Some history about these products
In these next sections we expose some of the highlights of the history of both accessories. Although it is true that these are not decisive to know how they work or to choose the purchase of one or the other, we do consider that they are interesting to put a certain context in two products that, at least at first, seem very similar.
Tile was a pioneer in the sector
Ran the year 2012 And while Apple closed that year of the presumed end of the world with its brand new iPhone 5, a company called Tile was also born in California that began to market accessories to locate objects through an app available on both Android and Apple’s own iOS. Although at that time its appearance was very silent, over the years it became very popular, launching different types of accessories with identical functionality. Of course, they were not exempt from controversy, since in 2013 they were sued for having (allegedly) stolen the idea from Jonathan C. Coon, a case that was settled out of court.
In 2018 rumors began that Apple was preparing a device similar to those of Tile and in fact references to them were found in numerous versions of iOS that the company was launching. Even the name ‘AirTag’ was leaked ahead of time. Its expected launch date was 2020 and in fact it appears even on its boxes, however for unknown reasons it was not released until April 2021.
Tile sued Apple over AirTags
In May 2020, a year before the AirTags were officially released, Tile registered in the European Union a dispute with Apple over the limitations it found for its accessories on devices such as iPhones. Broadly speaking, the dispute centered on the fact that the Search app was automatically activated on these computers and not the official app that they had developed and presented years ago in the App Store, considering that Apple acted with monopoly practices.
Already in 2021 Apple wanted to cover its back by integrating in the iOS Search app a functionality that allowed adding third-party accessories such as Tiles. However, this change was not enough for them to announce a demand when finally the AirTags were released months later, also confirming their fight against Samsung for having also launched a similar accessory. To date, no court case has been resolved in favor of one or another brand and although the controversy would give much more to talk, the interesting thing at this time lies in the functionalities that both accessories have.
Something that you have to know first is that there are various styles of tileas it is not a unique accessory. And although it is functionally the same, we can find it in different ways in order to better fit what the user is looking for:
- Stikcer: They are small accessories whose back part has a sticker that can be attached to a multitude of objects so that they are always attached. They are only sold in black.
- Mate: the most classic version in a white keychain format, with the brand’s insignia on the front and with the button cell opening on the back.
- Slim: It has the style of a card and is designed to go inside the wallet, without taking up more space than an identity card or credit card would occupy. It is available in both black, blue, pink and red.
- Others: Apart from these, the company also offers accessories such as the Mate or Slim with different colors from the standard ones that are even sold as a limited edition.
For their part, AirTag have only one version which is nothing more than a small label with a size and style similar to that of a badge. On the front we find a pure white color that allows laser engravings and on the back an aluminum reminiscent of the classic iPod touch of the first generations, with its consequent poor scratch resistance.
In addition, the AirTag need additional accessories in many cases, such as key rings, straps and even cover formats that allow them to be carried in the wallet. Although aesthetically they may like more or less, the truth is that they are seen in inferiority with respect to the Tiles due to their unique design format and not even having a hole to put them in the keys.
Operation and connection with iPhones
The main functionality that these accessories have, as we have already said, is that of locate objects so that they can be found in a determined distance range. This is achieved thanks to the Bluetooth connection and even the U1 chip of the iPhone in the case of the AirTag.
How they connect on iOS
There is a Tile’s official app on the App Store with a very simple and intuitive interface, which will detect when the accessory is nearby and will allow you to configure it. It is possible to give it a name based on the object in which you are going to place it and then follow some quick instructions for use. It is through this app that you can start the location of the Tiles, being able to find both their location on a map and play sounds on them.
Something to highlight about the Tile, not so much about its app, is that they also allow you to find the iPhone by clicking on the button they have, making the mobile device emit a sound and it is easier to locate it. This is a function that unfortunately we do not find in the AirTags and that for future versions of this accessory could be very interesting to implement.
The universal way to connect both accessories and that is the only one that AirTags have is through the Search app. This is already installed as standard in the iPhone, so it will not be necessary to download it. And although its interface is obviously different from Tile’s, in the end it offers the same tools for naming accessories or locating them on a map.
Main functionalities they have
There are several interesting points regarding the operation of these accessories or their most outstanding characteristics and that in many cases are different between the two:
- How they locate objects: In the case of Tiles, both the official app and the Search app previously commented are used. In any of them we can reproduce sounds in the accessory in order to find them by ear. Of course, the AirTags have a more complete interface if an iPhone with a U1 chip (iPhone 11 and later) is used, being able to see exact indications in real time by means of arrows. –Level of scope they have: While the AirTags can be located at distances of 120 meters, in the Tiles we find lower performance as they can be located at 45 or 90 meters depending on the model chosen.
- Battery duration: Either Tile and AirTag have a CR2032 button cell battery. In both, the connection with the iPhone is lost when it is changed or withdrawn momentarily, although they offer a range of more than a year.
- Water and dust resistance: AirTags have an IP67 certificate that makes them resistant to dust and splashes, although this does not directly imply submerging them (it can, but it is not recommended as it is not covered by the warranty). The Tiles for their part do not have resistance to dust, although they do have resistance to splashes according to the brand, since they do not have an official certificate in this regard. The ‘Pro’ version of the Tile does have an IPX5 rating, which only gives it a slight resistance to water.
Neither is 100% effective against theft, but …
Thinking about the possibility of locating objects thanks to a Tile or an AirTag, it is normal that the possibility of locating an object in case of theft comes to mind. And well, none are really designed for it, since they are more focused on domestic use with daily loss of keys and other objects that we used to move around at home with some assiduity. And this is because the accessory will not output a signal when you move away from the iPhone, since they do not have any built-in GPS function in them.
Of course, the Apple device may be more suitable in this case if we take into account that take advantage of Apple’s computer network existing all over the world to use them as beacons and send information. If a thief steals the object that has the AirTag and someone who has an iPhone passes near it, that person will be sending the signal from their mobile to yours to give you information and all this in a safe and private way without even being aware of it. Although of course, if we consider that the thief can remove the battery or dispose of the AirTag, this makes a lot of sense.
It is also notable that Apple does not allow the use of AirTags to locate people or pets for a reason similar to the one mentioned about the loss of signal. But it is especially remarkable in the case of people because when the AirTag is separated from your iPhone it will begin to emit a sound in the form of a warning that will indicate that person who is wearing the accessory.
Is there much difference in price between the two?
Both companies offer their accessories individually at a fixed price that obviously can vary depending on offers and other discounts made in authorized stores for sale. The same happens with the packs, since they can also be bought in batch, having at the end the following official prices for them:
- Individual: 35 euros
- Pack of 4: 119 euros
- Pack of 2 ‘Sticker’: 39.99 euros
- Pack of 4 ‘Sticker’: 64.99 euros
- ‘Mate’ version: 24.99 euros
- Pack of 2 ‘Mate’: 47.99 euros
- Pack of 4 ‘Mate’: 69.99 euros
- ‘Pro’ version: 34.99 euros
- 2 Pack ‘Pro’: 59.99 euros
- Pack of 4 ‘Pro’: 99.99 euros
- ‘Slim’ version: 29.99 euros
- Pack of 2 ‘Slim’: 49.98 euros
- Pack of ‘Slim’ + ‘Mate’: 49.99 euros
- Pack of ‘Slim’ + ‘Pro’: 59.98 euros
- Pack of 2 ‘Sticker’ + ‘Mate’ + ‘Slim’: 74.99 euros
We therefore see that Tile in this section tends to have higher prices in some models, but that nevertheless they are not entirely comparable as they are versions not comparable to the AirTag. It should also be taken into account that AirTags require in most cases to have an accessory purchased separately, either in Apple’s own store or in that of a third party and although it is true that we find options for little money, it will always be at the end added to the price of the accessory as such.
Conclusion: Where does each stand out?
- Design: Tile, and not because of an aesthetic question that in the end is more subjective, but because of the variety of types that they offer having a wide versatility.
- Location of objects: AirTag, both for having a greater range in meters, as a much more accurate interface and making use of the brand’s network of equipment.
- Compatibility: Tile, because it has its own app in addition to connectivity through the Search app, as well as its extensible compatibility with Android devices without being limited to iOS, such as AirTags.
- Water and dust resistance: AirTag, since despite not being the most important feature of the accessory, it is useful to have it and in the case of the Apple device it even has official certification.
- Privacy: AirTag, since it offers interesting functions to prevent them from being used for tracking people and in case of loss it offers the possibility of adding a telephone number or contact email of the original owner.
- Price: Tile, again for the variety of options they offer and at different prices. The AirTags
Looking at these points we see a technical draw which is really not such. Not all sections have the same weight, since each person can give more or less importance to each of these values and sometimes this makes the balance tip. Our conclusion is that Apple AirTags are a priori more suitable for users who have an iPhone, since it is more precise and has outstanding privacy functions, although it should be taken into account that there is only one version for which accessories will be needed. , while in the Tiles we find a greater versatility that can become key depending on the utility that is going to be made of it.