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AirTags Are Very Cool, But Tile Is Still Better For Your Keys

Tile’s key feature lets you use your keys to find your phone – not just the other way around.

Posted on April 22, 2021, at 2:16 p.m. ET

Apple’s new AirTag vs. Tile

Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

Apple’s new AirTag in a leather keyring next to a Tile Mate.

To many people, Apple’s new AirTag will seem like an amazing new thing that they’ve needed all their lives — finally, a way to track your keys, wallet, briefcase, or cat.

Of course, to plenty of other people, this isn’t a game-changer. This product already exists, and it’s called Tile. Tile has been around for years and has most of the same features, and it is not exactly welcoming a new competitor. The CEO testified before the Senate this week in an antitrust hearing about issues with Apple and Google, claiming that Apple prevented the company from accessing its ultra-wide band that allows precision tracking (more on that in a sec), thereby making competition unfair.

I’ve had a Tile on my keychain for a few years. It’s saved me a bunch of times. But is it worth it to switch to AirTag?

Here’s what’s the same for both AirTag and Tile:

  • The price is $29 for a single AirTag or $25 for the basic Tile Mate. With both versions, you can save on a multipack.

  • Both work over Bluetooth to ping your keys/wallet/purse by sound if you’re hunting around your house for them.

  • When they’re outside of Bluetooth range, you can see the last known location on the Tile app or your phone’s “Find My” app.

  • Both leverage their network of other users to have Bluetooth help locate the item when it’s lost. (HUGE caveat: The AirTags’ network of users is basically everyone with an iPhone, so it’s way, way bigger and better than Tile’s user network.)

  • Size, kinda. The Tile Mate is ever so slightly wider, but like…eh.

  • Both can use Siri (“Hey, Siri, find my keys” will start pinging the item). But with Tile, you have to turn on a Siri shortcut within the Tile app. There’s nothing to set up with AirTag.

  • Both basic models have replaceable batteries that last about a year.

Here’s what’s better about Tile:

  • Most important: The Tile can ping your phone — not just the other way around. Let’s say you have your keys, but can’t find your phone. Press the button on the Tile mate, and it will make your Phone ping loudly so you can find it. If, like me, you seem to misplace your phone while you’re heading out the door far more often than your keys, this is a HUGE advantage.

  • The Tile Mate has a keyring hole. The AirTag doesn’t, so you have to put it in its own keyring. If you already like your current keychain, you might not want to add on an extra one, even a $349 Hermès one.

  • There’s a few different sizes and styles for Tile, including a slim wallet-sized one that will work better for a wallet than the AirTag and mini ones you can stick onto a TV remote or other random stuff.

  • It works with Android phones.

Precision tracking on the AirTag helps guide you.

Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

Your phone will tell you how close you are within Bluetooth range.

What’s better about AirTag:

  • Precision tracking is truly very cool. When you have the Find My app open on your phone, it will actually really show you which way to turn and how close you are. This is awesome. It’s one of those cool features that feels like The Future. (NOTE: This technology only works with iPhone 11 and newer. Sorry, anyone with an XS or older.)

  • The luggage-tag-style design is good for a purse or luggage, rather than wallets or keys. Of course, you could also just slip the nude AirTag (or Tile, for that matter) into a bag pocket. But if your lifestyle requires a $449 Hermès luggage tag, Apple has got you covered.

  • It is water-resistant 💦.

  • If someone finds your AirTag when it’s set to Lost Mode and taps it with their smartphone, it’ll pull up a page with your contact info.

  • The Find My network that helps you find lost items is much, much bigger than that of the Tile network. Both products have the ability when in “lost mode” to connect and update to anyone else with the app who is nearby. But lots and lots more people have iPhones than they do Tiles, so your chances for someone walking near it with their phone is much greater with an AirTag.

  • End-to-end encrypted for stronger security and privacy. No one, not even Apple, sees your location, and even with the Find My network, other people can’t use it to track you.

  • There’s a feature designed to prevent unwanted tracking if someone tries to slip one into your bag or other items. If the AirTag is separated from its owner iPhone for 3 days, it’ll start pinging to alert people around that it exists. This isn’t a feature for why you should buy it, but it’s a nice feature that exists.

Bottom line:

The biggest advantage Tile Mate has over AirTag is that you can use it to ping your phone, not just the other way around. This feature alone makes the Tile win out for me.

Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

An Apple AirTag next to the Tile Mate.

If you want to track something that’s more likely to get truly lost, the bigger network that the AirTag taps into is more useful.

Precision tracking is an added bonus, but the dinging sound is probably sufficient for most people. For people who are hard of hearing, this feature would be a game-changer, and the AirTag definitely wins out. Or if you live in a huge mansion where your keys might be so far away you can’t hear them, in which case, definitely spring for the Hermès luggage tags.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.