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What Apple AirTags should borrow from Tile — and what they shouldn't

Airtags Render
Airtags Render (Image credit: Jon Prosser)

Later this year, Apple's expected to reveal its version of Tile, those attachable Bluetooth trackers that people use to find keys, wallets, and other personal items. Rumored to be called "AirTags," the tiny new products are expected to work with Apple's Find My app.

Once expected to launch in October 2020 at the iPhone 12 event, AirTags could finally arrive in March alongside a next-generation iPad Pro — assuming the most recent rumors are correct.

There's already a great lineup of Bluetooth trackers on the market, including ones from Tile, Chipolo, Nutale, and others. As a long-time user of both Tile and Chipolo products, I don't see a practical reason for another company to enter the market. And yet, since it's Apple, this will be big news were it to happen.

Let's assume trackers from Apple do become a reality. When they do, I hope we see a few Tile-inspired features make the jump and at least one that doesn't.

Ease of Use

Airtags Colors Concept

Airtags Colors Concept (Image credit: Concept Creator)

It goes without saying that any location tracker from Apple will be simple to use. Like AirPods before it, I expect each tracker to sync once it's in proximity to an iPhone or iPad. From there, it should be possible to locate the tracker across all Apple devices using the Find My app.

Tiles work similarly, except you must first open the official Tile app and then push a button on the tracker to get started.

Different sizes and colors

Tile currently offers four different Bluetooth trackers. Of these, two include (Pro and Mate) holes for easy attachment to objects like keys, and one has been designed to leave in a wallet (Slim). The newest Tile, Sticker, has been designed to attach to objects like remotes using a removable adhesive.

At least one AirTags rumor last year said Apple plans on releasing its trackers in two sizes. For a new product, this sounds about right, although more is probably better since it would add flexibility in terms of supported devices.

Meanwhile, Apple is all about adding colors right now to its favorite products, including iPhone, iPad, and possibly iMac. Let's hope AirTags also launch in various colors that extend beyond black and white. Tile has mostly stuck to these colors, although special-edition Tiles have included other hues over the years.

Range

The current Tile lineup offers a range of between 200 and 400 feet, depending on the tracker. Apple will almost certainly duplicate or exceed this with AirTags. Bluetooth 5.0 offers a range of up to 1,000 feet, but there's no way of knowing whether Apple would extend the range over Tiles that far.

The longer the range, the better, of course.

Premium ... without a premium price

Tile Pro

Tile Pro (Image credit: Tile)

A few years ago, Tile introduced a premium plan that added additional features through a monthly or yearly subscription. Recently, it introduced a second option, Premium Plus.

With a Premium subscription ($30/year), users get smart alerts, free battery replacement, longer warranties, and more. Premium Plus ($100/year) includes everything from the Premium plan and adds a $1,000 reimbursement on any item that's lost that Tile can't find.

I see the usefulness of Tile Premium. And yet, I've never been a fan because of the extra cost. And Premium Plus sounds like a money grab, no?

With AirTags, Apple would be wise to avoid the urge of offering yet another service that requires a monthly or yearly service plan. Instead, all features should be included for the price of the trackers.

About those batteries

There was a time when owning Tiles meant throwing them away after a year of use. Today's lineup includes two Tiles with user-replaceable batteries and two with non-replaceable batteries that last up to three years.

My experience with replacing batteries in Tiles has been lackluster at best. In one instance, Tile sent me a replacement CR2032 battery that didn't work. In another, the Tile wouldn't work with ANY new battery. I gave up and ended up recycling the trackers at my local Best Buy store in both cases. In a few other instances, the replacement batteries worked just fine and continue to work to this day.

For AirTags, I don't want to see replaceable batteries. Instead, I hope each tracker is powered by rechargeable batteries, perhaps wirelessly like current iPhones. For environmentally-savvy Apple, this sounds like the only option, even if it leads to slightly higher prices.

Look at Chipolo

Chipolo One Ocean Edition

Chipolo One Ocean Edition (Image credit: Chipolo)

Currently, Tiles are 100% recyclable, but they aren't made from recyclable material. By contrast, Chipolo's Ocean Edition ONE tracker is made from discarded fishing gear and other plastics dumped into the oceans.

Apple could go a long way in satisfying many by introducing tracking devices made from recyclable materials. Otherwise, Apple will open itself up to much criticism.

Apple AirTags: Final Thoughts

Even at this late date, I'm not convinced Apple AirTags are coming. If they do launch, I hope they include many features found on the current crop of Bluetooth trackers. And yet, they should go even further by offering better range, wireless charging, and a 100% recyclable body.

Questions?

Do you have any questions about AirTags? Would you buy them or stick with Tile or another company? Let us know in the comments below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

4 Comments
  • You seriously want these to be rechargeable? They are tiny (I hope) and so you'll be recharging them often. Considering Apple only makes one wireless charger right now, the iPhone MagSafe one, what are you going to wirelessly charge it with? You expecting to have to buy a $39 Apple Tag charger? Or do you think there will be one in every Apple Tag box? But no power adapter of course. Or can you just lay it on any third party Qi charger. Or God forbid, it uses the proprietary watch charger...not included. (OK that's two wireless chargers Apple makes)
  • Thanks for ready and yes, rechargeable :)
  • At this point if they actually bring these to market they better be an order of magnitude batter than Tile. If not then just come out and tell us "We can't compete here" and call it a day. I'm tired of waiting at this point.
  • I'm just looking forward to not having the stupid Tile app open in the background all the time. Every time I accidentally close it, it chastises me. :P