Tile's key finders are excellent solutions for when you're tracking things you can latch on to — say, a set of keys. But for objects with smoother surfaces, you don't have many options for connecting a traditional Tile tracker.
That's where the $40 Tile Sticker comes in. It has the same functionality as the Tile Pro and Tile Mate key finders, but it's packed into a circular tracker with an adhesive back, so you can stick it onto flat surfaces. That makes the Tile Sticker ideal for tracking things like laptops, tablets, luggage, passports and anything else that otherwise can't hook up with the loops on the Mate or the Pro.
It's a good idea in theory, but in practice, the Tile Sticker very much comes across as a brand-new product without the polish of Tile's more established key finders, which usually rank high in our best key finder picks.
Tile Sticker specs
|Size||1.1 x 0.28 inches|
|Listed range||Up to 150 feet|
|Tested range||Up to 70 feet (30 to 40 feet on average)|
|Battery||Not replaceable (3 year battery life)|
Tile Sticker: Design and features
The Tile Sticker is the smallest device in the Tile family — a little less than 1.1 inches in circumference and a little more than 0.28 inches tall. Stack four quarters on top of each other, and you've pretty much re-created the size of the all-black tracker.
A design that compact doesn't leave a lot of room for a replaceable battery, and as a result, you can't replace the one that powers the Tile Sticker. Tile says the device should last three years, which, coincidentally, is also how long the adhesive back developed by 3M is supposed to last. It sticks to some surfaces better than others — the Sticker has stayed in place on my passport, but I had less luck with my gym bag when the Sticker hit the side of a locker and came flying off.
On some objects, the Tile Sticker fits right in — it blends seamlessly with my gym bag (at least when it stayed on). But on objects with a more distinct design — a sleek MacBook Air, for example — it's like slapping a very noticeable black knob onto something. Some people won't mind the aesthetic trade-off, but to me, it sticks out like a pimple on some objects. The adhesive on the Sticker isn't built for detaching and reattaching, so once you've stuck it onto something, you have to leave it there.
Normally, I don't address the setup process for Tile's key finders when I review the company's products, because it's extremely painless. But on every Sticker I set up — and I've tried out four of them — I kept running into an issue where the Tile app (Android, iOS (opens in new tab)) would recognize the Sticker, only to immediately declare that it was out of range, even with the Sticker sitting nearby. Quitting and relaunching the app usually fixed the issue, but that's not something I've needed to do with any other Tile tracker. It's a minor annoyance, but it speaks to the general lack of polish I experienced with the Sticker.
Tile Sticker: How it performs
It may be smaller than other Tile devics, but the Tile Sticker offers the same features. Press the tiny Tile logo on the Sticker twice, and you can launch a two-way find feature that makes your phone play a tune to make it easier to find. From the Tile app, you can also make the Sticker buzz, helping you track down whatever object you've attached the device to.
Tile concedes that the alarm on the Tile Sticker isn't as loud as what you'll find on other devices. I found it very difficult to hear the alarm, even under ideal circumstances. When I buried the Sticker in a pile of laundry, I could hear the alarm only when I was in the same room. The Sticker on my gym bag was audible from within my closet when I was 25 feet away in my dining room, but only barely. Out in a public park, I had a hard time hearing the Sticker as I got more than 40 feet away from the device.
You can expect less range from the Sticker than from other Tile key finders. In my testing, I got up to 70 feet from the Sticker before losing my connection. However, distances of 30 to 40 feet were more typical. Regaining a connection was inconsistent; sometimes I could walk 15 feet before reconnecting with the Sticker, and other times, I needed to be right near the device for it to reappear in the app.
I should note that one Sticker I tested stopped working entirely after less than a week of use. First, the alarm would work only sporadically, and then it would drop connections repeatedly. It's currently marked as lost, even though I'm holding the Sticker next to my iPhone. The other three Stickers I've used have worked without any similar problems, so chances are, I just happened to get one lemon. But it's not something I've experienced in four years of testing Tile's different trackers.
Tile has a Premium service that costs $3 a month or $30 annually. You don't really need the service to get a lot of use out of Tile's trackers. So unless features like location history and smart alerts appeal to you, I'd give Tile Premium a pass. (Smart alerts could be useful, but the notifications that appear when you leave a preset location without your Tile Sticker in tow don't appear quickly enough to be of much use. The Chipolo One, in contrast, delivers much more useful out-of-range alerts, and that feature is part of the key finder's $25 price.)
The Tile Sticker has a lot of promise, particularly if you'd like to see the functionality of Tile's other trackers in a device that can attach to a wider range of objects. The adhesive coating on the back of the Sticker gets the job done, and Tile packed a lot of functionality into a very compact design that stays out of the way, at least when attached to most objects.
But the alarm needs to be louder, and the performance needs to be more dependable. The Sticker does a solid job at everything but the tracking part, and that's what Tile has to improve most on future versions.