The Tile Pro with a replaceable battery offers the best range and a loud alert when you’re trying to find your keys.
While it has less range than the Tile Pro, you’ll also pay less for the Tile Mate, making it a good value.
This key finder has a loud alarm, which helps it hold its own against top-rated trackers from Tile and TrackR.
After testing more than a dozen key finders for weeks at a time — indoors and outdoors — we recommend the Tile Pro and Tile Mate as the Bluetooth-based gadget for keeping track of easy-to-lose items. Not only do both new key finders have good range, reliable performance and loud alerts you can hear in a crowd, they also feature replaceable batteries — a big improvement over previous Tile trackers.
Those earlier devices, such as the Tile Sport or Tile Style, didn’t have replaceable batteries. That meant you had to get a new key finder after a year. That was a concern for some users, so the fact that the new $35 Pro and $25 Mate now let you swap out the battery on your own removes one of the last reasons to steer clear of Tile’s trackers.
MORE: Tile Mate vs Tile Pro vs Tile Slim: Which One Should You Buy?
One of the Tile’s most formidable rivals — the compact TrackR’s Pixel — remains available (and at a discounted price from most retailers), but its renamed parent company Adero is shifting its focus to a system aimed more toward keeping you organized than helping you find things. For that reason, the best alternative to Tile comes from Chipolo in the form of the $25 Chipolo Plus, thanks to its loud alarm and colorful look.
News & Updates (Sept. 2019)
Apple’s Sept. 10 product event came and went without the company releasing a key tracker of its own as had been rumored. But the technology is definitely in place for Apple to roll out a competitor to trackers from Tile and Chipolo in the future. The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11Pro models include Apple’s U1 chip, which uses Ultra Wideband technology to locate other U1-equipped devices. Right now, that feature is going to be used to speed up AirDrop transfers between iPhones, but it also sets the stage for Apple to release a U1-equipped tracker that would work with the revamped Find My app in iOS 13. Stay tuned.
Best Wireless Key Finder
Tile continues to make the best key finders, and the $35 Tile Pro is a perfect illustration of why. Not only has Tile increased the range and volume on the Pro — in testing we regularly got 150 away from the tracker while keeping a connection between our keys and out phone — but it also addressed one of the biggest complaints about Tile’s gadgets: with the Tile Pro, you can finally replace the battery on your own. If you need a key finder with a wide range and reliable performance, this is the one to get, though you can probably 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.
Best Key Finder Value
The Tile Mate doesn’t have the range or the volume of the Tile Pro, but for many people, this tracker will be sufficient, especially since it costs $10 less than the Pro. The Mate offers the same reliable performance as the Pro, and it now has a replaceable battery, removing one of the biggest complaints users had about previous generations of Tile trackers. You can add the Tile Premium service if you want — it’s $3 a month — but you really don’t need it to get the most out of the device. Note that bargain hunters can get the Mynt ES for $10 less than the Tile Mate, though Tile’s version is a better value thanks to better design and a superior app.
Best Alternative Key Tracker
Now that the TrackR Pixel has made way for the new Adero organizational smart tags, your best alternative to Tile’s key finders is the Chipolo Plus. Until the Tile Pro came along, the Chipolo Plus was one of the loudest trackers we found, and it offers good range and splash resistance. One caveat: you can’t replace the battery on the Chipolo Plus. For that, you’ll need to use the Chipolo Classic, which isn’t as loud as the Plus. A newer version, the spherical Chipolo Dot, will ship this fall and feature a replaceable battery.
What Key Finders Cost
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.
Note that key finders are often offered at a discount from these prices, especially if you buy multiple trackers. Tile, for example, sells a four-pack oof Tile Mates for $60 — a $40 discount if you were to buy four of the $25 trackers separately.
How We Test and Rate 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.
In addition to those tests, we take these factors into consideration when rating key finders.
Design: We consider the size and shape of each proximity sensor. We also look at the ease of inserting a new battery into those devices with replaceable batteries.
App Features: We look at the design of the companion app for each key finder, and consider additional features such as two-way finding capabilities.
Volume: We compare the volume of each key finder’s alarm, giving extra consideration to key finders that are louder.
Range: We consider how far away we can get from a key finder before it loses its connection with our phone. We also pay attention to how quickly that connection gets re-established once we’re back in range.
Battery Life: We look at how long the batteries powering the devices last, and whether or not you could replace them yourself. Whether or not a key finder features a user-replaceable battery is one way these devices stand out from each other, though Tile is responding to customer demand by adding trackers with replaceable batteries to its product lineup. The Chipolo Plus still lacks a replaceable battery, though, instead offering replacement programs where you can buy a new device at a discounted rate after a year. Other trackers we review let the user swap out the battery after it dies, which is about six months in most cases.
5 Quick Key Finder Buying Tips
• 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 Plus.
• 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 digital leash features, where your phone will get an alert if your keys are ever out of range.
• 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. 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’re 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.)