It's a pretty horrible feeling to wake up and discover that your car's been stolen. But that's just what happened to me earlier this week. Fortunately, because we had a Tile tracker in the car, the police were able to recover the car within a few hours.
Allegedly, a few teenagers went up and down my block during the early morning hours, breaking into cars. Quite stupidly, we forgot that we had left a set of our keys in our car (not to mention it was unlocked), which was parked in our driveway. So when the thieves opened the car and pressed the start button, they were able to drive off with it.
After discovering the theft and reporting it to the police, I remembered that I had attached a Tile Style — an older-model Tile key finder — to the key chain a while back. When I first activated it more than a year ago, the Tile Style was on my cat's collar, but since he lost a leg to cancer earlier this year, he's become less of a flight risk. (He's otherwise fine now.)
Tile's trackers connect to your smartphone over Bluetooth, so, depending on the model, the tracker has between a 100- and 300-foot range. (It's less than that, as we've found out when testing Bluetooth key finders, though Tile's products tend to be among the best performers.) Once your Tile goes missing, you mark it as such in the app; the next time the Tile comes into Bluetooth range of any other Tile user, the device sends out an alert to you, showing its location. (Tile says it's sold 15 million trackers, so chances are good you’ll get a hit on a lost item if you live in a heavily populated area.)
In the Tile app, I marked my Tile Style as missing, which then triggered Tile's system. An hour or so later, the Style popped up at an address a few miles away. We then notified the police, who found our car (but not the keys) parked on the street. After they dusted it for prints, we were able to pick it up.
Obviously, this was a huge relief. We did a number of things wrong — leaving the keys in an unlocked car, for one. We had also parked the car in the one spot in the driveway that wasn't covered by a home security camera (something that's since been remedied) — but the Tile almost certainly saved us from having to replace our car.
Because the Tile is reliant on it coming into range of another Tile user, it might not be the best fallback for those worried about their car being stolen — one of the best GPS trackers would be better suited for that task — but I'm really glad I had the Tile in my car.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.