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Apr 12, 2001
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AirTag is Apple's newest product line, a small round disc used to track items using the Find My app. Yet Apple is not the first to offer item trackers of this kind. Tile has been making Bluetooth item trackers for almost a decade and is now AirTag's main competitor.

As the two leading item trackers share a number of key features, it may not be immediately obvious which is better for your personal use case. Our guide answers the question of how to decide whether AirTag or Tile is best for you.

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Overview

AirTags

AirTags are available in 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.

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

Differences


AirTag
  • Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth tracking.
  • Ultra Wideband "Precision Finding" with iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • Find My network integration for tracking from any in-range Apple device via iCloud.
  • "Lost Mode" for notification when found by a nearby Apple device.
  • NFC in Lost Mode for information about the AirTag's owner on iOS and Android devices.
  • Unwanted tracking alerts.
  • One-tap setup process.
  • Find My app and Siri integration.
  • iOS only.
  • One design only.
  • Accessories required to attatch to items.
  • Free engraving.
  • Replaceable CR2032 battery.
  • One-year battery life.
  • IP67 water-resistance.
  • $29 for one, $99 for four.


Tile
  • Bluetooth tracking only (150ft to 400ft range).
  • "Community Find" for tracking from any in-range device with the Tile app when in "Lost Mode."
  • "Lost Mode" for notification when found by a nearby device with the Tile app.
  • Phone tracking.
  • Range of designs.
  • Accessories not required.
  • Color options for Tile Pro and Tile Slim.
  • Tile app.
  • Compatible with iOS and Android.
  • Replaceable CR1632 or CR2032 battery in the Tile Mate or Tile Pro. The battery of the Tile Slim and Tile Sticker is not replaceable or rechargeable.
  • One-year battery life on replaceable models, three-year battery life on non-replaceable models.
  • Tile Mate and Tile Pro: "water-resistant," Tile Slim and Tile Sticker: "waterproof."
  • Tile Mate: $24.99, Tile Pro: $34.99, Tile Slim: $24.99, Tile Sticker: $39.99 for two or $59.99 for four. Cheaper combo packs available.
  • Tile Premium in-app subscription for $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year for Smart Alerts, Unlimited Sharing, Location History, Free Battery Replacement, Extended Warranty, and Premium Customer Support.



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.

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

Although AirTags are only available in white, Apple offers the option of free engraving so users can personalize their AirTag with a selection of emojis or text.

airtags-customized.jpg

On the other hand, Tile's trackers feature a range of different designs. The Tile Mate and Tile Pro have a square design with a hole to easily attach to keys or tie onto items. The Tile Mate is made entirely out of white plastic, while the Tile Pro has a more premium metal design and offers a range of color options including Black, White, Ruby Red, Azurite Blue, and Rose Pink.

tile-mate-group.jpg

The Tile Slim is very thin and shaped like a credit card to easily fit in a wallet or stick flat against a surface, and is available in Black, Ruby Red, Azurite Blue, and Rose Pink.

tile-slim-colors.jpg

The Tile Sticker is small, black, and circular. It features a flat, adhesive back surface to make it easy to stick directly to a surface.

tile-sticker-group.jpg

There are no first-party Tile accessories for sale other than adhesive pads, but they are not completely necessary, unlike with AirTags, since attachment is built into the designs.

Tracking Technologies

Bluetooth
Both AirTag and Tile use Bluetooth Low Energy as their main tracking technology. When the tracker is within Bluetooth range, users can use their smartphone to see its current location and get it to play a sound to help find it. When out of range, you can see the last known location of the tracker.

tile-pro-backpack.jpg

The Tile trackers have Bluetooth ranges between 150ft to 400ft, depending on the model. Apple has not disclosed the AirTag's Bluetooth tracking range.

Community Tracking
When out of Bluetooth range, both AirTag and Tile leverage devices in the community for tracking. This feature allows users to see the location of their tracker on a map even when it is long out of range.

Tile uses a feature called "Community Find," where any in-range device with the Tile app installed can detect and locate any user's Tile tracker anonymously.

tile-app.jpg

Apple calls its community tracking feature the "Find My Network." Any Apple device with the Find My app, such as the iPhone or iPad, can detect an in-range AirTag and anonymously report its location back to the owner.

find-my-app.jpg

Both AirTag and Tile users can also put their tracker into "Lost Mode" to receive a notification when it has been located by a device.

airtag-lost-mode-notification.jpg

Although the community tracking features of AirTag and Tile work almost identically, AirTag has a clear advantage. This is because an AirTag can leverage any Apple device with the Find My app, which Apple says is approaching one billion devices already.

Since the Find My app is pre-installed in iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS, there is a far larger community of devices in circulation that are able to detect AirTags. The Tile app, on the other hand, is not pre-installed in any operating system and has to be actively downloaded by a user to run in the background.

tile-pro-bag.jpg

Tile's Community Find feature only uses the devices within the Tile user base, but AirTags can use almost every Apple device. It is therefore likely that AirTags will be located by devices in the community much more often than Tile trackers, making their remote detection much more effective.

Ultra Wideband and Precision Tracking
AirTag also has an additional tracking technology that Tile does not have, Ultra Wideband, which enables a unique close-range tracking experience that Tile is unable to match.

airtag-precision-tracking.jpg

Each AirTag contains an Apple-designed U1 chip for Ultra Wideband connectivity. 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.

airtag-precision-tracking-found.jpg

Precision Finding can more accurately determine the distance and direction to a lost AirTag when it is in range. As a user moves, Precision Finding fuses input from the camera, ARKit, accelerometer, and gyroscope, and then will guide them to their AirTag using a combination of sound, haptics, and visual feedback.

Pairing

To set up a Tile tracker, users need to first download the Tile app from the App Store, create and activate a Tile account, hold down the button on the tracker until an audio cue plays, place the Tile tracker on the device, and wait for confirmation of pairing.

AirTags have a much simpler pairing process, similar to that used by other Bluetooth Apple devices such as AirPods or the Apple Pencil. There is no need to download an app from the App Store, create an account, or hold down any buttons. Users simply need to hold the AirTag near to their device, tap pair, and the process is complete.

airtag-pairing.jpg

Apps

A key difference between AirTag and Tile is the apps they use. Tile trackers use a dedicated Tile app that has to be downloaded from the App Store. The Tile app is available for both Android and iOS, allowing Tile trackers to work across platforms.

There is no AirTag app. Instead, AirTag works inside the pre-existing Find My app that is built into iOS. There is no way to use an AirTag with Android devices as a result.

The Find My app already tracks friends and Apple devices, so AirTag appears as an additional item within the app. There are also additional software integrations such as support for Siri, where users can ask Siri to find their item, and the AirTag will play a sound if it is nearby.

Battery Life

AirTag and Tile Pro both use a replaceable CR2032 battery, while the Tile Mate uses a replaceable CR1632 battery, to achieve around one year of battery life. When it has run out, users simply open their AirTag, Tile Mate, or Tile Pro, and insert a new battery.

tile-mate-bag.jpg

The battery of the Tile Slim and Tile Sticker is not replaceable or rechargeable. Users will need to dispose of their tracker and buy a new one when the battery runs out, but they do offer a longer three-year-long battery life.

tile-slim-pocket.jpg

Additional Features

Water-Resistance
The AirTag, Tile Mate, and Tile Pro are all "water-resistant." Since there is no replaceable battery in the Tile Slim or Tile Sticker, they are "waterproof."

The AirTag has IP67 water-resistance, but Tile has not disclosed the exact water-resistance ratings of its trackers.

Phone Tracking
Tile trackers have a unique feature allowing them to find a user's smartphone. When within Bluetooth range, users can double press the button on their Tile tracker to make their phone ring. There is no equivalent feature with AirTags.

NFC
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. There is no equivalent feature with Tile trackers.
airtag-on-bag.jpg


Privacy and Unwanted Tracking Alerts
Apple says that AirTag is built around privacy. No location data or location history is physically stored inside the AirTag, and communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted so that only the owner of a device has access to its location data. The identity or location of any device that helped find an AirTag is also kept completely private.

airtag-privacy.jpg

AirTag is also designed with a set of proactive features that discourage unwanted tracking. Bluetooth signal identifiers transmitted by AirTag rotate frequently to prevent unwanted location tracking.

iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that is not with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time. If users do not have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it.

Pricing

The Tile Mate and Tile Slim are priced at $24.99. The Tile Pro is $34.99, while the Tile Sticker is $39.99 for two or $59.99 for four. Tile also offers a wide range of cheaper combo packs containing multiple Tile trackers for an overall lower price.

It also has to be remembered that the Tile Slim and Tile Sticker will only last up to three years before they have to be discarded, potentially reducing their value for money in the long term.

The AirTag costs $29 for one, or $99 for four. Though the AirTag is priced competitively against Tile trackers, it should be noted that in most use cases, users will need to buy additional accessories to attach the AirTag to an item, which pushes up the overall cost considerably.

Moreover, the Tile app contains an optional Premium in-app subscription for $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year. The Premium service includes Smart Alerts, Unlimited Sharing, Location History, Free Battery Replacement, Extended Warranty, and Premium Customer Support.

Final Thoughts

AirTag's unique Ultra Wideband Precision Find features, more effective community tracking through the Find My network, NFC Lost Mode, and easy setup make it a better overall offering for most Apple users. While Tile's trackers feature more versatile and practical designs, the AirTag's software experience is difficult to beat.

airtag-zipper.jpg

The only customers who should buy a Tile tracker instead of the AirTag are Android users, individuals who need a specific design, such as the ultra-slim form factor of the Tile Slim, or simply individuals that would find features such as the ability to ring their phone remotely indispensable.

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

Squuiid

macrumors 68000
Oct 31, 2006
1,715
1,215
@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
394
534
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.
 
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HAIRYSPLEEN

macrumors newbie
Aug 21, 2016
3
4
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.
 
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iSayuSay

macrumors 68040
Feb 6, 2011
3,462
611
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.
 
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il_teo77

macrumors member
Sep 11, 2015
70
109
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.
 
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Abazigal

Contributor
Jul 18, 2011
14,448
13,417
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.
 
Comment

Roadster Lewis

macrumors member
Apr 27, 2021
60
35
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.
 
Comment

tizeye

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2013
1,461
12,027
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.
 
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EvilHomer80

macrumors newbie
Dec 18, 2020
8
7
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
 
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mazz0

macrumors 68030
Mar 23, 2011
2,615
2,307
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:
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mazz0

macrumors 68030
Mar 23, 2011
2,615
2,307
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
4,353
414
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
3,462
611
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.
 
Comment

EvilHomer80

macrumors newbie
Dec 18, 2020
8
7
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
 
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EvanBatter

macrumors newbie
Aug 1, 2020
15
10
@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.
 
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Wildkraut

macrumors 65816
Nov 8, 2015
1,277
1,439
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.
 
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JohnApples

macrumors 68000
Mar 7, 2014
1,569
2,499
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
809
60
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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