The best Bluetooth trackers for 2023

If you’ve ever been late to leave because you couldn’t find your keys or cash, you’ll find a Bluetooth tracker useful. These small tools can be attached to your things and tracked with your smartphone. There aren’t that many Bluetooth trackers on the market yet, but we tested some of the most famous ones to find our top picks and help you decide which one is best for you.

How to find the right Bluetooth tracker
Bluetooth trackers are small discs or cards that talk to your phone through short-range, low-energy wireless messages. If you put one on something, your phone can “ring” the chip to help you find it if it’s nearby. Other features of these tracking devices include split alerts that let you know when you’ve left a tagged item behind or where the last time a lost item was found. Some of them can even use a bigger network of smartphones to find your phone when you’re not in range. There are a few features to look for in a tracker, depending on what you want it to do.

Compatibility of devices
AirTags, like most things made by people in Cupertino, only work with Apple devices. The company has given third-party makers, like Chipolo, access to its Find My network. Its One Spot and Card Spot finders work with Apple’s big tracking network, but they can only pair with Apple devices. The original trackers from Chipolo and Tile both work with both Android and Apple devices.

Getting on a network
The things that make the news about crowd-sourced finding are stories about recovering stolen tools or finding lost luggage all over the world. Using nameless signals that “ping” other people’s devices, these Bluetooth tracking devices might be able to tell you where a tagged item is, even if your smartphone isn’t in Bluetooth range. Apple’s Find My network is by far the biggest. More than a billion iPhones are in use, and all of them have the Find My app installed by default. So, unless the iPhone user turns it off, it will quietly find the location of any nearby AirTags unless they turn it off.

Even though there are more Android phones than iPhones in the world, they don’t have a unified network yet. Google talked about future changes to its Find My Device network at this year’s I/O conference. One of the first changes is better anti-stalking measures, some of which have already been put in place. The FindMy-rivaling network won’t be fully up and running until the end of this year. We know of a few trackers that will work with the new method, and when they’re ready, we’ll try them out and update this guide.

In the meantime, Tile has the second-largest tracking grid. Every smartphone that runs the Tile app can be used to find things without being noticed. After Life360 bought Tile, the app’s 47 million users were added to Tile’s 50 million users, making a large network.

In our tests, AirTags gave us almost real-time location information and were the fastest way to find things left behind in places around Albuquerque, like a bar, bookstore, and coffee shop in Nob Hill and different outdoor hangouts on UNM’s campus. Most of the time, Bluetooth tracking Tiles were able to find our lost things, but not as precisely as AirTags. The Spot tags from Chipolo use the same Find My network as the AirTags and work just as well.

On the other hand, Chipolo’s standard trackers don’t have much of a crowd-sourced network. But as we used the trackers, the size of the tracking network started to seem less important for everyday uses. The fact that Chipolo’s original trackers were better in every other way put them at the top of our list.

Alerts for separation
Here’s where the everyday use of a tracker really shines. A separation alert lets you know when you’re too far away from your tagged things. This is helpful if you want to make sure you always have your laptop bag, jacket, or umbrella when you leave the house.

You can get these alerts even when you’re out and about. If you leave a place without your wallet and it has a tracker in it, the separation alert should go off. This should make it less likely that you lose things. This function also tells you where your tagged item and phone were the last time they were paired. This way, if you miss the alert, you can go back to where you were.

Each tracker has its own way of dealing with things left behind. The feature is already built into both AirTags and Chipolo. To get the warnings, you have to pay a yearly fee, which is currently $30 per year. Both AirTags and Tiles let you turn off separation alerts in certain places. For example, you can set your home as a “safe” place where things can be left behind, but alerts will still go off in other places. Chipolo doesn’t have any safe places, but you can turn off out-of-range alerts for each thing.

During our tests, the Chipolo let us know when we were between 250 and 450 feet away from an item that had been tagged. Between 600 and 1,400 feet, AirTags let us know. And Tiles sent a message after about 1,500 feet on average. On an iPhone, Tile alerts didn’t always work, but they worked well on an Android phone.

Connections, size, and layout
The simple “find my keys” function may be the one you use most often. If you have your phone but don’t know where your tagged keys are, you can make the tracker ring by tapping a button in the app. You can also double-click Tile and Chipolo standard trackers to make your phone ring, but you can’t do this with AirTags and Chipolos that use the Find My app.

Depending on how loud the tracker is, you might be able to find something in your couch pillows or in a noisy room. AirTags have a reputation for being quiet, and what we saw (about 65 decibels) backed up that image. The Chipolo keychain-style tags and the Tile Slim wallet tracker were the loudest, measuring between 83 and 85 decibels. The Apple-only form of the Chipolo tags was also the loudest.

The tracker’s design will tell you what you can connect it to. AirTags are small, smooth discs that can’t be attached to anything without attachments. There are many of these accessories, but they cost extra. Both Chipolo and Tile make trackers with holes that make it easy to connect them to your key ring. They also make trackers that look like cards and fit in your wallet. AirTags, Chipolo One, and Tile Pro all have batteries that can be changed. Tile Mate and all other card-shaped trackers don’t have batteries that can be changed. When the unit goes, you’ll have to buy a new one. Trackers from Pebblebee can be charged. We are currently putting them to the test, and when we know how they do, we will let you know in this guide.

Recently, putting AirTags on people to stalk them and taking them have gotten a lot of attention because bad people do it. Even if this doesn’t change your mind about whether or not to buy a Bluetooth tracker, it’s important to know what Apple, Google, and Tile have done to fix the problem. If an AirTag is found moving with you but not with its owner, the device will sound an alarm to let you know it’s there. Whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, if you have location services and Bluetooth turned on, you’ll get a notification without having to do anything else. Tile’s regular app has a similar feature, and you don’t need a Tile account to use it to look for suspicious neighborhood trackers.

Tile just released a new tool called “Anti-Theft Mode,” which lets you make one of its trackers invisible to other people. That means that if someone steals your tagged item, they won’t be able to use the anti-stalking tools to find its exact location and turn off the tracker. Of course, that could make it easier to use a Tile as a stalking device, so you have to prove your identity and agree to a $1 million fine if you break the rules.

Generally speaking, a Bluetooth tag might or might not be the best way to stop theft. People have used trackers to get back things that were stolen, but other stories are more about what not to do. Still, Apple doesn’t talk about its trackers or finding networks as ways to stop theft. On the other hand, GPS watches are usually sold for just that reason.

What we tried
We looked at user reviews on Amazon, Best Buy, and other stores, as well as discussions on sites like Reddit, before deciding which trackers to try. Before choosing Apple AirTag, Tile, and Chipolo tracks, we also looked at what other publications had to say about the topic.

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