Best Tracker: Tile Mate vs. Tile Sport vs. TrackR Bravo vs. Pixel (2018)

Cam Secore
Updated 06/13/2018

trackr vs tile

After months of testing, I found Tile Sport and Tile Style to be the best Bluetooth trackers by a wide margin because of their superior range, robust sound, and a huge community of users. Also, there’s no need to hassle with batteries. TrackR’s replaceable batteries are better in theory than in real life; they cause complications and frustration.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing five Bluetooth trackers [TrackR Bravo vs. Tile Mate (& Slim) vs. TrackR Pixel vs. Tile Sport (& Style)] while evaluating five categories: range, software, battery, sound, and design.

tile vs trackr

Tile Sport (& Style)

10
  • Range: It has 200ft of Bluetooth range. It’s a considerable upgrade over older Tile models and TrackRs.
  • Software: The app is fantastic, and the community is equally excellent.
  • Battery: It’s guaranteed to work for a year, but you’ll need to buy a new device after that.
  • Sound: It’s much louder than TrackR Bravo & Pixel.
  • Design: It’s waterproof with an excellent build quality. Style and Sport are the same internally; the difference is the outer design.

Best for you if...

You care about actually finding your lost items. Tile Style and Sport are only $10 more than a TrackR or Tile Mate, but they have double the range with a louder volume. These are worthy upgrades. If you’re not willing to spend the extra $10 for additional assurance, you shouldn’t be buying a Bluetooth tracker.

tile mate vs trackr

Tile Mate (& Slim)

6
  • Range: It’s advertised as a 100ft range from your phone, but I found you need to be in the same room.
  • Software: The app is excellent, and the community is large.
  • Battery: It’s guaranteed to work for a year, but you’ll need to buy a new device after that.
  • Sound: It’s quieter than TrackR devices but loud enough.
  • Design: Mate is 4.65mm thick, feels well made, and there’s a circle cutout. Tile Slim is 2.4mm x 54mm x 54mm and for wallets.

Best for you if...

You want the Tile brand without the reliability. Tile Mate isn’t a bad product, but when you can get an extra 100ft of range and a louder speaker for $10 more with Tile Style and Sport, it doesn't make sense. Tile Slim has same internal specs as Tile Mate, but it's 2.4mm thick and the only wallet option.

trackr bravo vs pixel

TrackR Bravo

4
  • Range: It’s advertised as a 100ft range from your phone, but I found you need to be in the same room.
  • Software: The app is okay, but the community is much smaller than Tile’s.
  • Battery: It uses replaceable batteries that last two months, but it’s a hassle.
  • Sound: It's louder than Tile Slim and Mate, but the Tile Pro models are much louder.
  • Design: It has a brushed aluminum coating and isn’t waterproof.

Best for you if...

You want to pretend you’re tracking your devices, but don’t actually care if they’re found. I can’t recommend TrackR devices because the point of these devices is to find your items and eliminate the anxiety of not knowing where your stuff is. TrackR does neither of these.

trackr pixel vs tile

TrackR Pixel

3
  • Range: It’s advertised as a 100ft range from your phone, but I found you need to be in the same room.
  • Software: The app is okay, but the community is much smaller than Tile’s.
  • Battery: It uses replaceable batteries that last two months, but they're hard to get out.
  • Sound: It's louder than Tile Slim and Tile Mate, but the Tile Pro models are way louder.
  • Design: It’s smaller than Bravo (the size of a quarter) and made of cheap plastic.

Best for you if...

You want to manage batteries and a tracker that doesn’t function well. I don’t think TrackR devices are going to last long based on their build quality. You can’t even remove the batteries easily. If you’re stuck going with TrackR, get Bravo for its better feel, appearance and battery accessibility.

 

Why listen to me?

  1. I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old.
  2. I bought each device with MY money.
  3. I’ll update this post frequently because my opinions change.
  4. I don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.
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My Experience

Bluetooth trackers are pocket-sized devices you can attach to items you don’t want to lose, such as your wallet, keys, phone, tablet, purse, luggage, or backpack.

After seeing Tile ads for years, I finally caved and bought Tile Slim last year.

Here’s what I wrote in my review: “Tile definitely isn’t for me. Tile couldn’t pick a worse customer if they tried. I don’t carry much in my wallet, and this may not be the norm. But we’re moving toward a wallet-less and keyless society. It’s likely we’ll have fully digital wallets available in the not-too-distant future. If you like the idea of Tile for finding a tech device (i.e., phone or laptop), there are easier ways to do that too.”

In retrospect, my thinking was flawed:

  • Technology isn’t moving as fast I want it to.
  • If digital wallets and keyless cars are universal in five years (which is highly unlikely), what are people going to do in the interim? What about things that will never be trackable? How about finding something that’s buried at the bottom of your bag?
  • I touted Apple’s device tracking, assuming everyone uses Apple products.
  • Bluetooth trackers are improving in range and volume.
  • I assumed Tile wouldn’t gain enough traction for Community Find to be useful. But it has over 10 million users, was granted an additional $25 million in funding, and anecdotally, there are more Tile users in my town now.

While Bluetooth trackers have their flaws, there is a need for them.

I’ve had Tile for a year.

I liked it! It saved me in a situation where my wallet was jammed between the wall and dresser. I’m still not sure how it got there, but there’s no way I would’ve found it without Tile.

Last week, the app warned me it was time to replace my Tile.

I decided to take this opportunity to find the best Bluetooth tracker.

What are we comparing?

Chipolo CARD isn’t ready for primetime because of its small network. It doesn’t have a competitive advantage compared to the big names.

Pixie is the only tracker that uses visual navigation through Augmented Reality to help find your items. Rather than guessing where your item is or trying to get close enough for it to beep, you can to track it on a map.

However, Pixie’s visual navigation comes with one HUGE caveat (a deal-breaker): you need the tracker on your phone and the item you’re tracking. Pixie is interesting, but with its 200ft Bluetooth range and the loudest volume of the newest trackers on the market, it’s more gimmick than substance.

Tile is the best non-replaceable battery brand and TrackR is the best replaceable battery brand.

I’m keeping Tile Style on my keys and keeping TrackR Bravo tapped to my wallet. I’d prefer not to keep TrackR, but I want to test its longevity for this post.

Common Misconceptions

  • They aren’t magic. They use low-powered Bluetooth, rather than GPS, meaning you can only locate something within 100ft (advertised) or 40ft (my real life tests).
  • You can ring your tracker if it’s within Bluetooth range. Otherwise, it’ll show the last known location.
  • Your phone’s Bluetooth has to be on, and the app has to be open. If you close the app, it stops tracking (it needs to be working in the background). Closing apps is a bad habit of mine because there’s no need to close apps on iOS devices.
  • The apps use a significant amount of background data and battery. Also, they use your location data for marketing and other reasons. Collecting location data isn’t unique; most apps do it. The difference is Bluetooth tracking apps don’t work if your location data is disabled, so you don’t have the option to disable it.
  • You get discounts when you purchase multiple trackers at once.
  • If you press the button on the trackers, your phone will make a noise (if it’s within Bluetooth range) to help you locate it.
  • If you lose your keys or wallet, you can let the community know your item is lost, and when people with the app come across your item, you’ll be notified.
  • You can use Alexa or Google Home to find your devices.
  • You can’t put them on your cars or pets, despite what the Internet might tell you.

Tile Devices

10

Options (A+):

  • Tile Sport & Tile Style (both Pro models have the same specs with different exterior designs): It’s 5.9mm thick with a 200ft Bluetooth range, very loud speaker and costs $35.
  • Tile Slim: It’s 2.4mm thick, no circle cutout with a 100ft Bluetooth range and costs $30.
  • Tile Mate: It’s 4.65mm thick, with a 100ft Bluetooth range and costs $20.

Range (A+):

  • The new Tile Sport and Style models supposedly get over 200ft of range if in clear sight. Other reviewers say it’s closer to 150ft in reality. I’ve found its range spans from one end of my house to the other. It’s a noticeable upgrade over older Tile models and TrackR.
  • Tile Slim and Tile Mate advertise a 100ft range from your phone and Tile for the ringer to work, but other reviewers say it’s about 70ft. In my tests (in the real world with walls and drawers), I’ve found you’ll need to be in the same room or maybe one room over for it to work.

Battery (C):

  • Tile says it’s guaranteed to work for one year, and I can vouch for that. Once the year’s up, you have to buy a new device because the battery isn’t replaceable. It’s a smart business model, but it’s not ideal for customers.
  • However, in my opinion, it’s a better solution than TrackR has because there’s no battery anxiety and you can upgrade to the newest technology every year for 30% off. (You don’t have to buy the same model you owned to get the discount).
  • You can’t unpair it to save the battery for later use. Once Tile is activated, you’re only going to get a year of battery regardless of what you do.

Sound (A):

  • Tile Sport and Style are much louder than other trackers (TrackR Bravo and Pixel).
  • Tile Slim and Tile Mate are quieter than TrackR devices.
  • You have 10 ringtone options.

Design (A):

  • All the Tile trackers are lightweight with a quality build and design that’s miles ahead of TrackR. I’m sure not everyone cares, but I value craftsmanship.
  • Tile Slim and Mate are waterproof up to a meter deep for 30 minutes, while Tile Sport and Style can handle up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.

Software (A):

  • There’s a web app to track your phone. (Although, you can’t track your Tiles with the web app, and Apple already has phone tracking with Find My iPhone.)
  • You can give your friends or family access to your Tile so they can help you find it when it’s missing. It’s a smart idea because it increases your chances of finding it.
  • Tile’s community is much bigger than that of any other tracker. For reference, in my small town of 30,000 people, there are 160 Tiles but only four TrackR devices. That’s important for Tile’s Community Find feature. There’s a much greater chance someone else will find your lost item.
  • Tile is the only tracking device with an Apple Watch app. It’s not a throwaway app; it’s useful for locating the Tile.
  • Geofencing isn’t available yet, but it’s coming and available in beta for a small percentage of users.
  • Tile’s not only making tracking devices, but they’re also building a platform. Bose, Samsonite, and other companies are implementing Tile’s technology directly into their items. Hypothetically, you could locate every item you own inside Tile’s app without buying any Tiles. Bose will implement this with a firmware update for the Bose SoundSport Wireless and QC30 headphones.

TrackR Devices

6

Options (B-):

  • TrackR Bravo: It has a brushed aluminum coating, can be engraved or photo-printed and costs $25 on Amazon.
  • TrackR Pixel: It’s smaller than Bravo (the size of a quarter), made of plastic, has LED lights that flash when in search mode and costs $20 on Amazon.

Range (C):

  • TrackR Bravo and TrackR Pixel advertise a 100ft range from your phone and TrackR for the ringer to work but other reviewers say it’s about 50ft. In my tests (in the real world with walls and drawers), I’ve found you’ll need to be in the same room or maybe one room over for it to work.

Battery (F):

  • TrackR’s pitch over Tile is that it has replaceable batteries, and TrackR sends them to you for free when you’re running low, but replaceable batteries aren’t the answer for Bluetooth trackers.
  • Getting the battery out of TrackR Pixel is not easy. I still can’t do it after following their tutorial, and I’m not the only one who struggled based on the number of downvotes on their YouTube videos. Also, you’ll set off the phone locator button when you use their method. (Battery replacement on TrackR Bravo is easy.)
  • There’s no point to a replaceable battery if it can’t outlast Tile (one year). This observation is based on calculations rather than real life experience. I’ll update this post once I’ve used it for longer.
  • The batteries only last a couple of months with minimal usage, even less if you use it frequently. What happens if you forget to switch out the batteries? You don’t have a tracker. That creates unnecessary anxiety.
  • The batteries in my TrackR Pixel arrived with no juice. Based on Amazon reviews, that’s happened to other customers as well.
  • The battery tracker in the app isn’t accurate and is always changing.

Sound (B):

  • Bravo and Pixel are louder than Tile Slim and Tile Mate. But the Tile Pro models are way louder than TrackR devices.

Design (B-):

  • If you’re looking for something small and unobtrusive, these are your best best.
  • While it’s not ideal, you can fit Bravo in a wallet if you tape it in.
  • TrackR Pixel has flashing LED lights. This seems useless but might help in some unusual circumstances.
  • TrackR devices feel cheesy and aren’t well-built.
  • They aren’t waterproof.

Software (D):

  • TrackR has a community feature called Crowd Locate. The only problem is its network is small. There are four TrackR users in my town. That could change, but right now the community feature is useless. Another issue is the Crowd Locate notification goes off every time your phone comes in contact with your TrackR. You only want notifications if something is lost. I don’t need alerts every time I leave a room in my house.
  • There are separation alerts with geofencing. You’ll be notified when your phone gets too far away from the tracker. There are “WiFi Safe Zones” so you won’t get a warning when you’re connected to your home’s WiFi. The geofencing and safe zones don’t work well and substantially decrease the battery life, but it’s a smart concept. It’ll be a massive breakthrough for the company that can perfect letting me know I’ve left a product behind before I think of it.
 

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