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Tile Mate and Tile Pro 2018 review: The removable battery is a gamechanger

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
20
inc VAT

What price for peace of mind? £20 should do it

Pros 
Peace of mind
Replaceable battery is a huge improvement
Tile community is huge
Cons 
Optional subscription service feels unnecessary
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Tile is a great example of technology solving age-old problems. Attach a Tile to your keys and, thanks to your phone’s built-in GPS, you’ll never be allowed to lose them again.

That’s Tile in a nutshell. The company has been making small, plastic Bluetooth trackers since 2015 – I reviewed earlier samples for our sister site Alphr a couple of years ago – and they do exactly as advertised.

There was one problem: the battery wasn’t replaceable, and would only last around a year. At that point, you needed to send your Tiles back home for a replacement at a slightly reduced cost. With the 2018 version, you can do that yourself. It’s a game changer.

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Tile Mate and Tile Pro 2018: Price and competition

The 2018 Tiles come in two flavours: Mate and Pro. As you might have guessed from the names, one is slightly better than the other, with the Pro not only looking more stylish, but packing a greater range and a louder volume.

Each 2018 Tile Mate (white, 34.7mm x 34.7mm x 6.2mm) goes for £20, while the Tile Pro (jet black, 41.6mm x 41.6mm x 6.5mm) goes for £30. Similar features and price come from Tile's rivals, TrackR and Chipolo, but neither have the same global network of users Tile has, which can make all the difference if you lose your keys beyond the range of your handset. 

Tile Mate and Tile Pro 2018: What you need to know

Tile is one of those things you hope you’ll never need, but it’s an absolute lifesaver when you do. And although Tile is predominantly designed as protection for your keys – both the Mate and Pro have circles cut out for a keyring – the company’s online shop has accessories to make them more flexible. Adhesive pads mean the tile sits tightly on a laptop, while the luggage tag should make bidding farewell to your luggage at the airport baggage counter that bit less stressful.

There’s no limit to the number of Tiles you can have in your account, and you can rename them to make them easier to track.

To be clear, the Tile itself doesn't have GPS built in - that would kill the battery. But as your phone does, you can boot up the app and immediately see which ones are in range. If the app can see them, but you can’t, simply tap “Find”, and you Tile will start singing a maddeningly catchy electronic ringtone until you find it.

If it isn't in range, then the app will tell you when, and where, it was last seen. So you can take your phone nearby like a modern metal detector – as soon as it gets a signal, you can press find, and the Tile will make itself known with that jolly tune again.

If all else fails, you can mark a Tile as lost, at which point everybody with the Tile app becomes a silent search party. When someone walks past it, you’ll get a notification telling you where it was sighted, so you can see for yourself.  The company claims to locate more than two million Tiles every day, so you certainly have better odds than finding your lost property without one.

Previously, once your Tile ran out of juice, you’d need to send it back to the company, which would send out a fresh one with a new battery. Owners would qualify for a discount but you’d still be looking at paying 60% all over again every year in a kind of manual subscription. The app would remind you, but if you ignored it, eventually your Tile would die and become another useless piece of plastic.

The new Tile Mate and Tile Pro fix this with replaceable batteries. Panels on the back slip off to reveal a circular watch battery –  a CR1632 for the Mate and a CR2032 for the Pro. Replace them, and things will carry in as before without involving the company at all. Not only does this feel less wasteful, but it also kills the downtime between posting your old Tile and having a new one show up on your doorstep. It's a game changer.

There are other improvements, too. For a start, the range is up 50%. The new Tile Mate can talk to your phone up to 150 feet away, while the Pro can reach 300 feet. The volume is also 50% louder, meaning that you should be able to hear a Tile under an avalanche of cushions. You can even connect it to your chosen digital assistant, so your Google Home or Amazon Echo can join in the hunt.

Finally, there’s a new subscription service called Tile Premium. For £30 per year, or £3 per month, the company will send out replacement batteries for each Tile in your account when you need them, provide smart alerts to proactively warn you when you’re leaving a valuable behind, let you share multiple Tiles between accounts, provide a 30-day location history and extend the warranty to three years.

It’s a decent offer but I’m not convinced you need it. The Tile is a solid enough package in its own right: connect it, leave it, forget about it. It’ll be there again when you need it. Overall it's just a weird time to introuduce the new feature: why would you want Tile to take over management of your products, just when you've been freed to look after the batteries yourself?

Tile Mate and Tile Pro 2018: Verdict

Tile was always a great product, but having to send them back in for a brand-new one every year left me cold. It felt both expensive and terrible for the environment.

The 2018 Tile Mate and Tile Pro fix both problems in one fell swoop. Tile was always great for peace of mind: now it’s even better.

Buy them, affix them, forget about them. They'll be there when you most need them.

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