higher with access to Amazon Sidewalk, which will work on multiple generations of Echo and Ring devices that have been finding homes across America over the past few years. 

“Working with Amazon to extend our finding network by securely connecting to Amazon Sidewalk devices like Echo smart speakers was an obvious choice,” said Tile CEO CJ Prober. “Amazon Sidewalk will strengthen Tile's finding power for our devices and Find with Tile device partners that leverage our finding technology, making it even easier to find lost or misplaced keys, wallets, or other Tiled items both inside and outside the home.”

While increasing the size of the network is welcome, there is of course a key difference between using Amazon and Apple’s respective ecosystems to find missing devices. While iPhones, iPads and MacBooks are designed to be carried around town, Amazon Echo and Ring devices (so far) are plugged into the wall and are very much static. In other words, they won’t be roaming to find missing Tile devices, and are likely of more help in residential areas than in town centers. 

Nonetheless, the power of Amazon Sidewalk combined with the existing Tile network should at least keep Tile competitive with Apple’s brand new alternative.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.