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A graphic showing three popular Bluetooth trackers, including the Apple AirTag, the Tile Mate, and the Chipolo One Spot.

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The best Bluetooth tracker, from AirTag to Tile

Track your phone, keys, Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, and more

Graphic: Cameron Faulkner/Polygon | Source images: Apple, Chipolo, Life360

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At some point, you’re going to misplace something important, like your beloved Nintendo Switch, or your Steam Deck. And sadly, it’s not possible to remotely track the location of either console, should you lose it. That stinks, but tethering an inexpensive Bluetooth tracker, like the Apple AirTag, or a Tile Mate, to your items could make finding them much easier than mentally retracing your steps. Once you go through the initial step of pairing a tracker to your smartphone or a tablet, you’ll be able to see where your items are hiding by opening an app.

Okay, it’s not always as simple as that. These trackers are most useful within the house, or other places where you can remain within close range of their wireless signal. Because just like Bluetooth controllers and headsets, their wireless range is good, not great.

However, each of the trackers included below defy their signal limitations with an interesting workaround. Bluetooth allows the tracker to anonymously ping other trackers and phones, making up a vast network of interconnected devices that boosts the likelihood of helping you discover lost items. But each network is only as strong as the number of units sold, so our list of trackers are both the best and the most popular models available.

The best Bluetooth tracker

Tile Mate

The Tile Mate is easy to recommend for most people. It’s available for a reasonable $24.99 asking price (sometimes less), its non-replaceable battery can last for up to three years, and it has a water-resistant design. It can tap into Tile’s greater network of devices, giving you a fighting chance of getting your lost item back, even if you go outside of the Mate’s 250-foot Bluetooth range. Also, it can work just as well on Android as it can on iPhone — the same can’t be said about Apple’s AirTags.

A Tile Mate tracker is attached to the collar of a teddy bear. Image: Life360

Coming back to the Tile network, the Mate’s Bluetooth capability allows it to anonymously and securely ping other Tile devices that may be nearby, as well as phones that have the Tile app installed. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find your lost item, but having this network to lean on increases the chances that you’ll be able to see where it either presently is on the map, or where it last came into contact with a compatible device. Plus, if you pay for one of Tile’s premium tiers, it’ll reimburse you a certain amount for your lost item if its network falls short of helping you find your possession.

Each Mate has a lanyard hole, letting you attach it to keys, bags, pet collars, or on a carabiner clip. You can just as easily stow it in any bag, whether it’s a purse, or a zip-up case for your Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck.

The Tile Mate can also help you find a lost phone or tablet that it’s registered to, so long as it’s in range. You can press the Mate’s button twice, causing the paired device to ring. In case you lose the Tile Mate, it features a QR code on its back that people can scan with their smartphones, which will surface a message that’s configurable in the Tile app, like “if found, please e-mail me and I’ll meet you to pick it up.”

The free features that I’ve listed above should suit most people. But there are a few reasons why you might choose to pay for Tile Premium, its $2.99 per month subscription. For one, it’ll unlock smart alerts, so your phone can be alerted if you leave the Tile behind. You’ll also get a 30-day location history of the tracker, unlimited sharing with trusted contacts, and free battery replacements. It also grants you a warranty on the Tile, as well as a reimbursement of items up to $100 if your item is lost and the Tile network can’t find it. Tile’s $99.99 per year Premium Protect plan offers up to $1,000 in reimbursement.

In case you’d prefer other form factors — all of which have similar features— Tile also makes the $29.99 Sticker, a smaller option that can adhere to items (or slide into a cat collar), the $34.99 Pro that has almost twice the range of the Mate and a replaceable battery, and the $34.99 Slim, which is a card-shaped tracker that can fit into a wallet.

Apple AirTag

The $29.99 Apple AirTag is functionally identical to how the Tile Mate works, serving as a water-resistant gadget that can help you keep tabs on belongings. However, it can connect only to Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 14.5 or newer software. This isn’t a tracker that Android users should have on their radar at all, unless they’re buying it for someone who has an iPhone.

A person holding an iPhone that is directing the user towards an AirTag Bluetooth tracker using ultra wide band wireless technology. Image: Apple

One big perk of the AirTag is that it leans on Apple’s vast, accurate Find My app to help you keep tabs on the AirTag. So, if it gets lost, it may not be lost for long. Like Tile’s network, the AirTag securely communicates with other devices to provide a reliable idea of where it might be located. Apple’s Find My network is huge, given that every Apple device from other iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers can serve as a beacon. Apple says it currently consists of “hundreds of millions” of devices, which is a feat that no other tracker can compete with.

To make finding the AirTag easier when you’re on-foot, the AirTags have a feature called Precision Finding that the iPhone 11 and newer phones can take advantage of. When you’re near the AirTag, your phone can communicate via ultra wideband (UWB) with it to essentially give you more accurate moment-to-moment instructions to find it.

The AirTag’s notifications can be tuned to let you know if you’ve left without it, or not (notably, you don’t have to pay extra for this feature, unlike Tile’s Mate). And, if you unintentionally lose it, you’ll be notified if someone on the Find My network comes close enough to ping it. If you aren’t so lucky, it can be set to “Lost Mode” in the Find My app. Then, if someone taps the AirTag with their phone via NFC, you can share your info with them to coordinate having it returned. Android users aren’t completely left out of the AirTag equation; Apple’s Tracker Detect app is meant to tell you if there are nearby trackers that are, perhaps, being used for malicious purposes. However, you cannot track the exact location of an AirTag with anything but the Apple device it’s connected to. Apple and Google announced in May that the two companies are working on a new standard launching by the end of 2023 that will allow iOS and Android to notify their respective users of nearby unwanted trackers.

The biggest downside about the AirTag is that you’ll need an additional accessory if you plan to connect it to your keys, or tether it generally. Apple’s own AirTag lanyard ranges in cost between $20 and $40, although numerous companies make more affordable options. There are also accessories that disguise the AirTag, so it can be hidden discreetly in a way that, say, a thief may not immediately notice.

Chipolo One Spot

Apple’s AirTag isn’t the only tracker that can utilize the expansive Find My network with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. The brand Chipolo makes some trackers that can, including the $28 Chipolo One Spot.

A person holding an iPhone in their right hand and a set of keys in the left hand with the Chipolo One Spot tracker attached to them. Image: Chipolo

The biggest differences between Apple’s AirTags and these come down to design and convenience. The Chipolo trackers have a simpler look, but one big perk is that the One Spot has a lanyard hole, so you can tag them to keys, bags, and whatever else. And just like the AirTag, the Chipolo One Spot has a replaceable battery.

The best Bluetooth tracker cases

The Tile Mate and the Chipolo One Spot can be added to your keychain with ease, but as previously mentioned, Apple’s AirTag needs an extra accessory to achieve the same utility. We’ve listed a few accessories below, some of which are exclusive to the AirTag, while others will work with any tracker.

Update (June 1): Checked links and prices for accuracy

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