My return to using the Tile sums up its utility brilliantly. Back in February, I spent some time with the original, but after the review was done, it was left in a drawer. This wasn’t because it wasn’t useful – the whole point is that you keep it on your key ring and forget it – but because a bug at the time meant it didn’t work with my old phone when I upgraded to Android Marshmallow.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m reinstalling the app and pairing the new Tile Mate and Tile Slim with my phone. Upon opening my account, I see a Tile simply named Test Tile, which I assume is a tutorial to show you the ropes. I press “Lost Tile” and a friendly message pops up telling me that everyone with the Tile app is now silently hunting it down, and I’ll get an alert when it’s found.
That, in a nutshell, is why Tile is potentially worth its weight in gold. If you routinely lose stuff, it offers an easy way to locate it. Still confused? Read on.
Tile Mate and Tile Slim: Design
So, what is Tile? In case you hadn’t gathered already, it’s a small piece of plastic with a Bluetooth sensor inside it that you can pair with your phone. Because it constantly chats with your handset, you’ll always know where your Tile is, and by association what it is attached to. Your keys, your wallet, your laptop, whatever. There’s no GPS sensor; instead, each Tile relies on your phone’s geodata to supply that function.
The Tile Mate is a direct successor to last year’s Tile, and it refines the design rather nicely. It’s around 25% smaller and lighter than the original model, and generally looks smarter: the Tile logo is now in a silver circle on the front, and the device comes as two pieces of slightly different white plastic moulded together for a nice two-tone effect. There is one slight drawback: the white plastic takes on scuffs and dirt very easily, and was looking very mucky after only a day of use. A new pair of jeans may be to blame, but examining last year’s model suggests you should expect scuffs to appear in routine use.
The silver button makes it far easier to see where to press to wake up the tile, which is handy from a design point of view, but the main point is that the device was never a fashion statement: it was a little block for your key ring, designed to be heard and not seen. These design improvements are, ultimately, nice but not essential.
The Tile Slim is a different proposition. If the Tile Mate is predominantly designed as a key ring, the Tile Slim is designed to be kept in wallets, or stuck to laptops in such a way that you’ll forget it’s there. As such, it looks like someone took a rolling pin to the Tile Mate: it gains width and height, but it’s much, much slimmer. Thinner than three credit cards by my unscientific measurements. In other words, all but the most stuffed of wallets should have room for it.
Tile Mate and Tile Slim: Performance
For most of your time using the Tile, it will sit dormant: an inanimate piece of plastic quietly winding down its 12+ months of battery life. And then it will die – because you can’t replace the battery yourself.
While it lives and breathes, however, just pop open the app and see all your Tiles and their last known locations. If you still can’t find it, you simply press “Find Tile” and your little plastic pal will play a jaunty and surprisingly loud jingle until you tell it to stop. It’s loud enough to be easily heard, even if it’s hidden underneath a cushion or in the depths of the washing basket.
If the Tile is out of range, a map shows its location the last time it checked in with your phone, and when. At that point, you can call on the community for help. Mark a Tile as lost, and everyone with the Tile app suddenly becomes your pro-bono private investigator. As soon as someone’s phone detects the missing Tile, you’ll get a notification telling you exactly where to go to continue the search for yourself. Then, as soon as you’re in range, the app will tell you and you can make it sing for your attention.
It’s clever – very clever – but it all depends on how many Tile users there are in your area. Technically, anybody can download the app and do the hunting for you, but I can’t imagine many non-Tile users doing so out of the goodness of their hearts. Nonetheless, the company speaks of more than six million Tile units sold worldwide, so you have a better chance than you might imagine. Should your app help find someone else’s Tile, you’ll also get an anonymous “thank you” in the app, which is a nice touch.
Finally, you can also use the Tile in reverse. If you can’t find your phone, double-squeeze the Tile logo and your phone will start ringing, even when it’s on silent. That’s no different from using Google’s own device manager to do that on Android, or the Find my iPhone facility with iOS, but it is a touch more convenient in a pinch.
Tile Mate and Tile Slim: Verdict
The thing about Tile is that you won’t miss it until you need it. Peace of mind is worth more to some people than others: if you have valuables you absolutely need to protect, then it’s a relatively inexpensive insurance policy. Personally, I’m glad my keys and wallet are safe for another year, but it’s just a touch harder to recommend than it was seven months ago.