Bluetooth trackers: TrackR Bravo vs. Tile

IDG.TV | Dec 2, 2015

Two different Bluetooth trackers can help you find lost keys, wallet, even your smartphone. Both do a good job -- but they have a significant limitation that can prevent you from finding missing items away from home.

Sometimes, I get “preoccupied” and I misplace stuff. So I decided to test two different Bluetooth trackers that are designed to help you locate your missing keys, wallet, even your brand-new iPhone 6s Plus.

Tile and TrackR bravo use Bluetooth Low Energy technology to transmit their location and communicate with smartphone apps.

You can attach one of these devices to everyday objects you might misplace. Then, if the item goes missing, the tracker and its corresponding app can help you find it.

Let’s say I lose my wallet. I open the TrackR iPhone app. It shows me the wallet’s current location. I can see it’s not far away. If that’s not enough, I can tap the audio icon to make the TrackR bravo play a sound and help me find it.

Okay, now let’s fire up the Tile app and see where my keys are.

In the Tile app, you tap the icon for your missing item, tap the Find button, and the Tile device plays its little song. You can also see your item on a map.

Both of these trackers do a good job of helping you locate stuff—to a point.

Unfortunately, Bluetooth range is limited. We’re talking feet, not miles. So what happens if your wallet or keys are out of range?

Both products tap their community of users to try and locate your missing stuff. If, say, a Tile user walks by my missing keys, the Tile app on her smartphone will automatically send me a location update.

That’s the theory. In reality, I’ve lost stuff outside my home, and the Tile and TrackR user communities didn’t help me find them. For this crowdsourcing GPS feature to be dependable, both communities need to be a lot larger.

Of the two, Tile is the better product. It’s a lot easier to hear the sound it plays, which is important. Tile is best suited for attaching to keys or putting inside a bag.

TrackR bravo is a lot thinner than Tile, so it’s better for inserting into a wallet or even in an eyeglass case.

Also, you can replace a TrackR bravo’s coin-sized battery. You have to toss the Tile when its juice runs dry, after about a year. But the company will sell you a new one at a discount.

Bottom line: Tile and TrackR bravo work as promised but have their limitations. Even so, they’re better than not having any tracking device at all.