The Tile is an inexpensive option, and we've used them to great success when locating the likes of keys and wallets. However, compared to other devices, this option was the least accurate when it came to locating a bike. If you do use the Tile to track your bike, we suggest placing it into a saddlebag, or using some very strong tape.
Claimed three-year battery life
Works with Apple and Android phones
Relies on other Tile users to find a missing bike
Uses Bluetooth rather than GPS
Purpose-built bike trackers work better
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The trouble with GPS bike trackers is that they're expensive. A Sherlock GPS Tracker costs £155, a Vodafone Curve GPS Bike Light and GPS Tracker retails for £79/$110 and needs a SIM card subscription. Those are considerable sums for a device you hope you will never need.
Though not purpose designed, the likes of Tile are more affordable alternatives to finding a stolen bike. These small tags use Bluetooth rather than GPS to connect to a smartphone, and help you track down something that's been lost. They work both ways, too, so you can use a tag to make your smartphone ring if that's what you've misplaced.
Upgrade to Premium for £29.99 per year, and you'll receive alerts as soon as your Tiles are out of range of your phone.
Tile makes a variety of different tags, and I've been using them for a few years. There's a Tile Slim (£29.99) in my wallet, and a Tile Mate (£19.99) attached to my house keys. I've been testing the Tile Sticker (£24.99) as a bike tracker.
As the name implies, the Sticker has an adhesive side to stick to whatever it is you want to track. You could stick it under the saddle, where it's hard for a thief to spot, but I kept mine in a top tube bag so I could be confident it wouldn't fall. Just to see if I was right to be cautious, at the end of the test I stuck the Tile under the saddle and went for a ride. Sure enough, I could hear it bounce towards the gutter after a mile or so. So if you do tuck a Tile under the saddle make sure to use some strong tape to hold the Tile in place.
The Sticker is very small, measuring just 2.5cm across. The battery is built-in and can't be replaced, although Tile claims it should last for three years. That compares with the one-year battery life of an Apple AirTag, although the AirTag's battery is replaceable. If that's a feature you'd like from your Tile, go for the Tile Pro instead (£29.99).
Playing cops and robbers with the Tile
The Tile's Bluetooth signal should reach up to 45 metres. This seems a bit optimistic. To test the signal range, I left my phone in the house and walked to the other side of the road. The phone lost connection with the Tile as soon as I left the front door and didn't reconnect until after I walked back inside.
For a more thorough test, and a comparison with the Apple AirTag and Vodafone Curve GPS, I fitted all three devices to my bike and played cops and robbers for an hour. My daughter stayed at home, trying to find me at 10-minute intervals. After an hour, the Tile had only found me once, and even then the location was out of date and several hundred yards from where my bike was at the time.
Two times out of five the Vodafone Curve found the bike with great accuracy, although it seemed to struggle when I stood near a building, presumably because it couldn't get a clear view of enough satellites for an accurate fix. The Apple AirTag found me three times, with reasonably accurate locations two out of three times, with the third being out of date.
So, none of the devices worked perfectly every time, but the Tile Sticker was clearly the weakest of the three.
Value and conclusions
For just a little more (£29 rather than £24.99), the Apple AirTag seems like a better bet. Both devices rely on other users when a tag is out of range of its owner's phone, and it's a safe bet there are a lot more people with iPhones than with a Tile on their keys.
I have happily spent my own money on Tiles, and have found them really useful for finding wallets, keys, and phones around the house. What's more, look online and you can find stories of cyclists who have successfully retrieved a stolen bike thanks to a Tile.
In our tests, though, the Tile struggled to keep tabs on a missing bike. It may work sometimes and it's certainly cheap, but I'd rather spend more on a truly effective device.
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