Samsung SmartThings Tracker review: This cellular tracker puts a high price on tracking your valuables
Expanding the lineup of smart gadgets and gizmos you can buy for your home, Samsung SmartThings now offers the SmartThings Tracker. Pair it with the SmartThings app, and this small white square tracks any object attached to it. The tracker will set you back $100, and after the first year of free cellular data, you'll need to pay a monthly or yearly fee.
The SmartThings Tracker also works with, you guessed it, other SmartThings products. While it's a bit hefty for use on small objects, if you use SmartThings already in your home, adding the $100 tracker could prove useful for triggering scenes and turning smart devices on or off when you arrive or leave. Otherwise, I'd recommend Tile's line of Bluetooth tracking devices, in a range of shapes, sizes and features, for a quality device at nearly a third of the cost.
The cellular advantage
The SmartThings Tracker costs more than a Tile or a TrackR, two popular competitors. That's because it ditches Bluetooth and opts for an LTE-M connection, a low-power network made specifically for IoT devices. The technology is more expensive to manufacture, but it blows Bluetooth's range out of the water.
TrackRs maximum range is just 100 feet. Tile's most advanced model, the TilePro, has a Bluetooth range of up to 300 feet. With the SmartThings cellular approach, the range is as wide as your carrier's network. If your tracker leaves that range, you'll rely on crowd GPS and other app users to find or stumble upon your missing item.
Cellular service for the SmartThings Tracker is included for the first 12 months after you activate it. After that, service costs $5 per month or $50 for a year, based on AT&T's service plan. Your price may vary depending on your carrier.
Design and durability
The SmartThings Tracker isn't much to look at. It's a small, white plastic device measuring 1.7 by 1.7 by 0.5 inches. It weighs less than 1 ounce and comes with a small gray strap to thread through the tracker and onto objects like bags or purses.
You won't get the color or size options of Tile's models, and it's about twice as thick, too. However, it does have an IP68 rating for water resistance of 5 feet in freshwater for up to 30 minutes, as well as protection from dust, dirt and sand. In the Tile lineup, only the Tile Sport and Tile Style are rated that highly.
How does it work?
To set up your SmartThings Tracker, power it on and download the SmartThings app if you don't have it already. In the app, select "Add device" and wait for your phone to recognize the tracker. Follow the instructions for activating cellular service, and you'll see an expiration date for the free year of service.
After that, it's easy to set up notification zones. These are great for getting notifications when kids, pets or valuables like bikes or cars leave a set area. However, you can only set up two zones. I used my home and my work. The smallest radius for those zones is 700 feet. In my neighborhood, that range included four streets and meant that my child or pet could be roaming a nearby busy street and I wouldn't be notified.
In my testing, SmartThings notified me somewhere between 4 and 9 minutes after I left or arrived at a location. That's not bad, and it's certainly better than no tracking at all, but 9 minutes is a lot of time when you're talking about a driving teen or a sprinting dog.
When it comes to locating things on command, the tracker did much better. Open the app, tap the "recenter GPS" button in the bottom right corner, and you'll get a real-time ping of the tracker's location. You can view this result in a map view or satellite view, helpful if you're curious about the surrounding terrain.
When it comes to battery life, you'll need to sacrifice some tracking to get the most out of your SmartThings Tracker. You can enable a power-saving mode, in which the location of the tracker won't automatically update when it stays in one location for a long period of time. Updates do start again when it moves. You can set this mode for individual times and days of the week. With power saving enabled, the battery could last up to one week. Otherwise, you'll likely get four to five days out of a single charge.
SmartThings Tracker as a SmartThing
Because this tracker is a SmartThings product, you also use it to initiate what SmartThings calls "presence-based automations." To do so, you'll need to set up a custom automation in the SmartThings app based on the tracker's location. When the SmartThings Tracker enters or leaves one of your saved zones, it can trigger turning lights on or off, locking a door or playing an audio notification, to name a few examples.
I found automations easy to set up and responsive when I left or arrived in my zones, and SmartThings sent a notification to let me know the action was triggered, too. Using the SmartThings Tracker this way isn't its main appeal, but it's a nice feature for homes already making use of other SmartThings products or compatible devices.
Should I buy it?
The SmartThings Tracker costs more than similar products from Tile and TrackR, but includes a much, much bigger range and decent weatherproofing. If you have items (or loved ones) you'd like to track with cellular-level accuracy, a SmartThings Tracker is a good investment. If you already use SmartThings in your smart home , the tracker gives you an additional way to trigger scenes, and allows you to control connected devices via geofencing.
The downside to all that is that you'll need to be okay with a monthly data fee. Still, for serious trackers, the SmartThings Tracker is a solid bet.