Since I started testing Bluetooth trackers, they’ve helped me find my keys buried in couch cushions, stopped me from leaving my wallet in a friend’s car and made sure I didn’t forget my bike lock key as I took off on a ride. Through their respective apps, these useful gadgets let you ring your items when they’re nearby and they’ll send you an alert when you’ve strayed too far from them. Larger finding networks rely on signals from other phones to help you locate trackers lost in the community. We’ve tested tags from the most popular brands so you can determine which Bluetooth tracker is best for you.
Best tracker overall
Best tracker for iPhones
Best tracker for Android
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag2
Best tracker for Samsung
Best wallet tracker
What to look for in a Bluetooth tracking device
Bluetooth trackers are small discs or cards that rely on short-range, low-energy wireless signals to communicate with your smartphone. Attach one to your stuff and, if it’s in range, your phone can “ring” the chip so you can find it. These tracking devices offer other features like separation alerts to tell you when you’ve left a tagged item behind, or where a lost item was last detected. Some can even tap into a larger network of smartphones to track down your device when you’re out of range. Depending on what you want the tracker to do, there are a few specs to look for when deciding which to get.
Like most things from the folks in Cupertino, AirTags only work with products in the Apple ecosystem. The company has opened up access to its Find My network to third-party manufacturers, including Chipolo, though. Its One Spot and Card Spot finders work with Apple's large tracking network, but only pair with Apple devices. Chipolo’s classic trackers will work with either Android or Apple devices, as will Tile trackers.
Crowd-sourced finding capabilities are what make headlines, with stories about recovering stolen equipment or tracking lost luggage across the globe. Using anonymous signals that ping other people’s devices, these Bluetooth tracking devices can potentially tell you where a tagged item is, even if your smartphone is out of Bluetooth range. Apple’s Find My network is by far the largest, with over a billion iPhones in service all running Apple’s Find My app by default. So unless an iPhone user opts out, their phone silently acts as a location detector for any nearby AirTags.
Android phones outnumber iPhones globally, but there isn’t a unified network tying together every Android user. Samsung’s relatively new SmartTag 2 shares similarities with Apple in that every Samsung phone defaults to an opt-in status for finding tags and other devices. But, in the US at least, iPhones still outnumber Galaxy phones.
During last year’s I/O conference, Google announced forthcoming upgrades to its Find My Device network, starting with better anti-stalking measures, some of which it debuted last July. The complete roll out of the Find My-rivaling network has been delayed, with no new announcements on exactly when it will be available. We know of a few trackers that will take advantage of the new system and once they’re available, we’ll test them out and update this guide.
In the meantime, Tile offers a large finding grid, with every smartphone that runs the Tile app acting as incognito locators. After Life360 acquired Tile, the 47 million users of that app were added to the 50 million existing Tile users, creating a sizable network.
In our tests, AirTags offered nearly real-time location data and were quickest to find items abandoned in spots around Albuquerque, including a bar, bookstore and coffee shop in Nob Hill, along with various outdoor hangouts on UNM’s campus. Tile trackers and Samsung's SmartTags were able to locate our lost items most of the time, though not with the same pin-point accuracy as AirTags. Chipolo’s Spot trackers operate on the same Find My network and perform on par with the AirTags.
Chipolo’s classic trackers, on the other hand, don’t have much of a crowd-sourced network to speak of. Yet as we used the trackers, the size of the finding network started to feel less important in the face of typical, everyday use cases. It was their ability to out-perform in every other way that boosted Chipolo’s classic trackers to the top of our list.
Here’s where a tracker’s day-to-day utility really shines. A separation alert lets you know when you’ve traveled too far from your tagged items, which is useful if you want to make sure your laptop bag, or jacket or umbrella always comes with you when you leave the house.
These notifications work when you’re out and about too. If you’ve got a Bluetooth tracking device in your wallet and walk out of a restaurant without it, the separation alert should kick in, resulting in fewer lost items. This feature also tells you where your tagged item and phone were last paired, allowing you to retrace your steps if you happen to miss the alert.
Each tracker handles left-behind items differently. Both AirTags and Chipolo include the feature by default. Tile trackers require a yearly subscription to enable the alerts (currently $30 per year). Both AirTags and Tiles allow you to turn off separation alerts at certain locations, meaning you can set your home as a “safe” place where items can be left behind, but alerts will still trigger elsewhere. Chipolo doesn’t offer safe locations, but you can toggle out-of-range alerts on a per-item basis.
In our tests, the Chipolo sent an alert after we got between 250 and 450 feet away from our tagged item. AirTags alerted us between the 600- and 1,400-foot mark. And Tiles sent a notification after about an average of 1,500 feet. Tile notifications were not consistent on an iPhone, but worked well when operating with an Android phone.
Connectivity, volume and design
The feature you may use most often is the key finder function, which makes the tracker ring when you hit a button in the app. Tile and Chipolo classic trackers will also let you double click the device itself to make your phone ring, but AirTags and Chipolos running on the Find My app don’t offer this feature.
The volume of the Bluetooth tracking device may determine whether you can find an item buried in your couch cushions or in a noisy room. AirTags have a reputation for being on the quiet side, and that aligned with what we saw (measuring roughly 65 decibels). Chipolo’s keychain-style tags, both the Apple-only version and the device-agnostic version, and the Tile Slim wallet tracker were the loudest, measuring between 83 and 85 decibels.
Design will determine what you can attach the tracker to. AirTags are small, smooth discs that can’t be secured to anything without accessories, which are numerous, but that is an additional cost to consider. Both Chipolo and Tile offer trackers with holes that easily attach to your key ring, and both companies also offer card-shaped versions designed to fit in your wallet. Tile also makes Tile Stickers, which are even smaller trackers that adhere to things like your TV’s remote.
Batteries are replaceable for AirTags, Tile Pro and Chipolo One; the first two have a one-year battery life and the Chipolo can go up to two years. Tile Mate and all card-shaped trackers don’t have replaceable batteries, which means you’ll have to replace the entire unit whenever it dies. Pebblebee trackers are rechargeable and come in both a key fob and wallet variety.
Stalking and stealing
AirTags have recently gotten a lot of attention for bad actors planting them on people in order to stalk them. While this fact may not influence your buying decision, any discussion of Bluetooth trackers should note what steps Apple, Google and Tile have taken to address the issue. If an AirTag is detected moving with you and apart from its owner, the device will ring to alert you of its presence. Whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, as long as you have location services and Bluetooth turned on, you’ll automatically get an alert with no further steps required. Tile offers a similar feature through its standard app, and it doesn’t require a Tile account to search for suspicious nearby trackers.
Recently, Tile launched a feature called Anti-Theft Mode, which enables you to render one of its trackers undetectable by others. That means if someone steals your tagged item, they won’t be able to use the anti-stalking features to find its precise location and disable the tracker. Of course, that potentially makes a Tile easier to use as a stalking device, so in order to enable the feature, you have to verify your ID and agree to a $1 million penalty for misuse.
In general, a Bluetooth tracker may or may not be the best option for combating theft. Anecdotal stories abound in which people have recovered stolen goods using a tracker — but other tales are more cautionary. Apple still doesn’t promote its trackers or finding networks as a way to deal with theft. GPS trackers, on the other hand, are typically marketed for just that purpose.
How we tested
Before deciding on which trackers to test, we researched the field, looking at user reviews on Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers, along with discussions on sites like Reddit. We also checked out what other publications had to say on the matter before narrowing down our picks to Apple AirTag, Tile and Chipolo trackers. When Samsung's SmartTag 2 came out in October of 2023, we added that to our testing, along with Pebblebee's rechargeable Chip tracker.
Here’s the full list of every tracker we tested:
After acquiring the trackers, I tested each one over the course of a few weeks using both an iPhone 11 and a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. I recreated likely user experiences, such as losing and leaving items behind at home and out in the city. I planted trackers at different spots near downtown Albuquerque, mostly concentrated in and around the University of New Mexico and the surrounding neighborhood of Nob Hill. Each test was performed multiple times, both while walking and driving and I used the measure distance feature on Google Maps to track footage for alerts. I paid attention to how easy the app was to use, how reliable the phone-to-tracker connection was and any other perks and drawbacks that came up during regular use.
Hands-on testing is great at smashing assumptions, and that’s what happened with the Chipolo One. This tracker’s crowd-sourced finding network cannot compare with Apple’s AirTag or Tile. In fact, when I left the Chipolo for 24 hours just outside the busy student union at UNM, I was never alerted that a member of the Chipolo community had detected my item. But as I used it and pictured how most people would use a tracker on a daily basis, the device proved its worth and earned its spot on my keyring.
The One is a small and colorful plastic disc with a hole. It works with both Apple and Android devices and requires an app which is simple to use and easily pairs new trackers. The app and tracking experience on an iPhone and a Galaxy phone were nearly identical, working equally well on both platforms. It rang the loudest of all the trackers, so lost items were quickly found around the house. Unlike other trackers, there was never a delay between pressing the Ring to Find button and hearing the trill. The ring delay for AirTag was never more than a few seconds and Tiles would generally connect and ring after no more than ten seconds. While that’s not a deal-breaking delay, it could add to the stress of rushing out the door.
Where the Chipolo One truly set itself apart was with its separation alerts. I would only get a half to two blocks away (or an average of 350 feet) before getting an alert asking if I’d forgotten an item. Neither AirTag nor Tile ever beat Chipolo to the punch. The alerts were consistent whether I was forgetting an item at home, at a coffee shop, or inside my car.
As far as losing stuff out in the wild, it will get you back to the spot where your phone and tracker were last paired. That means if you miss an alert or don’t have them turned on, Chipolo will give you directions (via your maps app) and take you right to where you left your item. In one test, I had a friend hide the tracker nearby when I wasn't looking. I left the area and returned hours later, using the last location information to lead me within a few feet of the tracker’s precise location. Ringing the tracker then made it easy to find. Of course, if someone walks off with your tracked item, the Chipolo will be harder pressed to help you out.
If you’re concerned about lost luggage when you travel or if you worry you may lose things on trains or buses, this isn’t the tracker for you because of its much smaller finding network. But if you’re looking for a dead simple way to find your keys and make sure your jacket leaves the bar when you do, the Chipolo One is hard to beat.
AirTags work with iOS' Find My app, so they don’t require any additional downloads. If you’ve used the Find My app before, you’ll likely understand how this works. These are the quietest of the trackers we tested and each time you press the Play Sound button, the tags only ring for seven seconds. You’ll need to keep pressing if you don’t find your item right away and AirTags can’t be used to ring your phone.
As for separation alerts, AirTags were consistent, always delivering a “left behind” alert when I traveled about 1,200 feet away, or about three square blocks, without an item. You can turn off separation alerts for any given tracker, as well as designate certain locations, such as your home or workplace, as exceptions for the notifications.
One feature that AirTags have that no other tag offers is the ability to tap into the ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless protocol. This allows you to play a fun game of hot and cold with an item when it’s within about 25 feet of your iPhone. Directional arrows and a diminishing distance meter on your iPhone’s screen point you to an item without having to ring it. This worked reliably about 75 percent of the time in my tests; sometimes it was just easier to ring the item when the directional finding couldn’t keep a lock on the tracker.
UWB is supported by iPhone models 11 and later and while newer Galaxy and Pixel phones also support UWB, no Android-compatible tracker has yet been released. In 2021, Tile announced one that would, but has since missed its promised release window of “early 2022.”
AirTag’s ability to locate a lost item out in the city is almost eerie. I had someone (who was not carrying an iPhone) take my bike with a tracker hidden under the seat to a location a little over a half mile away. I set out a few minutes later and toggled on Notify When Found in the Find My app. Within three minutes, I received a notification that the bike had been “seen” near an address. Tapping on Directions navigates to Apple Maps, which took me to a spot about 30 feet from the bike. Had it been obscured from view, I could have then used the Find Nearby button to activate the UWB locating features. Ringing the tag was too quiet to hear on the sidewalk.
If you want the same scary-precise community finding features, but with a louder ring and a hole in the tracker, the Chipolo One Spot is a solid option. It doesn’t offer UWB capabilities, however, and the separation alerts are the same as with AirTags (letting you get 1,200 feet away before a ping, versus an average of 350 feet with our top rec, Chipolo One classic).
Or, for a rechargeable option, the Pebblebee Clip is a good AirTag alternative. True, you can swap out the battery in Apple's discs, but charging your tracker via USB-C every few months might be easier. The Pebblebee works with Apple’s Find My network and has the same setup as an AirTag. In my tests, it was spotted just as quickly as Apple’s tracker, and the left-behind alerts went off about the same distance away.
But the Pebblebee has a few advantages over AirTags: The black disk has a built-in metal attachment point and includes a small carabiner clip, so for most situations, you won’t need an additional accessory. The Pebblebee is far louder than Apple’s tracker, too. I also like that when you ping it from the app, it continues ringing until you hit stop instead of going silent after seven seconds. Pebblebee makes a rechargeable wallet tracker as well, which may be easier to slide in a billfold than the rounded AirTag. One word of warning, however: If you’re going to use it with Find My, don’t set it up with Pebblebee’s own app beforehand. If you do, you’ll have to do a factory reset before it’ll work with Apple’s app.
Tile will work with either Android or Apple devices, but the experience is much better on Android. Certain connectivity issues and a lack of alerts that plagued the iPhone experience did not show up in tests with the Galaxy phone. One caveat to note is that Tile requires a subscription to enable separation alerts. Tile Premium goes for $3 per month or $30 per year and includes location history and item reimbursement of up to $100 on items that you register with the company, they’ll also send out a fresh battery once a year. Tile stands out as the only tracker company offering reimbursement — even without a subscription, they’ll pay out up to $25 for items that you register with them.
The Tile Pro is a key-fob shaped device with a metal keychain hole that feels sturdy. The Pro’s ring was just a few decibels quieter than the Tile Mate (78 versus 82 decibels), but the connectivity range was better with the Pro, and it was more accurate in finder network tests. On top of that, this is the only current Tile device with a replaceable battery, which lasts about one year.
For the lost-item tests, I had a friend take the Pro to random locations. After turning on the Notify When Found feature, an alert would arrive between five and ten minutes later saying my lost item was “found by the community.” The map details were typically accurate within about 100 feet or so, though it occasionally thought the Tile was at a business next door to where it actually was. Without the UWB feature, precision finding of an item was trickier. In one test, the tracker ended up in a noisy pub. While the directions pointed me to the right location, it would have been difficult to find the item if I hadn’t spotted my friend, as the ring function was useless among the din.
Nothing can beat the vastness of Apple’s Find My network, since it relies on every nearby iPhone to help locate AirTags. The number of Samsung phones in the US may be smaller than the number of Apple handsets out there, but it’s still significant. The new SmartTag 2 relies on those phones to offer a finding network that may not best Apple’s, but is larger than anything else out there for Android at the moment. Of course, once Google unleashes its expanded Find My Device network, everything will change.
The SmartTag 2 only works with Samsung devices and after testing one out with a Galaxy S23, I was impressed how quickly it was able to find tagged items out in the wild, though the precision didn’t quite match that of Apple. Of all the trackers I’ve tried, I like the design of the SmartTag the best. It’s an oblong fob with a big hole for attaching directly to your keys, or you can buy the optional silicone case and ring Samsung offers. Its volume is louder than the AirTag and the Tile Pro, but not as loud as either the Chipolo One or the Pebblebee Clip. You can also change the tag’s ringtone or double squeeze it to ring your handset, both things that you can’t do with AirTags.
Setup is simple as well: once you remove the plastic pull tab, your phone senses the tracker and walks you through the standard permissions (location services, notifications) and warnings (don’t use the tracker on people). The companion app, SmartThings Find, tracks your Samsung devices and the SmartTag with an intuitive and clean Google Maps-based interface.
As for how the tag works in practice, I found the left behind alerts triggered reliably when I got about three blocks (1,200 feet or so) away when walking and about eight blocks away when driving. That’s far longer than Chipolo’s alerts, a little longer than Apple’s notifications and about on par with Tile’s left-behind feature.
When the tag is out of range and you enable Lost Mode, you’ll get an alert when it’s spotted by another Samsung phone. The tag also uses NFC to display your contact info and a custom note to anyone who finds the tracker, regardless of the brand of smartphone they carry. Of course, whoever finds it would need to know to hold it to the back of their phone to get the message, and it was harder to trigger with my iPhone when the tag was in the silicone holder.
To test the finding network, I asked a friend (without a phone in their pocket) to wander a half mile away with the tag. About 12 minutes after turning on Lost Mode, I got a message that the SmartTag was “spotted by a nearby device” with a dropped pin. I tapped Navigate in the app, which opened Google Maps and led me to a point directly across a moderately busy street from where my friend was standing. If I’d left the tag behind somewhere I’d recently been, just seeing the location on the map would have been enough to jog my memory as to where I might have dropped my stuff. But if someone had stolen the tagged item and I was wandering the streets trying to get it back, vigilante style, it may not have been precise enough to help. It may not be as accurate as the iPhone-and-AirTag combo, but the SmartTag 2 is a solid entry in the Bluetooth tracker market and a good option if you have a Samsung phone.
The Tile Slim is louder than both the Pro and the Mate, and nearly equals the loudest tracker we tested, the Chipolo One. It works with both Android and Apple devices and its thick credit card shape fits in the slots of a typical wallet (though it often won’t connect when inside an RFID-blocking wallet). The separation alerts you’ll get if you pay for a Tile subscription activate at about the same distance as the Tile Pro, letting you get around 1,500 feet away before pinging you about a left-behind item. When using an iPhone with Tile trackers, separation alerts rarely came and connectivity between the phone and tracker was spotty at best, even in close proximity. If you use an iPhone, the Chipolo Card Spot is equally loud, runs on Apple’s vast Find My network and consistently gives you a left-behind alert at around 1,200 feet.