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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.