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The AirTag remains a prominent player in the item tracker market, known for its small, round disc design that integrates seamlessly with Apple's Find My app. However, it's worth noting that Apple wasn't the pioneer in this technology; Tile has been a forerunner in Bluetooth item trackers for over a decade, maintaining its status as AirTag's primary competitor even today.

0CB23085-7AE1-40AF-AA4C-CC0002FAE5B2.jpeg


While both AirTag and Tile continue to lead the item tracker industry, recent advancements and updates have potentially shifted the landscape, making the choice between them more nuanced than before. Our updated guide delves into these developments, providing insights to help you determine whether AirTag or Tile better suits your needs.

Overview

AirTags

AirTags are available in just a single model with a white plastic and silver metal design that features a removable battery and no direct way to attach the tracker to other items. An AirTag can be slipped into a bag or other appropriate item, but Apple also offers a range of accessories to attach AirTags to different objects and there is a burgeoning market of third-party offerings. AirTag is priced at $29 for one or $99 for a pack of four.

airtags.jpg


Tile Trackers

Tile makes four different trackers, each with slightly different features and form factors:

  • Tile Mate: Tile's most basic small tracker – $24.99
  • Tile Pro: A more premium alternative to the Tile Mate with a longer range, louder speaker, and a range of color options – $34.99
  • Tile Slim: A long-range, waterproof, ultra-thin tracker shaped like a credit card to be placed within a wallet or adhered to a flat surface – $24.99
  • Tile Sticker: Tile's smallest tracker, designed to be stuck to objects with an adhesive – $39.99 for two, $59.99 for four

tile-pro-slim-b.jpg


Each Tile tracker has a different design and set of features to serve different purposes. The Tile Mate and Tile Pro are ideal for attaching to a keyring, for example. The Tile Slim is the perfect shape to slide into a wallet, while the Tile Sticker is small enough to stick to a TV remote. Ultimately, the exact way you choose to use a Tile tracker is your choice, but there are a range of designs to suit your exact needs.

Compared to the single AirTag design that doesn't include an attachment point or adhesive, Tile's selection of tracker designs is more versatile.

tile-slim-passport.jpg


Comparing AirTag and Tile

Apple's AirTag and Tile's trackers share a number of important features, such as Bluetooth tracking, audio alerts, and water resistance:

Similarities

  • Close-range Bluetooth tracking
  • Long-range community-leveraged location tracking
  • Built-in speaker for audio alerts
  • Replaceable batteries (some Tile trackers only)
  • One-year battery life (some Tile trackers only)
  • Water-resistance

Differences

The differences between AirTag and Tile are more pronounced when it comes to Ultra Wideband features and software integration.

AirTagTile
Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth trackingBluetooth tracking only
Ultra Wideband "Precision Finding" on compatible iPhones
‌Find My‌ network integration for tracking from any in-range Apple device"Community Find" for tracking from any in-range device
Lost Mode for notification when found by a nearby deviceLost Mode for notification when found by a nearby device with the Tile app
Phone tracking available
One design, but engraving customization availableMultiple designs, with color options for Tile Pro and Slim
Requires accessory for adding to keyringAccessories not required
Uses Find My appRequires Tile app
iOS onlyiOS and Android compatible
Unwanted tracking alerts, with NFC for owner informationUnwanted tracking alerts, "SCAN ME IF FOUND" QR code
One-tap setup processSetup through Tile app
Siri integration
Replaceable CR2032 batteryReplaceable CR2032 for Tile Pro, others non-replaceable
One-year battery lifeOne-year for Tile Pro, three years for non-replaceable models
IP67 water-resistanceIP67 rating, varying degrees for different models
$29 for one, $99 for fourVaries; Tile Pro at $57, Tile Sticker at $19, Tile Mate at $19, Tile Slim at $24
No subscription optionsTile Premium subscription available


Read on for a closer look at each of these aspects, and see exactly what both item trackers have to offer.

Design

AirTags have a simple convex design, with a glossy white plastic shell overlapping the front and the sides, and a polished metal disc on the back.

Apple_airtag-front-and-back-emoji-2up_042021_big.jpg.large_.jpg

There is nothing built into the design to help the AirTag to attach to items for tracking. Unless you are simply placing the AirTag loose in a bag or pocket, you will need to purchase a separate accessory to attach it to the likes of keys, luggage, and more.

Apple_airtag-accessories-042021_big_carousel-1.jpg.large_-1.jpg

Apple offers a range of AirTag accessories, including the Polyurethane Loop, designed to be lightweight and durable, and the Leather Loop and Leather Key Ring, featuring tanned European leather. There is also a wide range of more inexpensive third-party options... Click here to read rest of article

Article Link: AirTag vs. Tile Buyer's Guide 2023
 
Last edited:

Squuiid

macrumors 68000
Oct 31, 2006
1,853
1,571
@Hartley you forgot to mention that Tile also sell on your info whereas Apple do not.
That’s a major plus in favour of AirTags for me.
Love this bit…
“We may also disclose information to platform providers, such as Facebook, in order to permit such providers to serve ads and promote the Services on our behalf on such platforms.”
 

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Christoffee

Contributor
Jul 26, 2012
544
1,202
UK
I replaced the battery for the second time in my 2.5 year old Tile last night. I didn't know it was flat, and while the Tile makes lots of nice noises it now won't connect to the app.

Since the Bluetooth changes a couple of years ago Tile was never the same.
 

HAIRYSPLEEN

macrumors newbie
Aug 21, 2016
10
13
I replaced the battery for the second time in my 2.5 year old Tile last night. I didn't know it was flat, and while the Tile makes lots of nice noises it now won't connect to the app.

Since the Bluetooth changes a couple of years ago Tile was never the same.
Same - however - I then pressed the Tile button for 10s and it re-established the connection. I had to do this to 4 of them.
 

iSayuSay

macrumors 68040
Feb 6, 2011
3,785
904
Tile vs Airtag is much like comparing smartwatches vs Apple Watch. If you’re invested into Apple ecosystem, then buying more Tiles is a waste of money and time. Instead replace your old and dying Tiles with more Airtags over time. And eventually becomes 100% Airtags.

It works okay, but needed an app for it to work properly. And 3rd party apps suck when it comes to reliability.
Sometimes the app won’t update because it doesn’t get used as often, resulting in loss of data, missing notifications, or not collecting location off your Tile. Which is catastrophic when it comes to a tracker.

Although I can agree that Tiles has more options and form factors for different placements and scenarios.
 

il_teo77

macrumors regular
Sep 11, 2015
129
191
Switzerland
I still wonder why no one really considers the upcoming Chipolo ONE Spot as an alternative to AirTags and Tiles. It seems to be a fairly good alternative to AirTags and works with FIND MY. Which is great. It might not have all the functionalities but it surely is better integrated in the Apple Ecosystem than Tile and offers more privacy than the latter.
 

Abazigal

Contributor
Jul 18, 2011
19,220
21,340
Singapore
If you have an iphone - airtags. Even if your phone is the iphone 10 or older, I have found that tile trackers have never really worked well with the iPhone.

So Tile basically lost me as customer years ago. My only decision now is whether to buy airtags or not. I will never buy another tile again for as long as I use Apple products.
 

Roadster Lewis

macrumors 6502
Apr 27, 2021
289
354
Coventry, UK
I replaced the battery for the second time in my 2.5 year old Tile last night. I didn't know it was flat, and while the Tile makes lots of nice noises it now won't connect to the app.

Since the Bluetooth changes a couple of years ago Tile was never the same.
My Tile used to nag me daily to say that it was out of battery when it got to 9 months old. It lasted for another 10 months before dying.
I still wonder why no one really considers the upcoming Chipolo ONE Spot as an alternative to AirTags and Tiles. It seems to be a fairly good alternative to AirTags and works with FIND MY. Which is great. It might not have all the functionalities but it surely is better integrated in the Apple Ecosystem than Tile and offers more privacy than the latter.
I will be getting a few of these to use alongside AirTags.
 

tizeye

macrumors 68040
Jul 17, 2013
3,024
32,956
Orlando, FL
A Tile devices with Mini branding came with my Mini Cooper. Went as far as reading the instruction...never used it. Thought about attaching to luggage for international travel...but that has been non-existent for the past coupe of years. Sits in the filing cabinet along with the original paperwork and additional key fob.
 

EvilHomer80

macrumors newbie
Dec 18, 2020
19
16
I nearly hit the button on a pack of 4 air tags, but didn't checkout when I realised the actual cost was effectively double as I'd need 4 accessories too. I am also still using the iPhone X, so no precision tracking anyway. Tiles still serve the purpose well so I'll keep them for now
 

mazz0

macrumors 68040
Mar 23, 2011
3,104
3,544
Leeds, UK
If a lost AirTag is found by someone, they can tap it using their iPhone or any NFC-capable device, including Android devices, and be taken to a website that will display a contact phone number for the owner, if they have provided one.
Doesn't this seem like an odd choice on Apple's part? You'd think they'd keep your phone number private and give you anther number to call which Apple forwards on, like with their anonymising email address for Sign in With Apple. I appreciate they might not be able to generate a full unique phone number for every lost item, but they could just require to you to enter a code to be put through.
 
Last edited:

mazz0

macrumors 68040
Mar 23, 2011
3,104
3,544
Leeds, UK
I nearly hit the button on a pack of 4 air tags, but didn't checkout when I realised the actual cost was effectively double as I'd need 4 accessories too. I am also still using the iPhone X, so no precision tracking anyway. Tiles still serve the purpose well so I'll keep them for now
I do think the lack of a keyring hole is absurd but you don't necessarily need a keyring for each AirTag. I've only ordered one for my keys, my other AirTags will go inside pockets in bags, luggage etc - they don't need to hang on the outside.

Even with a £10 case its no more expensive than a Tile Pro, and has the far better Find My network.
 
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andiwm2003

macrumors 601
Mar 29, 2004
4,380
444
Boston, MA
I have tiles on my car FOB's and they worked flawlessly over the last years and I prefer their form factors. I hope apple learns from that and makes airtags with loops built in to avoid the need for accessories. I feel bad for tile since the Airtags will cut their business in half. But this was expected. Their community based tracking never took off to a degree that it would protect their market position. I will replace my tiles over the next year with Airtags.
 
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iSayuSay

macrumors 68040
Feb 6, 2011
3,785
904
Only if you have a very recent iPhone.

Yes, but everyone will upgrade their phone eventually. Maybe next year, or a year after. By then the current 12 will be very, very affordable. So everyone will have U1 iPhone in the end.
 

EvilHomer80

macrumors newbie
Dec 18, 2020
19
16
I do think the lack of a keyring hole is absurd but you don't necessarily need a keyring for each AirTag. I've only ordered one for my keys, my other AirTags will go inside pockets in bags, luggage etc - they don't need to hang on the outside.

Even with a £10 case its no more expensive than a Tile Pro, and has the far better Find My network.

I currently have 3 sets of keys with a tile on each which is what I use the tracking for. I was looking at the apple accessories, the leather key ring looks really nice. I see Belkin have some cheaper rings but I wasn't keen on them. Personal preference.

I'll probably move over when the tiles die and I upgrade my phone so I can use to full advantage
 

EvanBatter

macrumors newbie
Aug 1, 2020
19
12
@Hartley you forgot to mention that Tile also sell on your info whereas Apple do not.
That’s a major plus in favour of AirTags for me.
Love this bit…
“We may also disclose information to platform providers, such as Facebook, in order to permit such providers to serve ads and promote the Services on our behalf on such platforms.”
@MacRumors It would be great to see the article updated with a privacy-comparison.
 

Wildkraut

Suspended
Nov 8, 2015
3,583
7,673
Germany
@MacRumors It would be great to see the article updated with a privacy-comparison.
You mean like:

B. Location Data. Apple and its partners and licensees may provide certain services through the Apple Software that rely upon location information. To provide and improve Apple’s services, where available, Apple and its partners and licensees may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use your location data, including the real-time geographic location of your device or computer that you attempt to locate using the Apple Software, and you hereby agree and consent to Apple's and its partners' and licensors' collection, use, transmission, processing and maintenance of such location data to provide such services.

Tile at least names em, while Apple keeps it unnamed/open to share it to anyone they "partner" with.
 

JohnApples

macrumors 68000
Mar 7, 2014
1,633
2,776
This enables a feature that Apple calls "Precision Finding" with Ultra Wideband devices, such as the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Damn, even MacRumors forgot about the iPhone 12 Mini. Poor little guy.
 
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jamesjingyi

macrumors 6502a
Dec 20, 2011
839
143
UK
Tile can complain about Apple stealing market share all they like but the main reason for changing from a Tile to AirTags for me was customer support

I have had many Tiles, even before replaceable batteries, buying regularly. I had upgraded to a Tile Mate with a replaceable battery and after a year, it ran out and I popped in a new battery. No quibble. Less than 3 months later I got a 'low battery' warning on the Tile. Weird. Popped it out and put a 'reputable brand' in instead, just in case the cheapo first one off eBay wasn't up to scratch. Same thing, died 3 months later. I therefore deduced there must be some issue with the Tile. Contacted Tile support. After a week or two of waiting, I got an email back saying that the product was out of warranty and straight away, they said the only thing to do was to buy a new one - oh and here's a 10% off link. Felt like a real slap in the face, at least do a dance about 'Oh have you tried resetting etc' so that I can feel like the product is actually dead. 10% off is also not great. Was told if I wanted to be sure in the future I would have to subscribe to the premium subscription.

After that, I decided I would be milking this one until the AirTags came out - they seemed to not care and just be hungry for an extra sale. It's been an ok device, sometimes needing me to run around the house before it'll 'connect' (and I live in a relatively small house) but the locking of 'premium' features behind a paywall that seem to just be functionality they should include initially got me annoyed and this lack of real service finally put the nail in the coffin.

TL;DR: Tile Mate was just out of warranty and Tile did not give any support, only gave me a coupon. That and locking of features behind a monthly subscription makes AirTags a no-brainer upgrade
 
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