are here or will be soon — — and by all accounts they’re a great way to help you find lost stuff: keys, backpacks, purses and so on. The idea isn’t new. Tile trackers have been around for years, offering very similar functionality. But Apple’s take on the product looks promising.
Well, mostly. There are three areas where I think AirTags are likely better than Tiles and three where Apple really missed the boat. (That said, I haven’t tried AirTags myself, only Tiles. So some of this is speculative.)
Better than Tile: Size
AirTags are pretty tiny, not much bigger than a Junior Mint, according to CNET’s Patrick Holland. They’re similar to Tile Stickers (which are a bit thicker), but definitely smaller than the Tile Mate and Tile Pro. When you’re talking about something that’s headed for your key chain, smaller is definitely better. (That said, the case that’s needed to actually put an AirTag there sort of makes this a wash — but I still have to give them points for being so diminutive.)
Better than Tile: Smarts
Pairing an AirTag to your iPhone is incredibly easy; the process is similar to that of pairing AirPods. In this case you just bring the AirTag close and then tap Connect on your phone. Meanwhile, there’s NFC support for both iPhones and Android phones; someone who finds an AirTag needs to simply tap it with the device to reveal a how-to-contact-you web page.
There’s also aonboard, which helps you determine the exact direction of and distance to your AirTag. As Holland explained: “It uses the iPhone’s cameras, its ARKit software, its accelerometer and gyroscope, along with data from the AirTag to create a visual guide that, with haptics and sound, direct you to your lost item. Precision Finding works within Bluetooth range of the AirTag.”
That’s far more advanced than what Tile currently has to offer.
Better than Tile: Community
This is the potential gamechanger. If you report an AirTag as lost, Apple’saffords help from potentially hundreds of millions of iPhone owners. Tile has long offered similar crowdsourced location assistance, but that user community is a fraction of Apple’s.
Worse than Tile: One-way communication
Here’s the single biggest AirTag letdown: It’s half the tracker a Tile is. The latter has a button on it; double-press it and your phone rings loudly, even if the ringer is turned off. That solves the considerable problem of “Where did I put my phone down this time?” The AirTag works only in one direction, phone-to-tracker. Tile supports tracker-to-phone as well, a feature I consider invaluable.
Note to Apple: This needs to be first on the to-do list for AirTag 2.
Worse than Tile: iPhone only
Sorry, Android users. Although you can use your NFC-equipped phone to help reunite an AirTag with its owner (see above), you can’t use one for your own tracking purposes.
Worse than Tile: Key chain-unfriendly
It almost feels like a slap in the face that, out of the box, the AirTag can’t actually attach to anything. If you want to add it to your key chain or just about anything else, you’ll have to buy a case. And Apple’s accessories start at $29, literally doubling the price of the device. (Thankfully, there are, and if you hit up eBay, you can .)
The Tile Mate and Tile Pro each have a hole in the corner, so they can slide right onto a key ring. A strategically placed zip-tie would affix them to just about anything else.
OK, those are my thoughts on Tiles versus AirTags. Now let’s hear yours!
CNET’s Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for deal texts delivered right to your phone. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest Walmart discount codes, eBay coupons, Samsung promo codes and even more from hundreds of other online stores. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Answers live on our .