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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tile’s New Mate, Pro, and Slim Trackers Are Winners, but Skip the Sticker

Various keys, a wallet, and a tablet, all with Tile trackers.
Michael Crider

Tile is the current front-runner in the awkwardly-titled “little Bluetooth ringer gadgets that help you find your stuff” category. With refreshed Tile Mate, Tile Pro, and Tile Slim products for 2019, it remains so.

The latest versions of the square Tile Mate and Tile Pro look largely unchanged. They’re ideally suited for keys and other common items, but they’re now louder and work across longer distances. Both still have coin batteries that you can replace when necessary.

The Tile Slim has a new body with a credit-card footprint. It’s perfect for slipping into an easily-lost wallet and a definite step up in terms of usability.

The last member of this refreshed line—and the only completely new product—is the Tile Sticker. This is the cheapest, smallest Tile yet, but it’s also objectively the worst. Outside of some very specific uses, it’s a hard sell versus the much more versatile Tile Mate.

The New Tile Mate

The workhorse of Tile’s line is the Mate—a 1.4-inch square with a removable watch battery. It has a hole so you can slip it onto your keyring, and then you can find it with your phone via its chirpy little speaker. If you press the button on the Tile Mate, you can find your phone, instead.

Car keys with a caribiner and Tile Mate tracker.
The Tile Mate is the best option for basic finding, Michael Crider

The revised Tile Mate claims you can activate it from up to 200 feet away, which is pretty optimistic, according to my tests. With a line of sight, I could only get it to ring at about 150 feet away. And it failed to connect at a little over 50 feet in my house through several walls and a backpack. When I went to a different room (eliminating one wall), it rang from 40 feet away after it searched for a bit. If you have a larger home and don’t mind wandering, this should be more than enough for most people.

The tile Mate's user-removable battery, exposed.
Swapping out batteries for the Tile Mate is easy. You can find a replacement at any drug store. Michael Crider

The mate is nice and loud. It registered 70 decibels on my phone’s audiometer. Its battery claims are a bit harder to test, as I don’t have a year to write this review. But even if they’re not completely accurate, since you can remove the battery cover and find a CR1632 cell at any department store, this is forgivable.

New Tile Slim

The former Tile Slim was a big square coaster. It fit with Tile’s branding but was only practical for purses, backpacks, laptop bags, and other things that already have enough space for a Tile Mate. Or you could stick it on a tablet or laptop if you supplied the tape. The redesign is much sleeker, with a standard credit-card footprint. The internal speaker, Bluetooth radio, non-removable battery, and activation button are crammed into just 2.5mm (0.1 inches) of vertical space.

The Tile Slim sliding into a wallet
Tile’s Slim has been redesigned to fit into standard wallet pockets with ease. Michael Crider

As a dedicated wallet-finder, the Slim is brilliant. It slips into my small bifold a bit tightly, but not so much that the cheap stitching on my wallet was endangered. It’s loud—the same 70-decibel level as the Mate. And it works even better; I was able to get a connection at the full 200-foot range with line of sight. In my interior test, it couldn’t quite take the maximum 50+ feet of my house, with two walls and a backpack in-between. However, from 40 feet and through just one wall, it connected almost immediately. I assume all that extra surface area allows its interior antenna to work better.

The Tile Slim, TIle Mate, and a credit card.
The Tile Slim is just 2.5mm thin, barely thicker than a credit card. Michael Crider

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