Unless you are exceptionally disciplined and always put your house or car keys in the same place, you’re going to lose them at some point. And when you need to find them, it’s usually when you have no time and need to be out the door.
A Bluetooth tracker speeds up the finding process significantly. When you hit the ‘find’ button in the app on your phone, the tracker will emit a high-pitched tune that you can use to locate it, along with the keys attached to it.
Of course, the same principle applies for other losable items: TV remotes, wallets, even your child’s favourite toy.
As long as you’re within Bluetooth range of the tracker – which is up to around 400ft (120m) on some models – your phone will connect to it and allow you to make it ring.
In reality, that sort of distance is reduced by obstacles such as walls, and your ability to hear the speaker beeping. But it’s a huge time-saver to quickly launch an app on your phone, tap on the item you’ve lost and listen out for it ringing.
Just remember that that a Bluetooth tracker is not a
GPS tracker, so you don’t see its location live on a map. Vodafone’s Curve, though, has GPS as well as Bluetooth, so is a better choice for those in the UK wanting to pop a tracker on their cat, dog, horse or any other animal that might roam far away. (They’re not intended to be used for tracking your kids, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t.)
Better still, if you really lose an item – maybe you drop your keys in a car park or at the train station – most tracker apps will anonymously connect to any compatible tracker and report its location. This means it only requires another Tile user, say, to go within Bluetooth range of your dropped item and – if you’ve reported it lost in the app – you’ll get a notification telling you where it was last seen so you can go and search for it.
This is one of the biggest attractions of AirTags because Apple’s system uses all existing iPhones to do this anonymous reporting. And there are many more than the communities of Tile, Chipolo and other brands, which means there’s a higher chance of finding a lost AirTag. Unfortunately, AirTags work only with iPhones: they’re no use if you have an Android phone.
You might want to buy a few trackers to attach to various items, and you’ll find there are often discounts for buying in bulk. Bluetooth trackers are also great gifts for friends and relatives.
1. Apple AirTag – Best for Apple users
Precise location with U1 chip
Biggest community find
No keyring hole
Doesn't work with Android
The AirTag may not be the cheapest once you’ve bought an accessory to attach it to a keyring, but if you have an iPhone – especially one of the latest model with a U1 chip, it’s the best choice.
That’s because you’ll get satnav-like directions when you’re within about 20 feet of the AirTag because of the ultrawideband technology it uses.
The other reason is that if you lose the AirTag (and whatever is attached to it) when you’re out and about, there’s a good chance someone else with an iPhone will walk within range sooner or later.
The disadvantage with AirTags are that they don’t work with Android and don’t have a hole for slotting onto a keyring. Instead you’ll have to buy a keyring holder from Apple (which doubles the cost) or a cheaper third-party holder.
Initially, the Find My app didn’t have a ‘left behind’ alert, but this was added as a
new feature in iOS 15.
Read our full
Apple AirTag review
2. Tile Pro (2022) – Best for Android users
Some features require subscription
The Tile Pro has been around for a good few years now, and thanks to a redesign that fits more easily in a bunch of keys, it remains one of the best Bluetooth trackers. The Tile Pro works reliably and – unlike the Tile Mate – still has a replaceable battery.
It’s IP67 water resistant despite the replaceable battery, and measures 58 x 32 x 7.5mm. It takes a CR2032 battery that lasts up to a year and – in our experience – a few months longer.
The ringer is nice and loud, so it’s easier to hear even if stuffed in a pocket or under a cushion. And theoretically it’ll connect to the app up to 400ft away. That’s in perfect conditions though, so expect it to be less in the real world.
You don’t get the precise directions that AirTag owners do (Tile is releasing the Ultra in 2022 to address this) but the app shows green rings which light up as you get closer. It would be nice if the app had a ‘compact view’ setting to avoid lots of scrolling on the home screen if you have lots of Tiles, though.
As with the Mate, you have to subscribe to the Premium service if you want ‘left behind’ alerts, location history and a replacement battery through the post at the right time.
When you consider that a Chipolo One is cheaper and offers most of these features without a subscription, the Tile is only worth the extra money because you’ll benefit from Tile’s much larger user base that might just find your lost item.
3. Chipolo One (2020 – Best free 'left-behind' alerts
Works with Android & iPhone
Features not locked behind subscription
Relies on Chipolo's community find
Few Bluetooth trackers are worthy rivals to Tile, but Chipolo’s One is a good alternative.
Don’t confuse this one with the older models which were also circular. The 2020 model has a replaceable battery, but unlike the older Classic model it is water resistant to the IPX5 standard, which basically means it’ll be perfectly ok if it gets rained on.
It takes a CR2032 battery which lasts up to two years rather than the old CR2025 model that needed a new battery every nine months or so. It also comes in various colours, which is nice.
There’s a newer model, called the Ocean Edition. Its outer shell is made from recycled plastic retrieved from the sea, and Chipolo will donate $1 to the non-profit Oceanic Global for each one bought. It is more expensive than the regular edition, so protecting the ocean will cost you.
Chipolo’s app bears more than a passing resemblance to Tile’s app, so there’s a clean interface that’s intuitive to use.
One useful feature is left-behind alerts. It’s on by default and when you walk away with your phone far enough (beyond the 200ft connection range) you’ll get an audible alert from the app asking if you meant to leave your item behind.
We found this system worked better than Tile’s, alerting us much sooner. Plus, unlike Tile’s you don’t have to pay for the feature by subscribing to a premium tier of the service.
There’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri on support, so you can ask the assistant to ring your item – more convenient than unlocking your phone, opening the app and waiting for the device to connect.
The One’s range wasn’t quite 200ft, but the ringer is very loud. And this is crucial because the chances are that your keys are in a coat pocket or sown the side of the sofa cushions.
Like Tile, the Chipolo lets you ring your phone from the tracker itself and there’s a ‘Community Find’ system for tracking lost items outside of Bluetooth range. However, this is a lot smaller than Tile’s user base, so the chances are slimmer of your lost tracker being located by another Chipolo owner.
Another bonus is that – unlike Tile – you can log in with your account details to Chipolo’s web portal in any browser to see where your trackers were last seen. You can’t ring them, but you can mark them as lost and you can ring your phone, so long as it has an internet connection and the Chipolo app is running in the background.
4. Chipolo One Spot – Best AirTag alternative
Works with Apple Find My
Uses Apple's community find
Doesn't have U1 chip
Doesn't work with Android
Chipolo beat Apple to the punch by making its existing One tracker compatible with Find My before Apple launched the AirTag.
In some ways it’s better than the AirTag, too, as the hole means you can get it out of the box and pop it on your keyring without needing an accessory.
It works exclusively with the Find My app, not Chipolo’s own app, which means that Android owners are out of luck: it simply cannot be set up without an iPhone or iPad.
However, if you have one of those devices, the One Spot is an excellent tracker, with a longer range and slightly louder ring than an AirTag – and it’s cheaper, too. Plus, it leverages the same millions-strong community of iPhone users which means a much higher chance of tracking down a lost item than if you lose a Chipolo One, which relies on Chipolo’s smaller community of users.
The hardware is essentially the same as the Chipolo One, with IPX5 water resistance and a replaceable battery, though it lasts only a year rather than two despite being the same CR2032 cell.
Of course, this also means that there’s no U1 chip, so you don’t get the same precise directions when you’re close by but still can’t find the missing tracker.
5. Vodafone Curve – Best GPS tracker
Track anywhere thanks to GPS
Fairly quiet ringer
Requires Vodafone contract
$26 for device and $2.60 or $3.90 p/m for SIM contract
The Curve is a Bluetooth tracker, but it’s more than that. While others have to rely on communities of users to find lost items, the Curve also has GPS and a built-in SIM so you can track it just about anywhere there’s a mobile signal.
Surprisingly, the Curve itself is cheaper than most Bluetooth-only trackers, but you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription in order to use it. It’s only a few pounds per month, which makes it a good-value option for tracking high-value items.
The rechargeable battery lasts up to a week, which is the other issue: lose an item just before it needs recharging and it might go ‘dark’ before you can track it down.
As it’s a Vodafone exclusive, it’s not available in the US, Canada or Australia.
Read our full
Vodafone Curve GPS Tracker review
6. Tile Mate – Best budget option
One of the cheapest trackers
3-year battery life
Some features require subscription
The Tile Mate has been updated for 2022, featuring a slightly curvier design.
For under twenty quid (or 25 bucks), features aren’t on a par with the Pro: the speaker is quieter and the range is 250ft (76m). That’s still very respectable, though, and you benefit from the same reliability, the same set of features, the same app and the same crowd-find system.
It’s not as loud as the Chipolo One – which is only fractionally more expensive – and you have to subscribe the Tile Premium service if you want extra features such as Smart Alerts that are free with the Chipolo.
Disappointingly, the battery is no longer replaceable, but the battery is now said to last three years. Obviously we haven’t been able to verify that: check back in 2025 to find out whether the claim is true or not!
7. Chipolo Card Spot – Best for wallets
Fits in wallets and other slim items
Works with Apple Find My
This credit-card sized Bluetooth tracker is just 2.4mm thick which means you should be able to slip it into your wallet without making it too bulky.
As with Chipolo’s One Spot, the Card Spot works with Apple’s Find My system, so you’ll need an iPhone or iPad to use it.
The benefits are worth it, though, as it’s super-simple to set up and, of course, you don’t even need to download an app or sign up for a Chipolo account: it works with your existing Apple ID.
Lose your wallet and there’s a much greater chance you’ll find it again than if you used, say Tile’s Slim tracker (below). That’s because any iPhone that moves within range of your lost wallet can anonymously report the Card Spot’s location, allowing you to see on a map where it was last seen.
As long as your iPhone and iPad has up-to-date software, you’ll get alerts if you leave the Card Spot behind, and – although non-replaceable – the built-in battery should last two years.
8. Tile Sticker (2nd gen) – Best for flat surfaces
Sticks to any flat surface
$39.99 (2-pack), $59.99 (4-pack)
The Sticker comes in packs of two or four and is the obvious tracker to use if your TV remote is misplaced on a regular basis.
But you could also stick one to a camera, skateboard, cordless drill, glasses case, under the saddle of your bike – pretty much anything, in fact, so long as it has a flat surface wide enough for the 27mm device.
It’s water-resistant, and its battery now lasts up to three years. It’s just a shame you can’t replace it. But the little button has been relocated to the side of the device which avoids accidental presses – a problem on the original model. The button lets you ring you phone, just as with the other Tile trackers.
Stickers behave exactly like a Tile Mate or Pro, and the second-gen model has an increased range of 250 feet (76m).
If there’s a criticism it’s that they’re more expensive than the Tile Mate, and only come in packs of two or four.
9. Tile Slim (2022) – Best for luggage
Fits in wallets
3-year battery life
$34.99 (1-pack), $59.99 (2-pack)
The Slim has been updated, just like the rest of Tile’s range. Though they’re called ‘2022’ they actually launched in October 2021.
However, this takes nothing away from the fact that battery life has been improved in line with the Sticker and Mate, so a Slim now lasts three years instead of two.
Unfortunately the battery isn’t replaceable, so its life is more limited than the Pro, which is now the only model that has a battery which can be changed.
The Slim, though, is the ideal choice if you need a tracker for your wallet, and it’s the perfect size to slip into a luggage tag, or attach to a notebook.
Range is increased to 250ft (76m) and the ringer is just as loud as the Mate and Sticker. The bad news is that it’s just as expensive as the Pro, so you’re trading off range, ringer loudness and the replaceable battery for the thinner form factor.
How do I choose the best Bluetooth tracker?
The best trackers have a loud ring and a long range. They should also be water-resistant, otherwise if you lose it outdoors and it rains, the electronics could get wet and stop working, rendering it useless.
Some trackers have replaceable batteries, but others do not. This means they’re disposable after around a year. However, some manufacturers operate a ‘renewal’ scheme which gives you a discount on the regular price once the battery of your original has run flat.
You’ll find extra features on some devices, the most common being the ability to press a button on them to ring your phone. This is really just using the system in reverse, but can be handy if your keys are in your pocket (with the tracker attached) and you can’t find your phone.
Above all, though, you want a Bluetooth tracker that’s reliable since you need it to work instantly when you’ve lost your keys and need to leave the house in a hurry. And you can’t check for reliability in the manufacturer’s specs list: only reviews can give you that information.
Why are the Trackr Bravo and Pixel not in your list?
We’ve extensively tested the Bravo, close to a dozen of them in fact. The reason for this is that early samples proved unreliable and the batteries ran flat in a matter of weeks, rather than the claim of 12 months. Being able to replace the battery is one of the Bravo’s selling points, but poor battery life and a lack of water-resistance makes this somewhat moot.
We received updated models, but they too suffered the same battery life issues. And on top of that, we found the range disappointing: less than 20ft on occasion which meant we couldn’t even locate a lost item which we knew was only in the next room.
Similarly, the range offered by the Pixel was below expectations and its battery ran out well before it should have. Therefore we can’t recommend them.