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Review And Comparison Of Bluetooth Location Trackers For Lost Keys And Other Valuable Items

Updated on December 29, 2015
Lost your keys - again?
Lost your keys - again? | Source

Intro

Do you belong to this group of people that constantly misplace or always lose things?

In 2014 this may end for you!

With the introduction and wide spread of Low Energy Bluetooth 4.0 it became possible for gadget makers to create a new class of devices:
"Bluetooth Location Tracking Chips"


This little electronically helpers connects with your smartphone and alerts you when the two of them are separated. So you do not need to go to a „Find and lost“ and hope for the best in order to retrieve your belongings.

In fact during 2013 came so many of this little dongles on the market that it is confusing to understand all the features they come with and even more to pick the right device for your personal needs.


This review picks 6 different models and compares their abilities.


Let’s dive right into it now.

Bluetooth location tracker models

The following six products were picked and are covered in this review:

  • Tile
  • Kensington Proximo
  • Elgato Smart Key
  • Stick-n-Find
  • Find’em Tracking
  • hipKey

This list is by no means complete and never will be as there are new devices streaming onto the market every other month. But for now this is a quite comprehensive selection.

Feature list - what do you need?

These trackers vary so much in size, battery life and abilities that a first overview of what the companies came up with seems to be appropriated.

You may be surprised that there can be so much more to a tracker then just getting notified when you are about to leave something behind.


Size & Weight
These measurement vary extremely, while the thickness can go from 1/10 inch to over 3/10 inch, the other dimension spans from 2/10 to almost 3.5 inches. While the weight of all device is small they vary in this area as well.The lightest in just a good 1/10 of an once from there it can go up to over half an once. Depending on which kind of item you want to tracker this can be very relevant or not at all.

Operating distance
Some trackers work within 150ft (outside, no walls) down to 50ft (inside a house). This is more or less the usual distance they can cover. Interesting is that some device allow you to customise the sensitivity. This enables you to define from what distance on an alarm should sound. It can be very annoying for your colleagues if your key starts beeping while you just wander off a few feet to grab a folder from the next table. On the other hand it is kind of useless when your suitcase beeps alone at the station, while your are sitting already in the bus.

Battery runtime
This topic is very interesting as there are large differences between the different offers here. If you are used to charge your gadgets every few weeks you wouldn’t mind the low runtime of the hipKey. But when you squint over to the competition you will see it seems to be easy to run for 6 or 12 months. One even managed to squeeze 18 months of battery life out of their product.

Features
You may guess this is the department where the real innovation takes place. Let me run you quickly over the expected features:

  • Lost connection (Leash function)
    To recognise when the bluetooth connection between your phone - which you should have with you - and the item on which you attached the tracker gets lost, is what these trackers are all about, that what all of them should offer - and they do.

  • Alarm sound on device
    To make noise on the left behind item is somewhat obvious as well. The manufacturers agreed and put this feature in all products.

  • Last seen
    Once the connection is lost the phone app should save the last position where it has seen your tagged item. This gives you an opportunity to go back and - hopefully still - find your item.

  • Find device (Radar)
    Sometimes an item like a key is not really lost, you just have misplaced it. But where? Here the „Find device“ function comes in handy. The simple version lets just the tracker beep at will, the better version shows you the proximity on a kind of radar on the display of your phone, so you can better estimate whether you get closer or deviate.

  • Number of manageable devices
    If you want to have an eye on just a handful of items you wouldn’t mind. If you are a savvy tech geek and want to check on „everything“, pay attention to the number of trackers you can connect with your phone, as this differs greatly within this field.

  • Show battery capacity
    As the battery will run down eventually it would be nice to see what's left before you go on a longer vacation or business trip. This is where the wheat is starting to get separated from the chaff. Not all of them can tell you this.



These are the feature I expected while investigating in this topic. But I found more then I was seeking. I find it remarkable that some companies thought out of the box and came up with even more scenarios while using the very same technology.

  • Share devices with others
    You may have a tracker on an item of common interest. Lets say the key to the garden house or your motor bike (if you share something like that ;-). In this case it doesn't help at all, when the tracker is connected with your phone and your wife is looking for that garden house key while you are at work. Therefor a sharable tracker can become very interesting. In this case you connect one tracker to several phones and can use the before mentioned radar function independently.

  • Safe zones
    Next is a feature someone can only come up with - in my opinion - when they actually tested the device. Imagine the following situation: You are home, your key is on the keyboard. Then you bring the trash out. What would happen? Yes, the tracker on the key would sound the alarm. Annoying isn’t it? That’s what safe zones are for! Some devices allow you to define zones where the alarm wouldn’t go off even if the bluetooth connection gets broken.

  • Remember parked car
    This one is so simple, but ingenious at the same time that I am wondering why only a few offers this function. It is basically the same scenario as a standard leash function, but without the alarm. When you setup a tracker which you placed in your car like this, the app will just remember the last position, stay silent and offer you a navigation back to your car when you ask for it.

  • Announce luggage arrive
    The last feature is also fabulous. It turns the leash function around and signals you when the tracker get into the bluetooth range of your phone. This is incredible useful when you place a tracker in your suitcase and can wait comfortable on a bench close to the luggage belt at the airport and only get into the crowd when your suitcase has actually arrived.

 
Tile
Kensington Proximo (2 pcs)
Elgato Smart Key
Stick-N-Find (2 pcs)
Find'emTracking
hipKey
Size
1.4x1.4x0.16 inch 36x36x4mm
Fob: 2x1.3x0.25 inch 51x33x8mm Tag: 1.5/0.25 inch 38x8mm
1.6x0.35 inch 41x9mm
0.98x0.16 inch 24x4mm
3.3x2.1x0.1 inch 85x52x2.4mm
1.97x0.28 inch 50x7mm
Weight
9 g / 0.32 oz
17g / 0.6 oz
10g / 0.4oz
4.5g / 0.15oz
n/a
n/a
Waterproof
YES
n/a
NO - but waterresistant
NO
n/a
n/a
App - Features
iPhone
iPhone
iPhone IOS7
iPhone/Android
iPhone/Android
iPhone
# of manageable devices
10
5
8
20
n/a
n/a
Alarm sound on device
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
Lost connection (Leash)
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
Find device (Radar)
YES
n/a
NO, but Sound
YES
YES
NO, but Sound
Remember parked car
NO
YES
YES
NO
n/a
NO
Announce luggage arrival
NO
NO
YES
YES
YES
NO
Safe zones
NO
NO
YES
NO
n/a
YES
Share devices with others
YES
NO
NO
O (but visible from other phones)
n/a
NO
Last seen
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
n/a
Show battery capacity
NO
YES
NO
YES
n/a
YES
other features
Report other devices
Backwards search
-
Thermometer
-
Motion mode
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
Operating distance
50-150ft
1-150ft - customisable
n/a
100ft
10-150ft - customisable
163ft - customisable
Battery runtime
12 months
6 months
6 months
12 months
18 months
2-4 weeks
Battery replaceable
NO
YES (CR2032)
YES (CR2032)
YES (CR2016)
YES (CR2016)
re-chargeable via USB
Price
$20
Starter Kit:$60 add Tag for $25
$40
$50
$25
$90?
Unfortunately each company consider a different set of information as interesting for their potential customers. Therefor it was not always possible to obtain all data. I would be happy to amend any information you could provide for any of the missi

Going into the details

I will go over each tracker and point out some details and my thoughts about them. This way you can realise which features are important to you specifically and find - hopefully - the best device for your needs.

Tile

This is - better say was - an interesting Kickstarter campaign.
Even if I couldn’t get the exact weight, when you have a look at this little thing, it becomes obvious that it must be very light.
Reveal Labs, the company behind Tile, gives you two options to fix the tracker onto your stuff. You can stick it with the adhesive side - e.g. on your notebook. Or you use the hole and put it on your keychain.

This tracker has one unique feature which allows reporting lost trackers via the phones of other Tile owners. If you ever get your item stolen - lets say a bike - and another Tile user walked by your bike within 150ft, this phone would report the GPS data to you automatically.

Tile is completely sealed. That makes it the only waterproofed item in this review, but it also means that you can’t charge or change the battery. Once it runs out of juice you need to replace the complete device. From a financial point of view it may be OK, as the battery should last 12 months and Tile is the most affordable tracker in this roundup. This would give you roughly two years of usage before you hit the price point of (most of) the competition.

Is this an environmental friendly strategy? I don’t know though...

Proximo

The product from Kensington comes in a starter pack, means you get two tracker at once.
They have both a nice design. Beside the absolute standard features Proximo offers the battery status and remembers where you parked your car.

The standalone feature here would be to find your phone, when you still have your keys - with the tracker - in your pocket.

A runtime of 6 months is good and you can pop in a standard CR2032 for little money. If you need to check on only up to 5 items and like the customisable sensitivity then this is the right tracker for you.

Elgato Smart Key

It wouldn’t win a design price. This tracker looks just like the one you may carry around for the last 10-15 years to open doors in your company.
Elgato obviously didn’t spend money on the design, but boy did they on features!

It easier to name what they didn’t include: Battery status and sharing a tracker. That's it. But everything else is in there. Even the mind calming safe zones and the innovative car finder and luggage announcer functions.

The battery is replaceable and the price is right in the middle of the field.

Stick-N-Find

Hard to believe, but Stick-N-Find is even smaller then the already very small Tile.
This makes it the lightest in this review and the battery is even replaceable (much better environmental karma, right?).

It is one of two that support also Android phone. But be aware that only very specific models are supported. Check their website before ordering it.
On the Apple side it’s easy: it works from iPhone 4s on.

Stick-N-Find comes in a double pack, which makes it one of the most affordable trackers here.
It supports up to 20 trackers in one setup - that’s the one for you tech savvy geeks ;-) and offers a lot of the features the Elgato Smart Key offers.

They even announced "features in work" as a task launcher that would start music when entering home, set your phone to silent when entering a meeting room or start the navigation app when entering the car. There is no timetable for these future features though.

Find’em Tracking

This one is unique in one perspective, it looks like a credit card and as such you put it with the „others“ in your wallet.

That also means it’s not really meant to track you bike or notebook and such.

It was most complicated to get all interesting data. What I found is that it delivers the basic functions, has the longest battery ilife with 18 months and is at the cheap end of the range.

As it supports Android, I can only guess that the same limits are valid as for the Stick-N-Find.

hipKey

The hipKey is a beauty and as all super models it has its price. Another metaphor is models are skinny, so is the hipKey on features and battery life.

On the plus side is the customisable sensitivity and the standalone feature of motion control. If somebody just touches your item with the tracker on, it will go off, not just when the thief is already 150ft away.


Verdict

The Tile offers a lot in a small package, but the throw-away mentality bugs me a lot.

The hipKey may be hip, but it offers to little for a high price and to charge it „all the time“ would disturb me.

The Find’em Tracking is different and as such a solution for the ones that look for exactly this mix.


That lets us with the Proximo, the Elgato Smart Key and Stick-N-Find.

While the Proximo is right there in the middle, it offers a nice mix of features. And as the price dropped to the half of ist original tag, you can get the Proximo dirt-cheap here.

The Stick-N-Find is a very interesting product. If you want more then one go for it as it has a great bundle of features for a reasonable price.

The Elgato Smart Key has the sweetest package and it comes with a cornucopia of features.

What is your favourite tracker?

See results

© 2014 TheAndy

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    • profile image

      raycharlie 13 months ago

      @George All Trackers have their pros and cons and no replaceable battery is surely a drawback of above.

      Check out myLupo that addresses many of the issues noted here and more: www.mylupo.com

      Disclaimer: I work with Team Lupo in Glasgow.

      @TheAndy: If you like to update your review to more recent and add and compare Lupo we can arrange for that.

    • profile image

      GeorgeChristopher 2 years ago

      Avoid the Tile. The device only last 1 year +/- and you have to buy a new one every year ($20 each) to replace it as the devices is sealed and can not be opened without destroying it

      I ordered it months ago and contacted them to ask when it would be shipped. They told me it would be at my place no later than October 31.

      When I checked on my order on October 27, it said "Good news! Your order will ship within 3-4 days". I thought great!. It is now 15 days later and when I sent them an email, they told me that they would get back to me "within the next 17 days".

      They are in over their head on this and the customers are the ones who are paying.

    • profile image

      Gary 2 years ago

      Thanks for the article. It was very thorough and had the exact parameters that I was looking for in this device. Ending up getting the Stick-n-find because of the size. They also have some really interesting commercial devices.

    • profile image

      Jerry Smith 3 years ago

      I see tile is waterproof...good....what temperature can the tile withstand....like being put in a hospital Autoclave to be sterilized @ 275 deg F with supersaturated water/steam. Big possible application if it can.

      jerryrsmith123@gmail.com

    • TheAndy profile image
      Author

      TheAndy 3 years ago from Germany

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the weight info. I'll amend it.

    • profile image

      Andy Baird 3 years ago

      Thanks for the very helpful article. For what it's worth, my Tile weighs 9 grams so you can add that data point to your chart.

    • TheAndy profile image
      Author

      TheAndy 3 years ago from Germany

      Hi Geoffkb, thank you very much!

      As far as I can see from the news around the internet, Blackberry is a dying kind. I don't think that companies would develop anything for these devices anymore.

      Android is a different story, though. There are two in this review (Stick-N-Find & Find'emTracking) that are Android compatible. I assume over time more will follow.

    • geoffkb profile image

      geoffkb 3 years ago

      This is a very interesting and useful review. Do you have any information about compatibility with Android and BlackBerry devices?