Do you ever have trouble finding your car keys? Or your wallet? Or your remote control?
If you often find yourself looking for things that aren’t where you think they are, consider using a Bluetooth tracking device. Bluetooth trackers are small devices that let you use an app on your smartphone to track the location of whatever it is they’re attached to. You can attach a Bluetooth tracker to just about anything you might be prone to misplace, from your car keys to your car.
How do Bluetooth trackers work – and do you need one? Read on to find out.
What’s a Bluetooth Tracking Device – and How Does It Work?
A Bluetooth tracker is a small portable device, most of them being about the size of a quarter. They’re also fairly lightweight, so they’re hardly noticeable when attached to another item.
Most Bluetooth trackers are battery operated, typically via one of those small round CR2032 batteries you find in your local drugstore. Trackers use Bluetooth low-energy wireless technology to send a signal to your smartphone. It all works automatically in the background, nothing manually you need to do after you activate the tracker with your phone.
After you install the tracker’s app on your phone (the apps are free and available in your phone’s app store) you can monitor the location of the tracker – and what it’s attached to. If you can’t find your keys or your remote control or your cat, all you have to do is launch the tracking app on your phone and it will locate the connected tracking device. Most trackers also have built-in speakers so you can use the tracking app on your smartphone to make the tracker beep – which makes it even easier to find items you’ve misplaced.
You can connect more than one tracking device to the app on your phone and label them so you know what’s attached to each tracker. If you have one tracker connected to your keychain and the other to your pet’s collar, label one “Keys” and the other “Fido” (or “Spot” or whatever your pet’s name is). Each tracking device will show up separately on the mobile phone app.
Most Bluetooth trackers cost around $30, sometimes less if you buy multiple units in a package. The accompanying tracking apps are free and most connect to larger networks to help locate lost or stolen items outside Bluetooth range (which is typically about 200 feet).
What Do You Use a Bluetooth Tracker For?
As you can surmise from the name, you use a Bluetooth tracker to track the location of things. These tracking devices are small and light enough you can attach them to virtually anything, including:
- Key rings
- Purses and bags
- Remote controls
- Tablets, cameras, and other electronic devices
- Pet collars
- Small children (clip to their pants or shirt)
- Kid’s toys, blankies, and other favorite items
- Cars and trucks (so you can find them in big parking lots)
- Jewelry, collectables, artwork, and other valuable items.
Most trackers come can be easily attached to other items. Some come with adhesive backing to stick to your belongings. Some companies offer fancy cases and other accessories to make their trackers look more stylish – and more easily attach to more types of things.
You can also use Bluetooth trackers to track down items that have been stolen. If your laptop computer gets stolen from a coffeeshop or your bicycle stolen from a bike rack, just fire up the tracking app on your phone and you can locate where the stolen item was last located – and then alert the police.
What Bluetooth Tracking Devices Are Available?
There are a number of companies that sell Bluetooth tracking devices. All work in a similar fashion and have similar form factors.
Apple’s AirTags can be tracked by the Find My app, installed by default on the company’s iPhones and iPads. An individual AirTag sells for $29 or you can buy a four-pack for $99.
The Chipolo ONE Bluetooth tracker is just 1.49 inches in diameter and 0.25 inches thick. It’s water resistant and works with Chipolo’s own mobile app.
The company also offers the Chipolo ONE Spot that works with Apple’s Find My app and the Chipolo CARD designed to fit inside a wallet. The Chipolo ONE sells for $25 apiece or $75 for a four-pack; the Chipolo CARD sells for $30 each or $120 for a four-pack. (The ONE Spot is not yet shipping.) You can find them on the Chipolo website or on Amazon.
Both SmartTags are square devices that measure 1.54 x 1.54 inches and are 0.39 inches thick. The SmartTag+ adds nifty Augmented Reality (AR) finding which lets you view lost items visually, onscreen. The basic SmartTag sells for $29.99 and the SmartTag+ goes for $39.99.
Tile is the longtime market leader in Bluetooth tracking devices, with more than 30 million units sold worldwide. Tile offers a number of different units, including:
- Tile Mate, the company’s basic tracker, square, 1.38 x 1.38 x 0.24 inches, sells for $24.99
- Tile Pro, with a longer Bluetooth range, square, 1.65 x 1.65 x 0.26 inches, sells for $34.99
- Tile Sticker, small and round with a sticky backing, 1.06 inches diameter but 0.29 inches thick, sells for $39.99 for a two-pack
- Tile Slim, a card-like device designed for wallets and purses, 3.38 x 2.12 x 0.09 inches, sells for $29.99
Do You Need a Bluetooth Tracker?
Now that you know what Bluetooth trackers do, do you need one? The answer is yes if you’re prone to misplacing or losing items around the house. I also find them useful for finding my car in crowded parking lots. They’re small and inconspicuous and can save you time and stress the next time something important comes up missing.
Here are introductory videos from Apple and Tile.