Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BUSINESS SUNDAY - By Jim Ross­man

I’m a fan of the Tile line of Blue­tooth track­ers.

Tiles are small, bat­tery-pow­ered Blue­tooth track­ers that you can slip into a wal­let or com­puter bag or at­tach to your key­chain to help you find them when they get sep­a­rated from you.

The orig­i­nal Tile was not as stream­lined as to­day’s mod­els, but it worked well.

To­day, Tile has evolved to in­clude sev­eral new form fac­tors, but they all work the same way.

You down­load the Tile app to your smart­phone or tablet and add the in­di­vid­ual Tiles to the app. Then you at­tach the Tile to what­ever it is you don’t want to lose.

If you do lose track of the item, you can call up the Tile app on your phone get some help find­ing it.

If the Tile is within Blue­tooth range, you’ll be able to make the Tile play a ring­tone so you might lo­cate it. This is what usu­ally hap­pens when I’ve mis­placed my keys in­side my house. I press the Find but­ton in the Tile app and lis­ten for the ring­tone to lead me to my keys.

That’s all well and good, you say, but what hap­pens if the keys were re­ally lost away from home, or left on the counter at the bank? What hap­pens if you are not con­ve­niently within Blue­tooth range?

Well, ob­vi­ously your phone can’t sig­nal a Tile that it can’t con­nect to via Blue­tooth, but it can start a lost Tile search.

If you tag your Tile as “lost” in the app, the Tile servers will add it to a data­base of lost Tiles that gets broad­cast to ev­ery­one who uses the Tile app.

If any­one with the Tile app on their phone comes within range of your lost Tile, their app will tell the Tile servers where your tile was dis­cov­ered.

The Tile users won’t know they are help­ing lo­cate your lost tile, as the lo­cat­ing of lost Tiles is not

trans­par­ent to the user com­mu­nity.

You will re­ceive a mes­sage from your Tile app telling you where your lost Tile was lo­cated.

It’s up to you to go track it down and re­trieve it.

In­deed, your phone might have found and re­ported on lost Tiles, and you’d never know it.

The orig­i­nal Tile didn’t have a very far range for Blue­tooth com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but it would work pretty well. If you had a big house and needed to lo­cate your keys, you might have to walk around to dif­fer­ent parts of the house be­fore the Blue­tooth con­nec­tion was made so you could hear the ring­tone.

Newer ver­sions of the Tile, called the Tile Mate ($25) and Tile Slim ($30) added a but­ton that could be used to lo­cate the con­nected smart­phone, so if you had your Tile, but mis­placed your phone, the Tile can make a ring­tone sound on the phone, even if the phone is on silent mode.

The Tile Mate has a hole so you can at­tach it to your key chain or com­puter bag. The Tile Slim is thin like a credit card, and it can be eas­ily slipped in a wal­let or purse.

The lat­est mod­els — called the Tile Pro — have re­ally upped the ante.

The Pro mod­els come in gray (called the Sport) or white and gold (called the Style).

The Tile Pro costs $35 or two for $60.

The Pro mod­els have a range of up to 200 feet, which is much bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous mod­els. The Pros are also the only Tiles that are wa­ter­proof, and their speak­ers can play a ring­tone that is twice as loud as older Tiles.

The Tile Pro Sport is 1.57 inches square and weighs just half an ounce.

Tiles are pretty in­ex­pen­sive, but I need to ex­plain how their life cy­cle works.

The Tiles do not have a user-re­place­able bat­tery. They are sealed. They are de­signed to work for one year be­fore they “ex­pire.”

To make the Tiles the small size they are, the bat­ter­ies will only last for a year be­fore you have to re­place the Tile, which is called reTil­ing.

When your Tile ex­pires, you send it back to the com­pany, and you can re­place it with a new Tile at a dis­count.

For in­stance, my Tile Slim in my wal­let is due to ex­pire in eight days. When I launch the Tile app, I’m given a but­ton to press to start the reTile process.

When you reTile, you get dis­count of be­tween 28 per­cent and 40 per­cent, so to re­place the Tile Slim with a new one would cost $21 (in­stead of $30).

I re­al­ize some peo­ple will be turned off by this model of planned ex­pi­ra­tion, but it’s re­ally just a subscription model that in­cludes new hard­ware every year.

There are other brands of Blue­tooth lo­cater. Some have re­place­able bat­ter­ies and crowd-sourced lo­cat­ing like Tile.

I guess the choice comes down to qual­ity, Blue­tooth range, ad­di­tional fea­tures and the track­ing of lost de­vices, which would de­pend on the num­ber of users walk­ing around with the app.

I’ve been happy us­ing Tile for a few years now, and the up­grade to the Tile Pro brings some very use­ful ad­di­tions. Be­ing able to find it from longer dis­tances and hear it with a louder speaker are just what I wanted.


Sim­ply add the Tile to what­ever it is you don’t want to get lost, and the com­pany’s app will help you find it with a ring­tone.

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