Apple AirTag vs Tile: which tracker is best?

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Erin Lawrence

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If you’ve ever had to frantically look for your wallet or keys when you were in a hurry, you already know why a tracking device can be valuable. Right now there are two major players when it comes to trackers: Apple’s AirTag and Tile.

Tile was first out of the gate with its Bluetooth location device and reigned supreme for years but since Apple has a majority share of the smartphone market, it’s no surprise its AirTag has become wildly popular. Even so, the Apple AirTag vs Tile debate is ongoing. Which should you pick?

Pricing

Both Tile and AirTag are quite affordable. But if you are interested in the most budget-friendly option, a little more insight into these devices will be necessary.

The Tile Mate in a single pack is the cheapest choice with a price tag of about $24.99. Meanwhile, the AirTag sits at $29.00 each. The difference is not significant but it can tip the decision-making in favor of the Tile.

The AirTag vs Tile debate also revolves around the diversity of the package options.

An 4-pack of AirTags will cost you $99.00 while a multi-pack of Tile will range from $43.99 to $79.99, depending on size, design or number of devices.

Watch my video review of Airtag and Tile

Size and design

Apple Airtags, worth it, review

While AirTag just offers just one size and design, Tile comes in several different forms, shapes, and configurations:

There are chubby squares with a loop for attaching it, a larger credit card-sized rectangle one made for wallets, plus there’s also a fat puck-shaped Tile with an adhesive back called Tile Sticker, that could very well compete with the AirTag.

The AirTag is customizable in that you can engrave it for free when you order it from Apple. The Tile has a couple of different colours to choose from and sometimes offers unique printed versions too.

When it comes to a truly more personalized experience, Tile has way more to offer than Apple, in our opinion.

Accessories

Apple Airtags, worth it, review

Tile absolutely shines with its keyring loop as it makes it very easy to attach it to almost anything you can think of. You can use a carabiner, a key ring, or a nylon string to loop through the ring and attach it.

AirTag doesn’t have such a feature and it’s actually almost mandatory to buy an extra accessory in the form of a clip, case or special key ring that you can then attach to keys or other items. A whole industry has sprung up around this and it’s not a stretch to say if you buy an AirTag, expect to shell out more for holders and accessories.  Apple does sell simple holders on their store page and if you want to be able to attach the tag you’ll need to fork over at least another $29.00 just for the priveledge. This effectively doubles the price of an AirTag, which is a major consideration.

Of course, you have the option to just put the AirTag in a pocket or your wallet. But it won’t work for keys and your wallet will get bulky.

Connectivity and accuracy

The way both of these devices work is by using Bluetooth signals to ping off phones that may be near the trackers.  For the most part, that Bluetooth echo can precisely locate the tag. There are a few considerations however. To accurately locate your tile tracker, a smartphone user, whether it’s Android or iPhone, must have the tile app installed on their phone, and must have granted permission for the app to always run in the background. This is the only way someone’s Bluetooth signal can help you locate a lost tile. There are around 10 million Tile users according to Tile’s website.  That may sound like a lot, but again, if they don’t have the app running, they aren’t helping users track lost Tiles.

Apple Airtags, worth it, review

 

Apple has it running a bit differently.  Because Apple’s AirTag runs off of an iPhones operating system (no special app or permissions required), in theory any iPhone that is close to an AirTag will automatically use Bluetooth to register that AirTag’s location.  With over a billion iPhone users globally, the pool of potential devices that can silently and anonymously help locate your AirTag is massive.

Apple uses the Find My app to display the location information to the tag’s owner (But for privacy reasons you’ll never see who might be around the tag or which phone located it).  In short, any Apple device will work to triangulate an AirTag, so this gives it a clear advantage over Tile in accuracy and reliability.

Both the AirTag and Tile also have features that will locate a nearby tracker by making it ring or make noise. Apple goes even further with a nifty little feature called “precision finding” which shows how many feet away the AirTag is and in what direction you should go to locate it.

Set up

Both devices are relatively easy to set up.

Tile requires you to install an app and create an account before connecting it to your phone through Bluetooth. It takes just a couple minutes.  You can use Tile with both Android devices or Apple devices via the app.

The process is far easier for the AirTag. You just hold it close to an Apple device and a window will pop up asking you to connect; no extra registration needed. On the flip side though; you can’t use an AirTag with an Android phone.

Durability – AirTag vs Tile

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It’s important to have a tracker that’s quite resilient in case you lose your item somewhere outside. The champion here is again AirTag as it can withstand more exposure than the Tile. Its water-resistant coating makes the AirTag a better option if you drop your keys in a puddle for instance.

The Tile has some protection too, but it is recommended you don’t drop it in water. A splash is fine but more than that can affect its integrity, and might not work properly anymore. Having your tracking device fail because of something like this would be disastrous.

Battery & power

AirTag uses a replaceable CR20232 battery to power it,  and the battery should last about 12-18 months.

Tile again is a bit different; Depending on which specific type of Tile tracker you choose, it may have a replaceable battery or more likely it will not, (right now Tile Pro is the only one with a replaceable battery) meaning that once the battery dies the tracker itself is garbage. Tile promises its non-replaceable batteries will last up to three years, so there is some longevity there.

Security

If you’ve lost your item with an AirTag or a Tile attached, someone else (even someone without the right apps) can get it back to you.

With Tile, the finder can scan a QR code on the tag which will send you an alert that it’s been found.

What you find out from an AirTag is limited — unless the owner has both marked it as lost, and has set a message for you.

When it comes to personal privacy, Apple recently updated the AirTags interface so that they cannot be used for stalking. Any AirTag that is traveling with you will send a message to your phone.

Tile is still working on a good solution, and has said it will sue anyone who uses its trackers for stalking.

Key takeaways

Apple Airtags, worth it, review

The best tracking device for you may come down to which smartphone you have, and your budget. While both Apple AirTags and Tile trackers can be very effective tools for reuniting you with your lost goods, neither is perfect. But they’re both pretty great at what they do.

Shop Apple AirTags on Amazon

Shop Tile trackers on Amazon

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