Apple AirTags vs. Tile Mate: Which should you buy?

Airtag
Airtag (Image credit: Apple)

Tile Mate has been the leading entry-level item tracker out on the market for a while, but now Apple has unveiled the AirTag at the "Spring loaded" event, which is a direct competitor to Tile. So how does Apple AirTags vs. Tile Mate compare? Let's break it down.

Apple AirTags vs. Tile Mate: The full breakdown

Tile has established itself as a leader in the item tracker business in the past few years, with the only other real competitor being the Chipolo One. But now that Apple is in the space with its AirTags, things are about to heat up. Here's a breakdown of the Apple AirTags vs. Tile Mate.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Apple AirTagTile Mate
Price$29 each, $99 for 4-pack$25 each, $70 for 4-pack
ConnectivityBluetooth LE, U1, NFCBluetooth LE
AppFind MyTile
BatteryUser-replaceable CR2032User-replaceable CR1632
Battery warningYesYes
Bluetooth rangeUnknown200-feet
NotificationsIncludedRequires Tile Premium
Precision FindingYes (iPhone 11 and 12 models only)No
AccessoriesYesLimited
PersonalizationFree engravingNo

Apple Airtag Accessories

Apple Airtag Accessories (Image credit: Apple)

Even though Apple AirTag was just announced, there is no doubt that this will be a big hit, especially those who prefer to stick with the Apple ecosystem.

With an Apple AirTag, you're getting seamless integration with the Find My app that is already on your phone instead of needing to download yet another app and creating another account. Setting up an AirTag is also as easy as holding it near your device and watching it pair automatically, just like AirPods. Once it is set up, you can choose a default name or give it a custom one, and your items will appear in the Find My app in the "Items" section, alongside your Apple devices and friends. An AirTag can be attached to your keys, bags, backpacks, and other items with accompanying accessories.

Apple AirTags lets you see an item's current location or even the last known location on a map. While Apple never mentioned a specific Bluetooth range for AirTags, they say "within Bluetooth range," which can be up to 800-feet with a direct line of sight. If that's the case, then the range for Bluetooth is incredible with the AirTags, and certainly blows the 200-foot range of Tile Mate out of the water. If an AirTag is misplaced or lost, you can play audible alerts through the AirTag speakers within the Bluetooth range to locate it.

One benefit of using AirTag with an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 device is that it can do Precision Finding with the AirTag's U1 ultra-wideband chip. This lets you use the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 camera, ARKit, accelerometer, and gyroscope as a guide to the AirTag, with a combination of sound, haptics, and even visual feedback.

When you lose an AirTag, you can use the large Find My network to locate it. The Find My network has almost one billion devices in it, which can detect Bluetooth signals from a lost AirTag. This information gets relayed back to the owner, and it is all done privately and anonymously.

Those who are concerned about AirTags being used to track you don't need to worry. Apple has integrated some privacy and security measures in AirTags to prevent such activity. Communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted, and AirTags have rotating identifiers to prevent unwanted location tracking. Your iPhone can even let you know when an unknown AirTag travels with you from place to place and over time.

Tile Mate Hero

Tile Mate Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

One of the huge advantages that an Apple AirTag has over Tile Mate is that you don't need to subscribe to another yearly service. Since the AirTag can notify you when there is an unknown AirTag nearby, it's entirely likely that you can set up other notifications to alert you when you leave an AirTag behind. This is a big one-up over Tile Mate since a Tile Premium subscription (at least $39 a year) is required for its "Smart Alerts" feature.

The Apple AirTag also has a user-replaceable battery, just like the Tile Mate. However, the AirTag uses a CR2032 coin cell battery, which is more common than the CR1632 that the Tile Mate uses. Battery life for both is around one year, and the user can replace both.

While Tile has some limited editions available, they don't really offer actual personalization. Apple AirTags can be personalized for every user with free engraving when purchased online, and there are already accessories lined up to make it easier to attach AirTags to your belongings.

Overall, we think the Apple AirTags are the better item tracker than the Tile Mate, especially if you're already invested in the Apple ecosystem. The Precision Finding with iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 devices is also a game-changer, plus you don't need a separate subscription.

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.