Apple’s AirTags haven’t enjoyed the positive press the company likely hoped for. While the tiny devices are great for keeping tabs on the things in your life that often go missing (minus your kids), they’ve also sparked controversy, since stalkers have used them to track people. Not cool. But AirTags aren’t the only tracking devices on the market. They follow in the footsteps of Tile, a company which seems to be trying something a little different in the tracking business.
Tile is no stranger to making tracking devices. The company, of course, pioneered its Tile trackers years before Apple stepped into the ring. Unlike AirTags, which are all the same, Tile makes trackers in different shapes, sizes, and styles, to fit on keychains, inside wallets, and wherever else you can think to tag your items. Tile’s devices also work exactly like AirTags, only inside Tile’s ecosystem. Just as AirTags communicate with Apple devices in the Find My network to update their location, Tile trackers communicate with phones running the Tile app.
Tile likely didn’t receive the same level of media attention or criticism since it works on a much smaller scale. With Tile, you have no idea whether someone has the app or not. With AirTags, anyone with an iPhone becomes a homing beacon. Still, Tile faces the same potential privacy issues as AirTags. Perhaps that’s why the company is offering a stripped down, simple version of its product: QR code stickers.
Tile calls them “Lost and Found Labels,” but, for all intents and purposes, they’re QR code stickers. Labels are very simple: You stick one on a product you’d like to keep tabs on, then activate it with the Tile app. Once you do, you’re able to specify how you’d like to be contacted should someone stumble upon your lost item, whether that’s your email address or phone number.
Unlike Tile trackers, they don’t need to have the Tile app to connect with you: All a good samaritan has to do is scan the QR code the same way they would, say, a restaurant menu, and they’ll have access to your chosen means of contact.
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The other benefit here over traditional trackers is the lack of battery. That might be obvious, since they’re stickers, but it means you don’t need to worry about replacing the battery on your tracker after a year, or replacing the whole thing altogether. They’re even dishwasher safe, so you don’t have to worry about your tumbler losing its sticker after one wash cycle.
Sure, you lose out on the convenience of passive tracking, since Labels won’t be able to automatically communicate with passing devices. But Labels might work almost as well. We humans are curious beings. We see a label, we scan that label. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that each Label is printed with four “Scan if found” messages, for when a less-curious person walks by your lost item.
Tile sells its Lost and Found Labels in an odd way, at least for the time being. You need to buy three sheets of five Labels at once, totaling 15 QR code stickers. That brings you to $14.99, or, effectively, $1 a tag. I’m not sure why you aren’t able to buy individual sheets, but for now, this is how it’s done.