Those five words mean that my morning is about to enter what I call “The 5 Stages of Lost Keys.”
Step 1, Disbelief: “When was the last place you saw them?”
Step 2, Denial: “Well if you put them back in your purse why aren’t they there?”
Step 3, Confusion: “Why would I take your keys? I have my own set!”
Step 4, Acceptance: “Why am I looking in the freezer? Because they could be anywhere.”
Step 5, Recovery: “Oh. They were in your purse the whole time?”
There have been many, many mornings when I wished, desperately, that my wife’s keys had the same smart capabilities as her iPhone (which is also lost frequently, and is infinitely more recoverable due to the Find my Phone app). Then a couple of years ago, Tile caught my eye. They had exactly the solution I was looking for – not just a key finder, but a smart key finder, with a smartphone app and even community-based searching so that you could find your stuff anywhere. The only problem? They were in the process of crowdfunding and I wanted to be able to track my stuff right now. I couldn’t wait a year or more!
Fast forward two years, and guess who hasn’t been able to find a better solution to the dreaded “5 Stages?” That’s right. This guy.
Lucky for me, Tile didn’t just have a successful crowdfunding campaign; at $2.6 million raised, they had a runaway hit! I guess I’m not the only one out there that needs help keeping track of their things.
As much as it’s representative of the “Internet of Things,” Tile is dead simple. It’s a small square that you attach or keep with things you don’t want to lose. There’s a handy hole for slipping it onto a keyring; but it’s also small enough to toss in a purse or a bag for the beach. It’s simple purpose carries through to its exterior. Tile is a white square with pleasantly rounded edges, branded in an understated fashion, and is ultimately one of those bits of kit that where you appreciate the care taken with its design and then forget.
But while the physical component of Tile may fade into the background, the app will ensure that it’s always front and center.
The app walks you through a few steps when you first activate your Tile, setting up an account and physically pairing the device via Bluetooth (with a hidden button – it really is nicely put together hardware). After playing a tune to let you know everything is working, you can share the Tile with whoever you choose (the hardware will then hand off pairing to whichever connected device is around).
It’s when you hear that dreaded “Hon? Have you seen my keys?” that things get interesting. As long as the Tile is in range of one of your connected phones, you press the Find button in the app to make the Tile play a chirping tune to help you track it down. If you leave the app open, it will even let you know when you’re getting close. Essentially, Tile brings Apple’s “Find my Phone” capabilities to everything you own.
But what if you’re not near your Tile? What if you are pretty sure that the last place you saw your laptop bag was before you got off the crosstown bus? Tile has recently launched a Community Find feature that reflects the simple elegance of their product. You use the app to declare something as lost and then, whenever someone else in the Tile community has their app open and walks by a lost Tile, you’ll get notified of its latest location. This all happens without the other person even knowing they’ve helped find someone else’s Tile. It’s a great way to hold out hope for when you do more than just misplace something. Though I do wish it could run as a background process on phones with the app installed. Having to have the app open limits this feature’s utility. In the few weeks I’ve had Tile, I’ve only launched the app maybe half a dozen times, and those times have all been at home. Still, it’s not hard to imagine scenarios where this would work, like when I’m wandering up and down the beach, absolutely sure that our stuff has been washed out to sea. All it would take was one or two other Tilers looking for their stuff as well to help me pinpoint my bag (and I theirs).
The best thing I can say about Tile is that it stayed out of my way until I needed it. Its hardware is thoughtfully styled to be modern, yet unobtrusive. Being that it’s a powered Bluetooth device, it won’t last forever; but according to Tile’s FAQ, it should last at least a year, at which time you can ship the dead Tile back and buy a fresh one at a discount. The battery is non-replaceable to maintain the water-resistant qualities. It’s a fair trade off; considering the abuse I put my keys through, I doubt Tile would last anywhere near a year in my pocket without being ruggedized. Tile is available on their website and through Amazon for $25 per unit; you can also buy multipacks for up to 40% off (which drives down the price to $15 per Tile). If you have a lot of things to Tile, it can add up fast; but for me it’s worth it to never again having to worry about going on a key hunt (or a purse hunt, or a wallet hunt, or a backpack hunt) at 7 AM.
Disclosure: GeekDad received sample units for this review.