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Best key finder in 2021: AirTag vs. Tile vs. SmartTag vs. Chipolo

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best key finders
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The best key finders help you keep track of your valuables, and there's no better choice than Tile's trackers, after a revamp of that company's product lineup. That's especially impressive considering that Tile faces stepped-up competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung, which have come out with key finders of their own in the past year.

Tile's latest trackers all feature a new look, but the important thing is that they continue to deliver the features that have kept them near the top of the best key finders list. More important, Tile's trackers work with just about any phone, something you can't say for the Apple AirTag or Samsung Galaxy SmartTag, which either limit their best features to specific devices or only work with select phones.

Choosing the right key finder can be tricky, given the number of devices out there and how similar their features can be. Fortunately, we've tested a lot of different key trackers, and we've discovered that some are more deserving of a place at the end of your keychain than others. Certainly, the cheapest option isn't always the top choice for best key finder.

Here's how the best key finders rank after we've put each one through their paces.

Black Friday sales for the best key finders

Because they're relatively cheap, you don't often see individual key finders among the best Black Friday deals. (There are a few exceptions, like a deal that lets you save $5 on the Tile Mate.) Your best bet for savings is to look for bundles that include multiple trackers that are being sold at a discounted cost.

What is the best key finder?

The best key finder for keeping track of easy-to-lose items is the latest version of the Tile Pro, which offers extensive range (up to 400 feet, according to the company) and other features that set the bar for the competition. We're also happy to see the Tile Mate — which costs $10 less than the Pro — is much improved over its predecessor, making it a good, low-cost alternative over the Chipolo One. (For a comparison of the latest Tile trackers, see our Tile Pro vs. Tile Mate vs. Tile Slim vs. Tile Sticker comparison.)

If you've got a Samsung Galaxy phone, you'll want to consider the Galaxy SmartTag, as it matches the Tile Pro's amazing range. And iPhone owners are going to want to grab the AirTag. It's a cinch to set up, and if you have an iPhone 11 or later, the Precision Finding feature works very well. 

The best key finders you can buy today

Tile Pro 2022 with keys is the best key finder we've testedtom's guide top pick

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1. Tile Pro (2022)

Still the best key finder available

Range: 200-plus feet | Battery Type: CR2032 | Size: 2.3 x 1.3 x 0.3 inches | Geofence Feature: Yes (with subscription)

Wide range
Loud alarm
Battery is easy to replace
Costs more than rival key finders
New design looks pretty plain

The latest version of the Tile Pro, the top key finder available from Tile, gets a new look for this year. Instead of the square design you may have grown used to, the Tile Pro (2022) now looks more like a traditional key fob with a rectangular shape and rounded edges at one end. It's not as stylish as past Tile trackers, but it's still a very capable tracker.

And that's why the Tile Pro remains our pick for the best key finder you can buy. It's got the best range of any key finder we've tested with a good, loud alarm. A two-way find feature helps you locate your phone if you've misplaced it just by pressing the Tile logo twice on the key finder. And the Tile Pro's battery remains easy to replace after about a year of service.

If you've got the last version of the Tile Pro, there's no need to upgrade, as the feature set remains as strong as ever. But if you have an older version or are looking for the best key finder around, your search should end with this latest edition of the Tile Pro.

Read our full Tile Pro (2022) review.

best key finder: Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

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2. Samsung Galaxy SmartTag

Best key finder for Samsung phones

Range: 200-plus feet | Battery Type: CR2032 | Size: 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.4 inches inches | Geofence Feature: No

Matches the range of the Tile Pro
Can control other smart devices and routines
Long battery life
Limited to Galaxy smartphones
Lacks Ultra Wideband support found in SmartTag Plus, AirTag

Owners of Samsung phones looking for the best key finder should consider the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag alongside the Tile Pro. Like the Tile Pro, the SmartTag fared well in our range testing, as we were able to stay connected to our keys from up to 225 feet away. We can also point to some real-world successes with the SmartTag, as our tester was able to find keys that were left behind using last-seen data from the companion SmartThings app.

There's a unique component to the SmartTag that other key finders don't boast. Because the key finder connects to Samsung's SmartThings app, you can use it to automate some smart home features with a press of the tracker's button. Be aware that this version of the SmartTag doesn't support Ultra Wideband connectivity for more accurate tracking like Apple AirTag does; for that feature, you'll need to pay up for the SmartTag Plus, which costs an extra $10.

SmartTag compatibility is limited to Samsung Galaxy phones running Android 8.0 or later, so if you've got another handset, you want to consider some of the other best key finder options. But Samsung's smart tracker is a perfect companion to devices like the latest Galaxy S models.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy SmartTag review.

best key finder for less Tile Mate 2022 held in hand

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3. Tile Mate (2022)

A great value among the best key finders

Range: 200 feet | Battery Type: Non-replaceable | Size: 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.3 inches | Geofence Feature: Yes (with subscription)

Costs less than many comparable key finders
Better range than previous edition
Two-way finding feature for locating your phone
Battery isn't replaceable
No Ultra Wideband connectivity

Tile has made some great improvements to the latest addition of the Tile Mate, which now performs more reliably than its predecessor. We consistently reached 200 feet when range testing this Bluetooth-based tracker, which is pretty impressive. The Tile Pro is a more fully featured device, but the Tile Mate costs $10 less, making it a great value for bargain hunters.

Some users will not appreciate that the Tile Mate no longer has a replaceable battery. Instead, you get a battery that's built to last for three years before you need to replace your tracker. At least the Mate's new design makes it better able to withstand dunks in water — like the rest of the Tile lineup, the Mate offers IP67 water resistance.

All Tile trackers work with both Android devices and iPhones, and the Tile Mate costs less than competing products from Samsung and Apple. That's why you should consider this key finder if you want a low-cost device that still delivers solid range and an audible alarm.

Read our full Tile Mate (2022) review.

Apple AirTag

(Image credit: Future)

4. Apple AirTag

The best key finder for iPhones

Range: 30 feet | Battery Type: CR2032 | Size: 1.26 x 1.26 x 0.31 inches | Geofence Feature: No

Easy setup
Precision Finding works well
Compact design
Privacy features need work
Design scuffs easily

If you've got an iPhone, especially one of the more recent models, you'll want to try Apple's AirTag. This key tracker pairs with your iPhone over Bluetooth to help you track down lost items in the iPhone's built-in Find My app. If you've got an iPhone 11 or later, you can tap into the Precision Finding feature, which uses the U1 Ultra Wideband chip in newer Apple phones to provide more detailed directions on finding lost items.

Precision Finding is impressive, but perhaps the best thing about Apple's AirTag is how easy it is to set up. Our AirTag paired easily with an iOS 14.5-powered iPhone, and the Find My interface is a pleasure to use.

Privacy features on AirTag needed some fine-tuning initially, as alerts that an unauthorized AirTag is trying to track you are slow in coming. (An over-the-air update just released by Apple promises to fix that.) AirTag also lacks some of the functionality you'll find in the other best key finders like two-way find features for locating a misplaced phone. Still, AirTag brings a handsome design and an iPhone-friendly approach to the world of key trackers.

Read our full Apple AirTag review.

best key finder: Chipolo One key finder

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5. Chipolo One

Best key finder alternative

Range: 40 to 50 feet | Battery Type: CR2032 | Size: 1.5 inches in diameter | Geofence Feature: Yes

Low price
Outstanding out-of-range alerts
Loud alarm
Subpar range
Battery replacement can be tricky

The Chipolo One key finder continues Chipolo's proud tradition of producing trackers with very loud alarms, making it easy to find the item you've misplaced. But the Chipolo One introduces an even better feature to the mix — out-of-range alerts that buzz your phone when you've left an important item like your keys behind.

All you have to do to get out-of-range alerts is toggle the feature on in Chipolo's app. (That's a contrast to Tile, which only includes such alerts as part of its Tile Premium subscription service.) When you've gone a certain distance from your Chipolo One, you'll get a notification on your phone and a loud beep or buzz. In our testing, Chipolo's out-of-range alerts appeared reliably and usually quick enough for us to turn around and retrieve our keys before we've gotten too far.

The range of the Chipolo One is a little disappointing, as we had a hard time keeping our phone connected to the key finder beyond 50 feet. That means the Chipolo One is best suited for finding in a small area like your home as opposed to more spread out locations. Still, at $25, the Chipolo One costs less than the Tile Pro and has better features than the similarly priced Tile Mate. We think its the best key finder alternative if you don't want to pay up for the Tile Pro.

Read our full Chipolo One review.

best key finders Chipolo one open edition

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6. Chipolo One Ocean Edition

The most eco-friendly key finder

Range: 200 feet | Battery Type: CR2032 | Size: 1.5 inches in diameter | Geofence Feature: Yes

Made from recycled plastic
Excellent range
Loud alarm
Out-of-range alerts are a little inconsistent
Battery is hard to replace

The Chipolo One Ocean Edition mirrors the standard Chipolo in terms of features, but offers at least one key difference — it's made from plastic pulled from the ocean and converted into the device's polypropylene plastic case. It comes in a dark blue color appropriately called Ocean Blue.

You'll pay $30 for the Chipolo One Ocean Edition, which is $5 more than the standard Chipolo One. But $1 of every purchase is donated to Oceanic Global, an organization that promotes ocean conservation efforts. So you're paying extra not only to remove plastic from the ocean but also to support ecological causes.

Otherwise, this offers the same features as the Chipolo One, and that's a good thing, since that's one of the best key finders outside of the Tile Pro. In our testing, we were able to stay connected to the Chipolo One Ocean Edition from 200 feet away, and while the out-of-range notification feature was a little flakey, those alerts that you left your keys behind are extremely valuable and included with the price of your Chipolo. Get the Chipolo One Ocean Edition if you want a solid key finder that also tries to make a positive impact on the planet. (And if you're having trouble finding it at online retail sites, you can always buy the Chipolo One Ocean Edition directly from Chipolo.)

Read our full Chipolo One Ocean Edition review.

Tile Sticker 2022 stuck on passport

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7. Tile Sticker (2022)

Big improvements to the smallest Tile tracker

Range: 170 feet | Battery Type: Non-replaceable | Size: 1.1 x 0.3 inches | Geofence Feature: Yes (with subscription)

Better range and performance than previous Tile Sticker
Sticks to surfaces that other key finders can't attach to
Compact design
Non-replaceable battery
Button for activating two-way find feature is hard to press

The idea behind the original Tile Sticker was solid — build a small, circular tracker that could stick onto surfaces of devices and objects other than keychains — but the execution was flawed. Tile clearly took that criticism to heart with the new Tile Sticker, as this version performs much more reliable. It's a better choice now for tracking things like laptops, passports and other valuables with smooth surfaces.

You still may find it jarring to have what looks like a little knob sticking onto those surfaces, but at least you'll have a tracker with an audible alarm and a wide reach — we got up to 170 feet away from the Tile Sticker in our tests. The Sticker also works with both Android devices and iPhones, and it includes Tile's two-way find feature for locating misplaced phones.

Read our full Tile Sticker (2022) review.

Tile Slim 2022 held in hand for best key finders roundup

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8. Tile Slim

A tracker for your wallet or purse

Range: 80 feet | Battery Type: Non-replaceable | Size: 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.1 inches | Geofence Feature: Yes (with subscription)

A perfect fit for wallets
Slick design
More expensive than predecessor
Inconsistent performance
Battery isn't replaceable

Because its thin design — it's about the same shape as a credit card — the Tile Slim is uniquely suited to slip inside a wallet or purse so that you can track that item's whereabouts from your phone. But unfortunately the latest version of the Tile Slim is a step back from the predecessor that impressed so much.

The problem is inconsistent range — we had a hard time staying connected to the Tile Slim (2022) anytime we got farther than 80 feet away. Considering the Slim is supposed to match the range of the Tile Mate and Tile Sticker, we can't help but be disappointed by that performance. 

Read our full Tile Slim (2022) review.

How to choose the best key finder for you

Here's the criteria to keep in mind when you're shopping for a key finder.

Connectivity and range: The majority of the devices in our best key finder rankings connect to your phone over Bluetooth. That generally means ranges of 200 feet or so, though in our experience, many trackers top out at 100 feet. (That's just as well, as beyond a certain distance, it's hard to hear the alarm anyhow.) The Tile Pro is the exception, with a range topping 200 feet in our testing. 

But range is about to become an issue now that Apple and Samsung offer key finders that use Ultra Wideband tracking. That not only promises more precise tracking data — and in the case of the AirTag, it delivers. (We're still testing the Galaxy SmartTag from Samsung.)

• 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 One.

• 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 geofence features, where your phone will get an alert if your keys are ever out of range — the Chipolo One's out-of-range alerts are particularly impressive if you prize this capability.

• 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 Tile Pro (2022) promises a year's worth of battery life and Chipolo claims its new key tracker will go two years before you need to swap out a battery. Non-replaceable batteries should also last a year and offer a clearly defined replacement program for when your device is running low on juice. The latest Tiles claim to last three years if they have a non-replaceable battery.

• Tracking Multiple Items: Many of companion apps for the devices we've reviewed here support multiple trackers, so that you can keep tabs on more than just one item. (You can track a purse, too, or a wallet, in addition to your keys.) Some products, like Tile, even let you share your tracker with another user, so that both of you can pinpoint the location of your keys. (Tile Premium gives you the ability to share your Tile tracker with unlimited users.)

• Price: 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. 

You'll pay up for key finders with Ultra Wideband connectivity. Samsung's SmartTag Plus costs $40. The AirTag costs a little bit less, at $30. 

You'll also want to consider compatibility. The Bluetooth-based Samsung Galaxy SmartTag will just work with Samsung's phones while the SmartTag Plus works with a more limited selection of devices. (The Galaxy S21 Plus, Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra have the necessary Ultra Wideband connectivity.) Similarly, to get the most out of Apple's AirTag, you're going to need an iPhone 11 or later (excluding the 2020 iPhone SE, which has no U1 Ultra Wideband chip.)

How we test 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.

We consider the size and shape of each key finder. We also look at the ease of inserting a new battery into those devices with replaceable batteries; if the battery can't we replaced, we consider whether the key finder maker has a replacement program in place.

We also look at the design of the companion app for each key finder, and consider additional features such as two-way finding capabilities.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.
  • PhilipMichaels
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-3490804/worst-wireless-key-finders.html
    Reply
  • james.jentry
    Do anyone uses Vozni Key Finder? I find out from Amazon and seems now that's the hot topic there... If any experience pls let me know.
    Reply
  • FireSnakeUSAF
    I have also tried virutally all of these keyfinders. My last set I owned were TILE.
    The absolute best keyfinder I have ever found was the PEBBLEBEE Keyfinders. I just purchased 5 more. They just came out with a new generation.
    Next time you do a review, you should include them too. Having owned them all and having tried out all the software suites myself, I can honestly say, They are better than the TILE. The software on your phone that manages them is just plain better, and it seems is more accurate when tracking down the lost item.
    https://pebblebee.com/
    Reply