Tile Sport: Playing hide and seek with Tile's tough new Bluetooth tracker
With an ever-growing line of Bluetooth trackers, Tile has been helping people find their lost stuff for a few years now. The company has just launched the Tile Pro series, which comprises two new models: the classy Tile Style and the rugged Tile Sport. New Atlas took the latter for a spin, and found it to be a loud, reliable tracker.
The Tile Sport itself is a chunky little fellow compared to the rest of the Tile range and other trackers. It's a 4 x 4 cm (1.6 x 1.6 in) square that's 0.6 cm (0.2 in) thick, and weighs 15 g (0.5 oz), but although it's far from the small end of the scale, it still does the job without getting in the way too much.
As usual, the command center of the Tile system is an iOS and Android app. From here, you can pair one or more Tiles to the phone via Bluetooth, name them and assign them a category, like keys, backpack, wallet, purse, bike or whatever else you're trying not to lose. Then, it's a set and forget affair.
In a perfect world, you'll never need to use your Tile again after that. But of course, this world is far from perfect, and when your valuables inevitably go walkabout, it's a simple matter of opening the app and checking if it's still within Bluetooth range. If it's not, the map screen will drop a pin where it was last seen, helping you figure out where to start the search.
Unfortunately, that probably won't be much help if someone's stolen your goodies. In that case, you can recruit the power of the Tile community to help you, with the app sending you a push notification and email the next time another user comes within Bluetooth range of your Tile. The app likes to boast about how many users are in our area, but none of those 5,000 people seemed to pass by our unattended Tile within the space of a few hours.
Household hunting for everyday losable items is the Tile's most useful function: just press the Find button in the app to make the Tile sing out. And it has a decent set of lungs on it, too: The Tile Pro series has been updated to chime at 98 dB, twice as loud as the previous models. In our little games of hide and seek with it, that's more than enough to guide you to the right room, and once there, no couch cushion is thick enough to muffle its cries.
For times when a 98-dB alarm isn't practical, you can silently search for your Tile with visual cues. The more green circles that appear around the icon, the closer you are to the device, turning it in a kind of hotter/colder game. It's far less effective than searching by ear, though: it'll tell you you're "very close" anywhere in the same room, which won't help narrow it down if it's buried under stuff.
Going the other way, a quick double-squeeze of the logo on the Tile will call your phone, even if it's on silent. We found that the phone and Tile communicated as well as you'd hope in both directions, and from a decent distance too. Tile claims it has also doubled the Bluetooth range of the Pro Series, bumping it up to 200 ft (60 m), and in our experience that rings true. Leaving the Tile on the desk in our office, we found we could ring it from halfway down the alleyway outside the building, which would probably be about that distance.
The other key claim of the Sport model over its less-chunky brethren is its ruggedness. A waterproof rating of IP68 means it should withstand being submerged to a depth of 1.5 m (5 ft) for up to an hour. We gave it a dunk in a sink full of water for a few minutes, and sure enough, the little device lived to squawk another day.
But while it might stand up to punishment, the Tile Sport is still vulnerable to the ravages of time. The company says the device's battery will last a full year, but once it's dead, it's dead – and there's no way to recharge or replace it. Strangely, Tile touts that as a good thing, but we'd choose either of those options over the reality: you just have to buy a whole new device. Sure, the company chips in and gives you a discount on the replacement, but it's an extra hassle that some other trackers don't have.
For the most part, the Tile Pro Series does what it says on the box. Other Bluetooth trackers, including Tile's other products, do much of the same job in a more convenient package and lower price, but the Tile Sport might be your best bet for items you mostly use (or lose) out in the elements – think ski gear, tools, and bikes.
The Tile Sport is available now for US$35, or in a two-pack for $60.