The best key finders could be in for a big shake-up. Apple AirTags are expected to debut this fall, with an October date looking more likely now that Apple's Sept. 15 event passed without new key finders from Apple. Whenever that launch happens, it's expected to upend a market long-dominated by Tile and its key trackers.
The circular AirTags are about the size of a bottle cap and work with the U1 wideband Ultra Wideband sensor in recent iPhones to show you the location of any object with an attached tracker. If that's true, it would make AirTags far more accurate than the current best key finders, as those rely on Bluetooth and its more limited range.
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Apple's not the only one eyeing the key finder market. Samsung's new Galaxy Note 20 adds an Ultra Wideband chip of its own, so location tracking features could be in the works there, too. But until those electronics giants officially throw their hat into the ring, a Bluetooth-based key finder is still your best option.
So which current device is the best key finder for your needs? There are different factors to consider — range, alarm sound and other features like alerts. Fortunately, we've done a lot of the work for you, testing a wide array of key finders to find the best trackers, whether you're looking for something to track your keys, wallet, purse or some other valuable.
Here are the best key finders we've found over the course of our testing, pending the entry of Apple into this market.
What is the best key finder?
The best key finder for keeping track of easy-to-lose items remains the latest version of the Tile Pro, which has gotten another welcome update for 2020. But if it's wallets or purses you'd rather keep track of instead of keys, the newest Tile Slim is a good option, too.
Tile's dominance isn't really a surprise. Tile has been the leading maker of key finders for a while now, and its tracking technology has found its way into other products from headphones to laptops. The latest version of the HP Elite Dragonfly, for example, features built-in Tile tracking technology to help you pinpoint the location of your laptop, should it ever go missing, and Tile just announced a partnership with Intel to bringing its tracking technology to more laptops later this year.
As for dedicated trackers, though, Tile revamps its key finder lineup every year, and the improvements to the $35 Tile Pro (2020) make a great device even better. The alarm is loudest of any we’ve tested, and the range now reaches 400 feet. The redesigned Tile Slim now slips more easily into wallets and offers a great way to keep tabs on wallets or purses. Unfortunately, the latest Tile Mate — the least expensive tracker in Tile’s lineup — feels like a step back, so we’d suggest finding a low-cost alternative.
That provides an opportunity for Chipolo and its latest key finder, the Chipolo One. At $25 it costs less than the Tile Pro and as much as the Tile Mate. While the Chipolo One's range didn't impress us in our testing, we do think the new Chipolo tracker has the best out-of-range alerts we've ever seen on a key tracker. If you want make sure you never get too far from home without your keys — or any other valuable item — we'd recommend the Chipolo One.
The best key finders you can buy today
Tile continues to make the best key finders, and the latest Tile Pro ($35) is a perfect illustration of why. Tile increased the range on the Pro — in testing we regularly stood more than 200 feet away from the tracker while keeping a connection between our keys and out phone — and its loud alarm is still audible at a great distance. A replaceable battery was introduced in last year’s model, and makes a welcome return here to this key locator.
The Tile Pro — and any Tile tracker — is especially handy if you have a Nest device at home like a Nest Mini or Nest Hub. Google added Tile support to Google Assistant, so now you can ring your Tile tracker with just your voice.
If you need a key finder with a wide range and reliable performance, this is the one to get, though you can 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.
Be sure to check prices before you buy a Tile Pro (or really, any key tracker). These kinds of gadgets go on sale frequently, and you can often find a Tile Pro for less than its $35 asking price — and sometimes less than what you'd pay for nominally less expensive trackers.
Read our full Tile Pro (2020) review.
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.
Past versions of the Tile Slim were easy to overlook. The design of this tracker aimed specifically at wallets didn’t really complement the object it was meant to track, and its performance was only so-so. Tile made some notable improvements with the current version of the Slim, though, which is why it makes our best key finder list.
The Tile Slim is the same size as a credit card, so this key locator slips easily into a wallet, purse or billfold. It’s got a loud alarm, making it a snap to find your wallet when it’s misplaced. And the range proved very extensive in our testing, if a little inconsistent at times. Still, with all the positive changes that Tile has made to the Slim, there's now no better device for making sure your wallet or purse is always nearby.
Read our full Tile Slim review.
The Tile Mate used to be a compelling alternative to the Tile Pro, as it allowed you to spend $10 less on your key finder, while making only minimal tradeoffs in range and alarm volume. But the range on the new Tile Pro is so much better while this year’s model of the Tile Mate performed similarly to last year’s version, despite Tile’s promises that range had increased. As a result, we think it’s worth paying the extra $10 for the $35 Tile Pro to get the best key finder.
This year’s Tile Mate has a replaceable battery, the same as last year’s version. But we had trouble opening the back of the key finder to replace the battery. That’s another reason we have a hard time recommending the Mate these days, which hasn’t seen the same gains as Tile’s other trackers.
Read our full Tile Mate (2020) review.
The Orbit Key Finder is a tracker you'd be proud to attach to your keychain. With its brushed aluminum finish and 12 color options, you're bound to find an Orbit that fits your style. Orbit has handles its digital leash feature — where you receive an alert if you stray too far from your keys — better than many rival key finders.
The problem is once your phone and the Orbit lose their connection, it's very hard to re-establish a link over Bluetooth — or at least it was in our testing. And since the entire purpose of key finders is to help you pinpoint where your valuables are, we have a hard time recommending Orbit, even accounting for its eye-pleasing design.
The Orbit has a replaceable battery, but you'll need a separate plastic tool that ships with the key finder to open it and swap out the battery. That's an unnecessarily cumbersome approach when the Tile Pro just lets you slide the device open when it's time to change batteries.
Read our full Orbit Key Finder review.
In a world where even the best key finders won't cost much more than $25, it's hard to imagine finding a dirt cheap model. But that's what Mynt ES offers. It cost $10 less than the attractively priced Tile Mate when we first reviewed it, and some retailers offer it for even less. You're not sacrificing too much for the lower cost, as the Mynt's range is decent, and it's got a good digital leash feature.
But you will have some frustrations. The documentation for the Mynt companion app is not very clear, and replacing the tracker's battery is more complex than it needs to be. When we tested the app, there was a mysterious bitcoin feature that seems superfluous to the task of keeping track of your keys.
Even though the 2020 Tile Mate took a step backward, it's still a better value, and the new Chipolo One seems a better bargain, too. Still, if you want to pay the least amount of money for a key finder, the Mynt ES is up to the task. The key finder is hard to track down these days, but retailers like Newegg still offer it at a heavily discounted price.
Read our full Mynt ES review.
While the Tile Pro and Tile Mate can latch on to keys, collars and anything else with a hook or ring, the Tile Sticker can attach to just about everything.
Tile’s smallest tracker comes with an adhesive back developed by 3M; stick it to any surface, and it should remain in place for three years (which, coincidentally, is how long the non-replaceable battery should last). The idea is that you can use the Tile Sticker to attach and track items like laptops, passports and luggage which might have difficulty staying attached to other trackers.
The Tile Sticker benefits from a compact design, but that comes with a lot of compromises. Its alarm is difficult to hear, and the range isn’t as good as what you get from the Tile Mate or Tile Slim. Also, the device performed erratically in our testing, suggesting that Tile needs to work out some of the kinks before this product is up to the company’s high standards and ranks among the best key finders.
Read our full Tile Sticker 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.
• 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 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 latest Tiles with replaceable batteries promise 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.
• 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. 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. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the $15 Mynt ES is the cheapest key finder we've found.
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.