Some people rarely lose things. Wallets are always exactly where they’re supposed to be, keys never go missing, and remotes never slip between the couch cushions. And then there’s the rest of us — the folks who can’t ever seem to find the thing that was right there a few seconds ago. For us, there are Bluetooth trackers.
Bluetooth trackers have been around for a long time, and they all generally work the same way. You stick the tracker onto an object, pair it with your phone, and then when you lose said object, you can go into an app and ring the tracker. But these days, Bluetooth trackers can do a lot more. Some have ultra-wideband chips that enable precision tracking, so you can find exactly where in a room your item is. Others tap into large networks that make it easier to find lost items outside the home. Many will notify you if they detect you’ve left the device behind or come with QR codes that link to your contact information so people can easily return lost devices.
These features are incredibly handy but also have the potential for misuse. Take AirTags. When Apple launched the trackers, it hadn’t anticipated they’d be used to track people or stolen items — but that’s exactly what happened. It’s since beefed up its anti-stalking features, and companies like Tile have also followed suit. The good news is that Apple and Google recently announced they’re working together to create a standard that enables unwanted tracking alerts across both Android and iOS devices — and major players like Tile, Samsung, and Chipolo, are on board. But until this standard is up and running, it pays to be aware of each tracker’s current approach when you’re deciding the best option for you.
As a consummate Loser of Things, I’ve tested my fair share of Bluetooth trackers on wallets, keys, and luggage. Here’s what I’d recommend if you, too, have a hard time finding things.
AirTags: best Bluetooth tracker for iPhone users
Apple’s AirTags can help you find your lost items with their ultra-wideband technology. You’ll get the best compatibility with an iPhone, though Apple released an Android app that can detect an AirTag’s location and notify you if one seems to be following you.
When Apple launched AirTags in 2021, it really did shake up the category. That’s because AirTags are equipped with Apple’s Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip and tap into Apple’s vast Find My network. That’s a potent combo.
Basically, UWB enables precision tracking while Find My compatibility expands range far, far beyond Bluetooth’s limitations. With precision tracking, all you have to do is open the Find My app, tap “Find,” and you should see an arrow pointing you in the exact direction you need to go to find your item. Using the Find My network also means that so long as there’s an Apple device nearby, a lost AirTag can ping its location to Apple’s iCloud servers without notifying the owners of those other devices. And there are over a billion Apple products out there.
That accuracy is super convenient. My keys fell out of my pocket while running once, and I didn’t notice until my phone pinged me to say my keys were no longer with me. While I wasn’t able to use the precision tracking outdoors, I could see the last reported location in the Find My app. Twenty minutes had already passed, but I still was able to find my keys. I haven’t had that degree of success with any other Bluetooth tracker.
However, this accuracy is a double-edged sword. Last year, I ran a test to see whether I could track a friend and my spouse (with their consent) in real-time. And I could. To a disturbing degree. While Apple’s unwanted tracking prevention measures worked, there were also inherent flaws. (You can read about our testing in full here.) However, Apple has since improved upon unwanted tracking alerts by shortening the time before you’re notified an unknown AirTag is in your vicinity, making chimes louder, and creating a separate app that lets Android users scan for unknown AirTags. Apple also now informs users during setup that unwanted tracking is a crime and that AirTags are “intended solely to track items that belong to you.” iOS 17 is also expected to introduce AirTag sharing, so hopefully that will make alerts more effective, as AirTags on shared items won’t trigger unwanted tracking alerts.
The only thing I really don’t like about AirTags is they aren’t truly $29. They’re $29 plus the cost of whatever accessory is needed to attach them to the item you want to track. For example, you’ll need a holder to attach it to your keys or luggage. Thankfully, there’s a robust third-party accessory market, so you don’t have to pay Apple’s prices if you don’t want to. The fact that you can easily replace the battery with a regular CR2032 coin cell battery helps take the sting out, too. I just did it for two of my AirTags, and it was much, much cheaper than having to buy two new ones.
Tile: best Bluetooth tracker for Android users
For Android users (or households with both iOS and Android), a Tile tracker is your best bet. Not only are they platform-agnostic, but they’re much more versatile than AirTags because you can choose from four different shapes. The $24.99 Tile Mate is the OG and is a square tracker with a hole so you can stick it on a keyring or carabiner. The $34.99 Tile Pro is a bit larger and shaped like a key fob; it can also be attached to other items in the same way as the Mate. The $34.99 Tile Slim is card-shaped, so it can fit in your wallet, and the $29.99 Tile Sticker is a small disc that comes with a sticky backing so you can put it on remotes, pet collars, and anything else you can stick it on. Like AirTags, Tile devices can tap into a larger network — in this case, Amazon Sidewalk — to help you find your devices outside of your phone’s Bluetooth range.
The best Tile will depend on what you’re looking to track. The Slim, for example, is the best option if you’re constantly losing your wallet, while the Mate is probably the most versatile. My personal pick, however, is the Tile Pro. Of the four, it has the longest Bluetooth range at 400 feet and the loudest ring. It’s also the only one that has a replaceable one-year CR2032 battery. The rest have a 250-foot range and a three-year built-in battery. That means after three years, you’ll most likely have to buy a whole new device.
Functionally, Tile trackers can do just about anything an AirTag can — minus precision tracking, as there still isn’t a Tile with UWB capability yet. (The company announced one back in 2021, but we’re still waiting, partly because Apple is effectively blocking UWB compatibility for third parties in iOS and because Tile’s priorities shifted once it was acquired by Life360.) If you’re a Samsung Galaxy phone user, the $29.99 Samsung SmartTags do get you UWB tracking and can tap into the Galaxy Find network, which operates similarly to Apple’s Find My network. They’re a great alternative, but it’s not our overall pick for Android because it’s limited to Samsung Galaxy users. You may also want to hold off for a bit — we’ve seen an FCC filing for an updated SmartTag 2 which adds UWB to the base model. FCC filings generally mean a product is coming relatively soon, and leaks suggest that might be sometime in October.
All Tile trackers can tap into both the Tile Network — all phones with the Tile app installed — and Amazon Sidewalk. It’s not as extensive a network as Apple’s, but Sidewalk’s reach has improved significantly. It’s much easier now to view a Tile tracker’s location history, though you still can’t really track an item in real time.
For anti-stalking measures, Tile has a “Scan and Secure” feature, which allows you to use the Tile app to scan for unknown Tile devices in your vicinity. While better than nothing, it’s a flawed measure, as it requires the potential victim to proactively scan their surroundings. Tiles may be the better pick, however, if you want to track a stolen item. The company just rolled out a new anti-theft feature, which renders Tile devices invisible to unwanted tracking detection in the event someone steals your item. Just know that to use it, Tile requires you to submit a government ID for verification, agree to Tile working with law enforcement without a subpoena, and consent to a $1 million fine if you misuse this feature.
My gripe with Tile is it puts its best features behind a $29.99 annual fee — though new members get a one-year free trial. Those features include alerts for when you leave a Tile behind, 30-day location history, unlimited sharing with friends and family, free replacements for damaged Tiles, and a $100 reimbursement if any of your Tile devices can’t be found. The plus side is you only have to pay one subscription for all your Tile devices. Without a subscription, you can still find your Tile within Bluetooth range, see its last known location on a map if outside Bluetooth range, ring your phone from the Tile, and share Tiles with one other person.
Best AirTag alternatives for wallets
You could be like my spouse, who stuffs an AirTag in their bifold wallet and then makes a surprised Pikachu face every time it falls out. Or, you could opt for a Find My-compatible alternative specifically designed for wallets like the $35 Chipolo Card Spot or the $29.99 Eufy Security SmartTrack Card. Neither comes with precision tracking because they lack UWB, but they make up for it with super loud ringtones. As part of the Find My network, they also support unwanted tracking alerts. You could also opt for the Tile Slim, though that won’t leverage the Find My network.
The Eufy is the more versatile pick. It comes with a little clip attachment, so it doesn’t have to be stuffed in your wallet. You could clip it onto a laptop case, for example. Find My setup is ridiculously easy, and you get all the benefits of the network, left-behind notifications, and a louder alarm. Plus, you can use it to ring your phone even if it’s in silent mode by double tapping the button. On the back, there’s also a QR code — similar to the ones Tile uses — that helps good samaritans return your item to you. And, unlike AirTags, you can share it with multiple people via the Eufy Security app. The bummer here is it doesn’t work with Android, and it doesn’t have a replaceable battery. (Though the built-in one will purportedly last you three years.)
The Chipolo Card Spot is also a good option if you want something a bit simpler, though it lacks the QR code and its battery only lasts two years. If you do opt for Chipolo, double-check that the specific tracker you’re buying works on the network you want to use. For example, the Chipolo Card and Chipolo Card Spot can both be used with iPhones, but the Card only works with the Chipolo app, while the Card Spot only works with Find My.
There’s some good news for Android users looking for a Tile wallet alternative — Chipolo is working on the Chipolo Card Point, which is available for preorders and will work with Google’s Find My Device network when it launches.
However, you’ll have to be a little patient here. Google announced in July that it’s delaying the launch of its upgraded Find My Network until Apple devices can detect and notify you of unknown Find My Device trackers the way iOS currently does for unknown AirTags and other trackers using Apple’s FindMy network. It’s a good thing, as Android users didn’t get that when AirTags launched.)