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AirTag vs. Tile and SmartTag: Which Tracker Is Best for You?

Looking for a Bluetooth tracker? You've got options. Here's what you should know.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
4 min read

Apple's AirTag wants to make sure you never lose your keys again -- or for them to be easier to find if you do.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Bluetooth tracking devices that help you find your keys, phone and other items have been around for years, but which one's right for you? The Apple AirTag, unveiled in 2021, is the latest to compete with the Tile tracker and Samsung's SmartTag

If you're in the market for some Bluetooth tracker tech, you've got a number of options. We'll break down the three gadgets so you can decide which tag is best for helping you find your stuff. 

Watch this: We compare Apple AirTags against Tile trackers
Patrick Holland/CNET

Price: $29 each or $99 for a four-pack (here's where to buy AirTags).

The Apple AirTag is a small, circular device that's just a tad bigger than a Milk Dud. You can attach an AirTag to your keys, a bag or anything else using one of the many accessories sold separately by third-party manufacturers, like keychains, eyeglass straps and fabric mounts. The AirTag can be paired with Apple devices like your iPhone, and it works with the Find My app

Read more: Apple AirTags: Price, free engraving, Hermes accessories, privacy, more

After a simple setup process, you can see your item's last known location if you've attached an AirTag to it. If the item is within Bluetooth range, you can use the Find My app to signal the AirTag's tiny built-in speaker to play a sound. AirTags also have Siri support, so your iOS assistant can help you locate your lost things. Like many other Apple products, the tags won't work with Android devices -- but if someone with an Android device finds your lost tag, they can still hold it up to their phone with NFC and find details on how to contact you, as is the case for someone with an iPhone. 

One factor setting the AirTag apart from the competition is a feature called Precision Finding, which works using Apple's U1 chip and its ultrawideband technology. Precision Finding uses a combination of Apple's ARKit software and the phone's camera, accelerometer and gyroscope to guide you to your AirTag using sound and haptic and visual feedback. With the Find My app, you'll get helpful notes like how many feet away your AirTag is, and in what direction. Precision Finding also has a voice-over option to help low-vision or blind users.


Price: $25 for a Tile Mate, $48 for a two-pack or $70 for a four-pack

Tile has been in the tracking device business for almost a decade, offering multiple types of tracker tags depending on what type of item you want to attach them to. You can choose between the basic Tile Mate (the most similar to an AirTag, but with a small hole for easier attaching to keys and such), Tile Slim (a thin option meant for credit cards and laptops), Tile Stickers and performance and combo packs, as well as exclusive and limited edition designs. Each product is available in different colors and pack options.

Tile has a dedicated app -- tapping Find will ring your Tile if it's nearby. It also works the other way around. If you double-press the Tile button on the tag itself, the Tile will make your phone ring. If you're out of range, the app will show the last place your Tile was located. If it's really lost, choose Notify When Found to get help from others using the Tile app anonymously (this is similar to Apple's Find My network feature).

The Mate can attach to most key rings, and offers a 200-foot Bluetooth range. In addition, the Mate uses a CR1632 replaceable battery and is water-resistant. The Tile Pro is the next level up and offers a bit more durability, 400-foot Bluetooth range, a louder ring and a replaceable battery. Tile's Sticker and Slim offer more variety for narrow spaces and actually adhering your tracker to an item. The Slim and Sticker are waterproof and also have a three-year built-in battery.

If you're looking for a variety of different tracking options and support for both iOS and Android, Tile trackers are probably your best choice. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Price: $30 each, $50 for a two-pack or $85 for a four-pack

Samsung debuted its SmartTag Bluetooth trackers in January alongside its new Galaxy S21 phones. Like AirTags, Samsung's product competes with Tile to help locate lost items like keys, your phone, pets and more. However, there's a big catch: You can only use SmartTags with Samsung Galaxy phones. 

SmartTags connect to SmartThings Find, Samsung's built-in hub for smart home devices. Unlike AirTags, Samsung launched with different versions of SmartTag -- SmartTag and SmartTag Plus. SmartTags use Bluetooth Low Energy as its connection standard, while SmartTag Plus uses ultrawideband. This is because all Samsung Galaxy phones support BLE, but not UWB, which you'll find on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra only. 

With the SmartThings Find app, tap the Find card and choose a device you've listed and want to locate. If you're close, the screen will show a gauge to help you better find your item. You can also make it play a sound. If it's really lost, other Samsung devices can anonymously help if they're near the tag and let you know where it is. All this happens in the background and is encrypted. 

If you've got a Samsung phone and like the idea of your tracker tags integrating with the SmartThings Find hub, these could be a solid option for you. 

Watch this: Apple AirTags made a good small impression