- A car key finder allows a paired smartphone with a Bluetooth connection to track and locate it.
- Long-range searches simulate GPS by using a network of devices to find the general location of the tracker.
- The Apple AirTag and Samsung SmartTag are only compatible with their specific brands.
- The compact size of most key trackers makes them ideal for keychains and purses. Tile and Chipolo also produce card-shaped trackers designed for wallets.
Losing your keys is always frustrating. Beginning your day with a frantic search makes for a stressful start. However, new key-finding technology will come to your rescue. A key tracker is a device that hangs on your keychain and pairs with a smartphone. Using the appropriate app, the tracker will sound an alarm and reveal its hiding spot.
The specifications, range, and performance of the most popular trackers vary. Some, like the Apple AirTag and Galaxy SmartTag, are only compatible with a single brand.
The type of tracking technology is also a factor. Bluetooth trackers like the Tile and Chipolo car key finders require the phone to be in the range of the tracker. A GPS-style tracker like the AirTag can give you a general location for your item anywhere in the world.
The pros and cons of a specific car key finder will determine whether it meets your needs. A lower price model may be adequate if you are only concerned about losing items in your house. A frequent traveler may want the extended searching capabilities of a networked or GPS tracker.
AirTag vs. SmartTag vs. Tile vs. Chipolo: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|1.25 inches diameter
|1.5 inches x 1.5 inches
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|1.5 inches diameter
The Apple AirTag
Apple introduced the AirTag as an all-purpose tracker. The unit works with the Find My app on iPhones to allow GPS-style tracking. Once the GPS brings the user in range of the item, they can turn on the Precision Finding feature. The phone will display the exact distance from the AirTag as well as an arrow pointing to its location.
One of AirTag’s differences from other key finders is its unique design. Apple created the device to be a flexible tracker that could find keys or serve as a locator for lost luggage, handbags, and wallets. Each tracker is a small, 1.25-inch circle without a hole for attaching to a keyring. Users can purchase cases for specific uses.
The Apple AirTag has a replaceable battery. It is water-resistant and can spend 30 minutes at a one-meter depth without damage. Waterproof cases are also available for purchase. The AirTag is typically rated the best overall tracker for iPhone users.
- Keep track of your items and locate them if they're misplaced with the Find My app
- One-tap setup connects your AirTag with your iPhone or iPad
- Put AirTag into Lost Mode to notify you when your item is detected
- Replaceable battery lasts over a year
The Samsung SmartTag
The Samsung SmartTag has several similarities with its Apple competitor. As a brand-based device, it works only with Galaxy phones. It also uses a dedicated SmartThings app to locate trackers outside its range. Rather than using GPS for long-range searches, the SmartThings app works with other Samsung devices to identify local items. This feature may work well if the tracker is in a busy city or airport. It may be a problem if a user leaves the tracker in a less-traveled area. Integration with the SmartThings network allows users to operate the SmartTag is a simple controller for other connected devices.
This device is a Bluetooth tracker with a range of over 200 feet. Within this connected area, the tracker will sound an alert when pinged by the phone. It hangs easily on a key ring, has a replaceable battery, and is water-resistant.
- Tag keys, wallets, luggage, and pets
- Launch the SmartThings app to find tagged items
- Use with Galaxy smartphone unning Android 8.0 or higher & RAM 2.0GB above.
Tile Key Finders
Tile produces several different models of trackers. All the products have pros and cons, so potential consumers will need to explore the specifications of each one. The standard key finder has a 1 x 2-inch size that fits on a key ring. The Tile Slim is a card-shaped tracker for a wallet or purse. The Tile Sticker has an adhesive backing to serve as a tracker for laptops and other large items. Tile products have one of the longest ranges of Bluetooth trackers with the Tile Pro reaching up to 400 feet.
One of the differences from other trackers is the two-way tracking feature found in most Tile products. Pressing the Tile logo on the device will send a signal to the paired smartphone to make it signal its location to the user.
While the Tile products are not GPS trackers, the Tile app will show users the last place where the tracker was connected to the phone. This information will give the user a good sense of where they might have left their lost items.
The Tile Pro has an easily replaceable battery, but other models do not share this design. Their app works on most smartphones. Users can open additional features and replacement coverage by paying a monthly fee for a premium plan.
- Attach to any precious item such as keys, purses, or even pets
- Use the Tile app to find lost items that are within Bluetooth range
- When outside of Bluetooth range, use the Tile app to find the Tile's most recent location
- Double press the button on your tile to make your phone ring, even when it's on silent mode
Chipolo Key Finders
Chipolo is an independent company that designs colorful Bluetooth trackers. At 120 decibels, Chipolo products have the loudest alert on the market. These units share similarities with other trackers, and some models like the Chipolo One can access the Apple Find My network for establishing a general location. Chipolo also offers two-way tracking on its devices.
Some of the differences in the Chipolo brand are a shorter range of 50 feet and splash-proof rather than water-resistant construction. One helpful feature is that a Chipolo tracker automatically sends an alert to its paired device when it goes out of range. This information will prevent users from leaving their house or hotel room without their keys, wallet, or other tracked item.
- Attach Chipolo to items you regularly misplace
- Find your item and make Chipolo ring with the Chipolo app on your phone
- Ring your lost phone by double-pressing Chipolo
- Chipolo will remind you to take your keys and wallet via a message on your phone
AirTag vs. SmartTag vs. Tile vs. Chipolo: Which One is Best?
Determining the best overall tracker is a difficult decision. All these brands have similarities in how they function. Tile products have the most variety when it comes to design for practical applications. Loyal Apple users will appreciate the performance of the AirTag on their devices. The same can be said for the SmartTag and Galaxy device users.
The biggest question is the primary purpose of the tracking device. If you are constantly losing your keys at home, any of these trackers will help you find them. The loud Chipolo alarm may come in handy in this case. However, if you are concerned about losing objects when you travel, a tracker that works with an extended network of devices like the AirTag, Tile One, or SmartTag may be the best overall choice.
Key Finders in the News
May 22, 2023 — A North Carolina couple, Vada and Grant Stevens, are no strangers to fame. They have over 1.3 million followers on their TikToK, where they share clips of their young daughters Stella and Serena. But earlier this month Vada came under fire for putting Apple AirTags on her children.
Vada put the tracking devices in specially designed wristbands that she purchased on Amazon. The AirTags allow her to monitor her kids’ movements. Plus, she has trained her daughters to come to her when the devices beep.
Some of the couple’s TikTok followers think that this training method is brilliant, and some confess to using it themselves. But others have decried that it’s far too similar to training a dog with a shock collar.
In an interview with Today, the 24-year-old mother said, “I am extremely paranoid about everything safety. I thought the bracelets were genius. My two-year-old doesn’t pay attention and runs off so if she happens to get lost, [the AirTag] is a perfect way to find her. It just takes one second to look away from your kid and they’re off in a crowd somewhere.
“In this day and age, you can’t ever be too protective. People think I’m a crazy mom – one even said I needed to sign my child up for therapy… I’m doing this to prevent my children from ever being taken or lost. I’m going to do my best to know exactly where they are.”