crowd-sourcing my lost keys

I don’t usually buy gadgets but I thought this one would be useful. The Tile is supposed to allow you to easily find your stuff in the event that you lose it or, say, someone steals it.


The Packaging

Seriously, the packaging at the Apple store is your typical work of art and designed as carefully as was the Eiffel Tower or Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. Each progressive step in opening up the box was a moment of discovery as each of the layers was unveiled. If you’ve ever opened up a new MacBook or iPod or iPhone or Magic Keyboard or Magic Mouse then you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s probably some law of nature that states: It can’t be evil if its box is beautiful.

“There’s probably some law of nature that states:  It can’t be evil if its box is so beautifully-designed.”

The Cost

At $70 for four, that’s about $1,400 per pound for the product itself minus the packaging. (I guess it sounds a little over-priced if you say it like that.)

The Setup

Step 1:  Discover that this doesn’t work for your iPad II. Er, what? I bought this at the Apple store. What do you mean this isn’t compatible with my iPad?

Of course, the Apple salesperson I asked told me that it was compatible. And the external packaging and even the internal documentation failed to mention this incompatibility. You find this out when you attempt to download the app and it informs you of this.

Step 2:  Download the Android version and put it on your smartphone instead.

Step 3:  Push and hold the ‘e’ on the Tile itself to discover it within the app. Name it with the thing you’ll be using it with like “My Keys” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or similar.

Step 3.d:  Push and hold the ‘e’ multiple times on that pesky fourth Tile which really doesn’t want to behave itself like the other three. Stop and start the app and try again. Power off and on the phone and try again. Push the ‘e’ while saying encouraging things like “Seriously?” and “I’m going to send you to the drawer of lost things…” and eventually it will be discovered within the app just like its well-behaved brothers.

The Understanding

Visit their website because you feel special now. You want to commune with the maker of this product. You have a vague wondering of how all this can work when Bluetooth—the underlying technology—only has a range of maybe 9′ on a good day. How can this find my car when it’s nowhere near me?

And then it hits you. It’s a crowdsourcing paradigm. They’re using all their customers to crowdsource where my keys are. All the time. As in, 24×7. As in, I’ve just paid $70 so that they can conscript my phone for their own business model.

“…I’ve just paid $70 so that they [Tile] can conscript my phone for their business model.”

The Aftermath

When GPS goes out on Halloween it probably dresses up as Count Dracula. It consumes that much power from my phone, at least it does when it’s crowdsourcing everyone else’s lost keys. If I’m lucky, a 100% charge on my Android phone will last almost 24 hours while this thing is running. Am I wrong to believe that it should last longer?

What Now?

So now I’m left with two alternatives:

  1. Leave the app on, support the vast community of poor unfortunate ones who’ve lost their stuff and charge my phone often, knowing that the system will be there for me when I lose my stuff. Buy more chargers. And a bigger data plan from my carrier.
  2. Turn off the app, screw the vast community of idiots who’ve stupidly misplaced their junk and then turn it back on when I need it. Feel guilty and hypocritical that I’m doing that. And taking advantage of their generosity. (Gah.)

In Conclusion

That’s my review of the Tile Bluetooth Tracker. The industry should have some kind of rating system in the form of cute graphics so that you can tell in advance the character of your new app.

So on a scale of 1 to 5 I’m giving the Tile 5-1/2 vampires.



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