We've tested more than a dozen key finders for weeks at a time — indoors and outdoors — and Tile's trackers routinely finish at the top of our list. That trend continues with the latest key finders from Tile, the Tile Pro and Tile Mate. Not only do both new key finders have good range, reliable performance and loud alerts you can hear in a crowd, they also feature replaceable batteries.
Previously Tile trackers like the Tile Sport or Tile Style didn't have replaceable batteries, requiring you to get a new key finder after a year. That was a concern for some users, so the fact that the new $35 Pro and $25 Mate now let you swap out the battery on your own removes one of the last reasons to steer clear of Tile's trackers.
In addition to new trackers, Tile offers a Tile Premium service at a cost of $3 a month or $30 if you sign up for a year. Under Tile Premium, Tile will send you a free battery to replace the one in your Tile Mate or Tile Pro. The service also logs your location history, offers a dedicated text line to customer service and lets you share your Tile with an unlimited number of users. The biggest feature, Smart Alerts, notifies you when you've left your Tile behind at a specified address, but that feature is still in beta. Having tested Tile Premium, we found the service to be all right, though not a must-have for Tile owners; you can certainly enjoy full key tracking functionality without it.
One of the Tile's most formidable rivals — the compact TrackR's Pixel — remains available, but its renamed parent company Adero is shifting its focus to a system aimed more toward keeping you organized than helping you find things. For that reason, the best alternative to Tile comes from Chipolo in the form of the $25 Chipolo Plus, thanks to its loud alarm and colorful look.
News and Updates (Updated Jan. 10)
- Chipolo plans to update its key tracker lineup later this year with the Chipolo Dot, a spherical key finder that features a new round design to include a louder alarm, built-in LED light and water resistance. The new tracker has a replaceable battery, too. It will replace the Chipolo Plus when it ships this fall. But the bigger news coming out of CES for Chipolo is that next year the tracker maker will include a finder with LTE and GPS connectivity along with Bluetooth. The Chipolo Go, which will cost $150, is designed to track items and valuable gear that may not always be in your immediate control.
- Tile's tracking technology is about to find its way into more products. The key tracker maker says the likes of Sennheiser, Sol Republic, Plantronics and Anker will release products with Tile integration thin the coming months. They'll join Tile-enabled headphones from Bose and Skullcandy. Tile also just announced partnerships with chip makers Qualcomm, Dialog Semiconductor, Silicon Labs and Toshiba to integrate Tile's tracking technology into Bluetooth Low Energy chips. That potentially means more devices shipping with Tile's tracker technology baked right in.
What Key Finders Cost
The average key finder costs between $20 and $30. A few, like the Tile Pro, cost $35, but offer longer range than standard key finders. At $50 at the time we reviewed it, the Pixie Point has been the most expensive key finder we've reviewed, but it relies on augmented reality to help you find your keys. Note that key finders are often offered at a discount from these prices, especially if you buy multiple trackers.
4 Quick Key Finder Buying Tips
• Range: How far away can you be from your keys while still keeping connected to your phone? Always count on the actual range being less than what key finder makers advertise as walls, doors and other structures can interfere with signals.
• Alarm Sound: Check the decibel rating for the key finder. You'll want a good loud signal of at least 80 to 85 decibels so that you can hear your key finder over any ambient noise. In our testing, we've been impressed by the loudness of the Tile Pro as well as the Chipolo Plus.
• Other Features: Consider key finders that have two-way finding features, where you can press a button on the key finder to track down your phone. Some key finders also offer digital leash features, where your phone will get an alert if your keys are ever out of range.
• Battery Life: Look up how long the battery will last on your key finder. If it's a replaceable battery, count on about six months, though the latest Tiles with replaceable batteries promise a year's worth of battery life. Non-replaceable batteries should also last a year and offer a clearly defined replacement program for when your device is running low on juice.
Tile continues to make the best key finders, and the $35 Tile Pro is a perfect illustration of why. Not only has Tile increased the range and volume on the Pro — in testing we regularly got 150 away from the tracker while keeping a connection between our keys and out phone — but it also addressed one of the biggest complaints about Tile's gadgets: with the Tile Pro, you can finally replace the battery on your own. If you need a key finder with a wide range and reliable performance, this is the one to get, though you can probably skip the $3-a-month Tile Premium service until the still-in-beta Smart Alerts feature more effectively informs you that you've left key items behind.
The Tile Mate doesn't have the range or the volume of the Tile Pro, but for many people, this tracker will be sufficient, especially since it costs $10 less than the Pro. The Mate offers the same reliable performance as the Pro, and it now has a replaceable battery, removing one of the biggest complaints users had about previous generations of Tile trackers. You can add the Tile Premium service if you want — it's $3 a month — but you really don't need it to get the most out
Now that the TrackR Pixel is making way for the new Adero organizational smart tags, your best alternative to Tile's key finders is the Chipolo Plus. Until the Tile Pro came along, the Chipolo Plus was one of the loudest trackers we found, and it offers good range and splash resistance. One caveat: you can't replace the battery on the Chipolo Plus. For that, you'll need to use the Chipolo Classic, which isn't as loud as the Plus.
How We Test and Rate Key Finders
We put every key finder we review through a series of tests. To test the volume of the alarm, we bury the key finder in a clothes hamper filled with laundry and see how far we can walk away before the alarm becomes inaudible. We also check to how long the alarm sounds before shutting off.
To test range, we go to a public park and leave the key finder behind. We check every 10 feet until we lose the signal or can no longer hear the alarm. We also take note of how quickly the key finder re-establishes a connection with our phone once it's back in range. If a key finder promises a digital leash feature, we walk away, taking note of how long before we receive an out-of-range notification on our phone.
With some key finders now offering ranges beyond 100 feet, we also go to a local football field and check ranges on those trackers.
In addition to those tests, we take these factors into consideration when rating key finders.
Design: We consider the size and shape of each proximity sensor. We also look at the ease of inserting a new battery into those devices with replaceable batteries.
App Features:We look at the design of the companion app for each key finder, and consider additional features such as two-way finding capabilities.
Volume: We compare the volume of each key finder's alarm, giving extra consideration to key finders that are louder.
Range: We consider how far away we can get from a key finder before it loses its connection with our phone. We also pay attention to how quickly that connection gets re-established once we're back in range.
Battery Life: We look at how long the batteries powering the devices last, and whether or not you could replace them yourself. Whether or not a key finder features a user-replaceable battery is one way these devices stand out from each other, though Tile is responding to customer demand by adding trackers with replaceable batteries to its product lineup. The Chipolo Plus still lacks a replaceable battery, though, instead offering replacement programs where you can buy a new device at a discounted rate after a year. Other trackers we review let the user swap out the battery after it dies, which is about six months in most cases.