Why I'm Rethinking My Recommendation For The Tile

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A few weeks ago, I published a review of the new Tile Pro trackers - dubbed Style and Sport. I have one attached to my car keys and the other to my house keys. I also have a Tile Slim, that I tuck into my backpack or satchel, depending on which bag I'm using while I travel. But a warning message that appeared in my Tile app yesterday has me rethinking these handy devices.

The effectiveness of the various Tiles I use is not in question - they do precisely what they are designed to do. That is, they broadcast their location over Bluetooth to my smartphone and I can use the app to make the Tile beep, so I can find my keys or bag, or I can press a button on the Tile to locate my phone.

The trouble is, my Tile Slim is nearing the end of its life. At just a year old, the battery is about to die and there is no way to either replace the battery or send the device in for recycling.

I regret that I didn't think about this in my initial review. It is unfathomable to me that in 2017 someone is making a device that has a finite life with no recycling program.

I can imagine a lot of these devices ending up in landfill. In contrast, the Chipolo tracker I was given to review a couple of years ago can be easily snapped open to receive a new battery. It's not as pretty but passes the "just works" test when it comes to finding my keys.

The new Tile Pro devices I reviewed are not super thin - adding two small screws so the body that can be opened to replace the battery would not be impossible. But I suspect part of the reason the devices can't be serviced is so you buy new ones each year.

Looking at YouTube, it may be possible to replace the battery but Tile has chosen to solder batteries in place making user replacements a very complex operation that I suspect very few people will bother with.

I hope someone at Tile thinks about this. Making devices that are made to fail and be replaced every year or so is reprehensible in my opinion.

Until Tile makes a model with a user replaceable battery, I can't recommend them.

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Comments

    They have a "Re-Tile" service where you can send them back and they'll give you new units at a discount. However, the last time I looked, the postage to Australia was prohibitive.

    This was pretty much the main contributing factor in me not purchasing a Tile. I've yet to see a competitor i prefer so i just do without and spend 5mins searching for my keys and wallet when i cant find them.

    Even better than replaceable would be wireless chargeable.

    Of course everyone knows WHY they don't, without the planned obsolescence they would lose the income from returning customers, a subscription would solve that, rechargeable cheap tiles, and some kind of value added service subscription, but it'd have to be a very useful service (perhaps if they had inbuilt GPS and cell data and could report their current location) .

      About returning customers - You'd think quite a few people might be turned off by the same reason as the reviewer though, having to get a new one every year is pretty horrendously wasteful.

        One would think, but its not like they goto tooo much trouble to hide the fact you need a new one after a year. So most people that buy one are ok with it, or people that dont know about the alternatives (like NutTag/TrackR)

    Actually, the fact that you CAN'T replace the battery was the big reason I chose the Tile over TrackR. Why?

    1) The TrackR is connected to your items with a small jump ring, and yes, has a replaceable battery. My experience with a similar device I got from Kickstarter (Pebblebee) is that this is a potential point of failure. The device can get separated from your keys, etc, by the jump ring failing, or the battery can fall out. Because Tile (the key version anyway) is one integrated piece, it can't fall apart that way and is more reliable.

    2) Because you're forced to get a new one every year - and yes, they do recycle, you get a pre-paid mailer when you ReTile - you are assured constant upgrades. If they get bought out by a competitor or do a major hardware upgrade, it will take them only a year to flush out the old incompatible units. If they go out of business, you at least don't wind up with a dead product which would work fine but has no service.

    3) Because of the integration, they can come out with new form factors, like the Slim version that fits in a wallet. I wouldn't want a bulky CR2032 battery product in my wallet - or even something thick enough for a micro USB plug. The Slim is just barely over the thickness of two credit cards, less than three. Try that with a replaceable or rechargeable battery.

    (...and PS, guess what, most of my dead batteries wind up in the landfill - yes, it's irresponsible, but there is no convenient way for me to recycle the odd battery here and there, I put them in the blue bin, but I do not believe they actually get recycled. I KNOW my first Tile went back to the company in a mailer for recycling.)

    Finally, they are starting to come out with rechargeable models - I just today got my new KeySmart Pro, it's a little pricey, but it's a compact keychain with a rechargeable integrated Tile plus flashlight.

    The only real minus I've found about Tile is that it does not integrate well with Alexa, because Amazon invested in TrackR... but Google has Tile access, so it DOES integrate with Google Home - I have both, and I can say "Hey Google, tell Tile to find my backpack".

    From my assessment - and I spent months agonizing over whether to commit to TrackR or Tile - the integrated battery is a plus, not a minus. It's a great product that I highly recommend.

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