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8 best key finders to help you track down your stuff

These little Bluetooth gadgets will help reunite you with your things

Alex Lee
Wednesday 27 October 2021 14:37
<p>They’re both finders and keepers </p>

They’re both finders and keepers

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It feels horrible when it happens, but it’s a fact of life. Humans lose things. Keys, wallets, phones, bags, scarves, pants. You name it, we’ve probably lost it. And that’s both inside the home and outside of it.

Research even suggests that we in the UK spend 110 days of our lives searching desperately for our stray items. To fix this age-old problem, tech firms have been developing Bluetooth item trackers of all shapes and sizes, hoping to help reconnect us with our lost property. It all arguably started in 2013, with American company Tile.

For years, Tile was the only brand in the key finder space, but it’s since been invaded by other third-party competitors like Chipolo and, most recently, Samsung and Apple. While the latter two are still fairly new to the segment, they’ve already begun nudging Tile off its podium.

Earlier this month, Tile refreshed its entire range and announced its own ultra-wideband version to compete with the Apple AirTag, set for release in early 2022. We’ve had the chance to test a number of different key finders out, including the latest Tile trackers, and have rounded up all of our favourites below.

How we tested

We tested all of these key finders in pretty much the same way. After pairing with our smartphone – either an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE – we purposefully lost them inside the house, and then took them all on a short outdoor adventure into the park, attempting to simulate the real-world fear and despair of losing a precious object. If we were able to easily locate it with just the use of our phone and our ears, it was a win.

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We also looked at their overall design, testing their sturdiness, practicality and how simple they were to take on and off our keys. If the tracker had a removable coin cell battery, we assessed how easy it was to remove and replace.

The best key finders for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Tile pro, 2022: £29.99, Tile.com
  • Best for iPhone users – Apple AirTag: £29, Apple.com
  • Best Apple AirTag alternative – Chipolo one spot: £28, Chipolo.net
  • Best for Samsung Galaxy users – Samsung Galaxy smarttag+: £39, Samsung.com
  • Best affordable key finder – Tile mate, 2022: £19.99, Tile.com
  • Best subscription-free key finder – Chipolo one: £22, Chipolo.net
  • Best for wallets – Tile slim, 2022: £29.99, Tile.com
  • Best stick-on item tracker – Tile sticker: £24.99, Tile.com

Tile pro, 2022

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 58mm x 32mm x 7.5mm 
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for up to 30 minutes) 
  • Battery: Replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery (one year)
  • System requirements: An Android or iOS device
  • Range: Up to 122m

The Tile pro is the company’s most premium item tracker and is a superb choice if you’re an Android or an iOS user. And with the 2022 refresh, it’s only gotten better. It no longer has that squared-off design, ditching it in favour of a sleeker, car key-like-fob shape. It still features a metal keyring hole, which has been moved to the centre for easier attachment to your keys, so it now lies flush instead of sticking out at an angle. It’s also super simple to set up using the Tile app. 

It has the longest range out of all the trackers on this list – able to ping your item up to 122m away, and it also happens to be one of the loudest key finders we’ve tested. We could hear this little guy pinging from the other side of the house. It’s a little heftier than some other key finders, but if that’s because it has to accommodate a louder speaker, we don’t mind too much. It’s also IP67 waterproof, so if you accidentally drop your keys into a pool, your Tile will survive. Sadly, there’s no ultra-wideband tech inside the Tile pro, so you won’t get any precision finding, like with the AirTag or the Samsung Galaxy smarttag+. 

Like every other Tile, it works two ways. Lose your keys? Ping it from the app on your phone or ask the Google Assistant. Lose your phone but got your keys? Double press the button on the side of the Tile pro and your phone will start ringing if it’s in range.

If your keys are out of range and lost, simply open the app and set it to notify you when a Tile user comes into contact with your item. The new 2022 Tile pro also has a QR code stamped onto the back of it, so that if someone finds your Tile, they can just scan the code and bring up your contact details.

Tile has an optional premium subscription for £29.99 a year or £2.99 a month. You get access to smart alerts (so you’re notified if you leave your item behind) and free battery replacements.

Apple AirTag

Best: For iPhone users

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 31.9mm x 31.9mm x 8mm 
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for up to 30 minutes)
  • Battery: Replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery (one year)
  • System requirements: iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS/iPad OS 14.5 or later 
  • Range: Unknown

The AirTag is a quintessentially Apple product. It’s a tiny 32mm badge-sized stainless steel disc that sits inside a white case. On the top is an Apple logo, and you can personalise the rear with an emoji or your initials. It’s nice and small and pretty unobtrusive when attached to your things, although the metal does scratch pretty easily.

Annoyingly, there’s no keyring hole on the AirTag, so you do have to shell out for an AirTag accessory, which can bump up the price considerably. But as an item tracker, it really shines when it comes to physically locating your stuff thanks to its use of ultra-wideband technology (UWB).

UWB is more precise than Bluetooth, so you get extremely accurate turn-by-turn directions to your device, which takes place in an augmented reality environment. It doesn’t have the loudest of speakers, and we were slightly frustrated that it only chirps three times before we had to ping it again, but the UWB augmented-reality experience does help in that regard.

When your item is lost and out of range, other nearby Apple devices will begin pinging it, giving you constant updates on its location. It’s one huge advantage has over its competitors, considering the sheer number of Apple devices there are in the world. There’s also a nifty NFC feature, so if a good Samaritan comes across your lost item and taps their phone against your AirTag, they will be able to see your contact details.

With iOS 15, AirTags now have “left-behind” alerts, so you can receive notifications if you leave the pub while your keys are still on the table.

Read the full Apple AirTag review

Chipolo one spot

Best: Apple AirTag alternative

Rating: 8/10

  • Size: 37.9mm x 6.4mm
  • Water resistance: IPX5 (splash proof)
  • Battery: Replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery (five months)
  • System requirements: iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch running iOS/iPad OS 14.5 or later
  • Range: 60m 

If you want a slightly cheaper version of the AirTag, which does away with most of Apple’s annoyances, then the Chipolo one spot is the key finder for you. It is a little unusual because it works with the Apple Find My app. Like the AirTag, it has access to Apple’s entire ecosystem of devices, so if your lost item comes into contact with an Apple device, you’ll be pinged, making the Chipolo tracker – with its smaller user base – much more useful.

The speaker is also considerably louder than that of its Apple rival, and while the one spot doesn’t have the neat, augmented-reality, precision-finding feature found on the AirTag, it does have a keyring hole, so you don’t have to go out and buy accessories. It works the same way as the AirTag – you can ping it from the Find My app and track it from the map. Sadly, it’s only water resistant, so it’s unlikely to survive a dip in the pool, but it does have the same one-year battery life. Be warned though that the battery is a little harder to take out than the AirTag’s.

It doesn’t look as nice as the AirTag either, but it is more rugged and doesn’t scratch as easily. It’s a superb alternative to the Apple device. One spot won’t work with the Chipolo app, however, so if you’re an Android user or want a key finder that will work with both Apple and Android devices, have a look at the standard Chipolo one tracker below.

Samsung Galaxy smarttag+

Best: For Samsung Galaxy owners

Rating: 6/10

  • Size: 40.9mm x 40.9mm x 9.9mm
  • Water resistance: IP53 (water and dust resistant)
  • Battery: Replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery (five months)
  • System requirements: A recent Samsung Galaxy phone
  • Range: 32m

Before Apple came out with the AirTag and its cool precision-finding feature, Samsung – in true Samsung style – had already beaten its rival to the punch.

The Galaxy smarttag+ is almost double the size of the AirTag, with a square design that bulges up from the centre. While it doesn’t look as nice as the AirTag, it does have a handy little keyring hole in the corner, so it’s easy to attach to your keys.

It combines the clever augmented-reality environment with Tile’s extremely useful reverse ring button, so if you lose your phone but have your smarttag+, you’ll be able to get your phone to play an alert by pressing a button. The volume of the smarttag+’s speaker can also be adjusted, and you get the choice of 10 different ringtones.  

It’s super easy to find your things with the SmartThings app, with the augmented-reality mode taking over when you get close. Like other Bluetooth trackers, it crowdsources its location from other Galaxy devices when out of range. But it also has one killer feature which doesn’t actually have anything to do with finding things – automations. You can run automations, such as kicking your connected coffee machine into gear, by pressing or holding the button on the smarttag+. 

Weirdly, while it uses the same coin cell battery as the Tile pro and Apple AirTag, Samsung says that the battery will only last five months. It also doesn’t have the same level of waterproofing as its two biggest rivals.

Tile mate, 2022

Best: Affordable key finder

Rating: 7/10

  • Size: 7.8mm x 37.8mm x 7.1mm
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for up to 30 minutes)
  • Battery: Up to three-year battery life (non-replaceable)
  • System requirements: Android or iOS device
  • Range: 76m

The Tile mate is the company’s most popular key finder, and that’s really because it’s the most affordable one out of the four options. The latest refresh of the device doesn’t change or add too many extras, but it’s still one of the best key finders on the market.

It bears that same squared-off design as all the previous models, with the handy keyring hole in the corner, although it’s now slightly thicker. And, of course, it now has a QR code imprinted onto the back, so people can scan it and help get it back to you if they stumble upon your item – a worthy compromise for the lack of NFC integration. On the other side of the key finder, you’ll find that nifty reverse finding button, which allows you to ring your phone if you can’t find it in your house – a feature that still works as wonderfully as it always has done.

The range of the mate has also been improved. You can now detect it up to 76m away from the tracker – that’s 15m more than the previous version. While the speaker still isn’t as loud as the pro, it was louder than the AirTag and Galaxy smarttag+, so it’s enough for us to be able to hear it from the other side of a room. If you just want a basic key finder that won’t break the bank, this is the tracker for you. Sadly, the new mate no longer has a removable battery, so you’ll have to replace the whole thing after three years, but it now features an IP67 waterproof rating.

Chipolo one

Best: Subscription-free key finder

Rating: 8/10 

  • Size: 37.9 mm x 6.4mm
  • Water resistance: IPX5 (splash proof)
  • Battery: Replaceable CR2032 battery (up to two years)
  • System requirements: iOS 12 or later, Android 7 and later 
  • Range: 60m

Before the Chipolo one spot came out, there was the Chipolo one. It looks exactly like the spot, complete with the nifty keyring hole and the circular disc shape, but it comes in a whole range of bright, fun colours instead of just boring black. It’s also extremely loud, so you’ll be able to hear the Chipolo one chirping from a distance, at a range of up to 60m. It also has that same reverse finding integration found on the Tile. Two clicks will have your phone beeping constantly until you open up the Chipolo app to turn it off.  

Unlike Tile, which requires you to purchase a subscription if you want to receive “left behind” alerts, which – as the name suggests – alert you if you leave an item behind and out of range, Chipolo offers this service for free. It also offers up a few neat gimmicks, like a selfie snapper. Open up the camera in the Chipolo app and double click the button on your key finder to snap a picture without having to tap on your phone.

There is also a more expensive Chipolo one model, called the ocean edition (£29, Amazon.co.uk). It’s exactly the same as the cheaper device, but it’s made out of recycled plastic, recovered from the ocean. If you buy this model, Chipolo will donate $1 to Oceanic Global, a non-profit organisation aimed at cleaning up plastic waste from our oceans.  

Tile slim, 2022

Best: For your wallet

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 85.5mm x 54mm x 2.5mm
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for up to 30 minutes)
  • Battery: Up to three years (non-replaceable)
  • System requirements: Android or iOS device
  • Range: 72m

The Tile slim is the ideal item tracker for wallets, luggage tags and notebooks. It’s about the same size as a credit card but made out of tough plastic and double the thickness, making it perfect for any narrow spaces. Just like the Tile mate, it now has a Bluetooth range of 72m, and it sounds even louder than the older model, so we were able to hear it when our wallet was buried in a pile of cushions. There is also a reverse finding button, so you can ping your phone if you lose it somewhere in the house.

Just like the Tile mate and Tile pro, the Tile slim has a QR code embedded into its surface, so if any kind soul stumbles upon your wallet, a scan of the code will bring up your contact details if it’s been put into lost mode. Of course, if no one actually finds it, Tile’s network will be put to work, and you’ll get alerted whenever the location updates. It also now has an IP67 rating, so it can survive some time in water. The battery isn’t replaceable, so once the slim dies – you’ll get a notification when it’s nearing the end of its life – you’ll have to buy a new one, but it’s rated to last a good three years.

As with all Tile products, if you subscribe to Tile Premium for £29.99 a year or £2.99 a month, you’ll also get smart alerts, which ping you if you leave home, or anywhere else, without your wallet.  

Tile sticker, 2022

Best: Stick-on item tracker

Rating: 9/10

  • Size: 27mm x 7.8mm
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for up to 30 minutes)
  • Battery: Up to three years (non-replaceable)
  • System requirements: Android or iOS device
  • Range: Up to 76m

Ever lose your TV remote down the side of the sofa, then find yourself spending precious minutes with your hand down each crevice, only to realise it was underneath the dining table all along? Then the Tile sticker is the right item tracker for you.

It’s an itty bitty tracker that just attaches to the surface of any object with its adhesive backing. It’s particularly good for items without holes – so TV remotes, laptops and bikes are ideal candidates. The adhesive is super easy to apply to your things as well, only taking a few hours before it felt secure enough for us to fiddle with.

Being so small, you might not expect the range to extend very far, but Tile has managed to bump it up to 76m – putting it in line with the Tile mate and Tile slim. There’s no QR code on the Tile sticker – it’s really just too dainty for one, but it’s IP67 waterproof, so it will survive a dip in the pool.

It works like any other Tile product, meaning that, yes, despite its size, there’s still a reverse finding button on the side for you to ring your phone if you’ve somehow got your TV remote but have lost your phone. It’s one of our absolute favourite item trackers, simply because of its clever design.

The verdict: Best key finder

If you’ve got an Android phone, then the Tile pro is the obvious choice. When the Tile ultra is released in early 2022, things might change, but for now, with the Tile pro’s impressive Bluetooth range, its sleek design and reverse finding features, we can’t really recommend it enough.

If you’re an iOS user, the key finder of choice is an absolute no-brainer: the Apple AirTag is the superior product. We adore the precision-finding augmented reality feature, and the fact that it can tap into all the iOS devices in the world to help you find your stuff is a real bonus. That said, for some people, the lack of a keyring hole can be a bit of a dealbreaker. If that’s the case, we’d suggest the Chipolo one spot.

Voucher codes

For the latest discount codes on Apple and other tech offers, try the links below:

We’ve rounded up the 8 best AirTag accessories for you to peruse

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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