Updated Oct 11, 2019

TrackR Pixel vs. Tile Mate: Which is the Better Bluetooth Tracker?

Cam Secore

After months of testing, I found Tile Mate to be the better Bluetooth tracker by a wide margin because of its superior range and a huge community of users. TrackR Pixel is just $15, but it has poor range and the batteries only last two months.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing three Bluetooth trackers (TrackR Pixel vs. Tile Mate) while evaluating five categories: range, software, battery, sound, and design.

tile mate

Tile Mate (2020)

  • Range: It'll work throughout your house (advertised 150ft range).
  • Software: The app is excellent, and the community is large.
  • Battery: The battery is guaranteed to work for a year. Then, new batteries (CR2032) are $1.
  • Sound: It can be heard within a room.
  • Design: Mate is 35mm x 35mm x 6.2mm. It feels well made and there’s a circle cutout.

Best for you if...

You want a great Bluetooth tracker. Tile Mate is solid, but not a great buy when you considerTile Pro is only $10 more for even louder volume and more range.

trackr pixel

TrackR Pixel

  • Range: It’s advertised as a 100ft range, but I found you need to be in the same room.
  • Software: The app is okay, but the community is much smaller than Tile’s.
  • Battery: You get free replacement batteries, but they die every two months and randomly.
  • Sound: It's by far the quietest tracker.
  • Design: It's the size of a quarter, but it's hard to open to swap batteries.

Best for you if...

You want to pretend you’re tracking your devices, but you don’t actually care if they're found. Bluetooth trackers should eliminate anxiety, but TrackR doesn't does the opposite.

tile vs trackr

Common Misconceptions

  • Bluetooth trackers aren’t magic. They use low-powered Bluetooth, rather than GPS, meaning you can only locate the tracker if it’s within 200ft of your phone.
  • You can ring your tracker if it’s within Bluetooth range. Otherwise, it’ll show the last known location.
  • Your phone’s Bluetooth has to be on, and the app has to be open. If you close the app, it stops tracking (it needs to be working in the background). Closing apps is a bad habit of mine because there’s no need to close apps on iOS devices.
  • The apps use a significant amount of background data and battery. Also, they use your location data for marketing and other reasons. Collecting location data isn’t unique; most apps do it. The difference is Bluetooth tracking apps don’t work if your location data is disabled, so you don’t have the option to disable it.
  • If you press the button on the trackers, your phone will make a noise (if it’s within Bluetooth range) to help you locate it.
  • If you lose your keys or wallet, you can let the community know your item is lost, and when people with the app come across your item, you’ll be notified.
  • You can use Alexa or Google Home to find your devices.
  • You can’t put them on your cars or pets, despite what the internet might tell you.

Range (A+):

  • Tile Pro gets over 300ft of range if in clear sight, according to Tile. Other reviewers say it’s about 180ft in reality. I’ve found its range spans from one end of my house to the other. The range is incredible. It’s a noticeable upgrade over Tile Mate and TrackR Pixel. Once Tile Pro is out of range, it’ll reconnect once it gets within 100ft of your phone.
  • Tile Mate advertises a 150ft range from your phone, but other reviewers say it’s about 100ft. In my tests (in the real world with walls and cushions), I’ve found you should remain connected as long as Tile is in your house. Once Tile Mate is out of range, it’ll reconnect once it gets within 50ft of your phone (a substantial difference from Tile Pro).

Battery (A+):

  • Previously, you’d buy a new Tile, each year, because the batteries weren’t replaceable. I was one of the few people who didn’t hate this strategy. Here’s what I said previously, “Tile offers a better solution than TrackR because there’s no battery anxiety and you can upgrade to the newest technology every year for a discount.”
  • Now, Tile’s batteries are replaceable with the 2018 and 2020 models.
  • The newest Tile Pro is guaranteed to work for a year with their original batteries, and I can vouch for that because they use the same battery as the previous generations.
  • I only got seven months with my original Tile Mate battery, but you can buy a pack of ten (CR1632) for $5.
  • Why aren’t I criticizing Tile for replaceable batteries? Tile made their batteries last a full year, unlike TrackR devices that are wildcards.

Sound (A+):

  • The Tile Mate iterations previous to the 2018 model were quieter than TrackR Pixel, but the new Tile Mate is substantially louder than TrackR Pixel.
  • Tile Pro (128 decibels) is louder than Tile Mate (119 decibels) and TrackR Pixel.
  • To my ears, Tile Pro sounds twice as loud as Tile Mate. You can hear it throughout your house, no matter how deep it’s buried in the couch cushion.
  • You have eight ringtone options.

Design (B-):

  • Tile trackers are lightweight with a quality build and design that’s miles ahead of TrackR. I’m sure not everyone cares, but I value craftsmanship.
    • Tile Pro: 42mm x 42mm x 6.5mm and 15.5 grams. It comes in white and black. It’s heavier and thicker than Tile Style and Tile Sport, but these are worthwhile design compromises.
    • Tile Mate: 35mm x 35mm x 6.2mm and 7 grams.
  • It’s easy to remove the battery covers, but they’re going to fall off inadvertently.
  • Tile Pro and Tile Mate are splash proof.
  • When you double tap the button on Tile, it rings your phone for when you can’t find it. It’s a cool feature, but I mistakenly set it off once per month from my pocket. I wish the feature could be disabled.

Software (A):

  • There’s a web app to track your phone. (Although, you can’t track your Tile with the web app, and Apple already has phone tracking with Find My iPhone.)
  • Tile’s community is much bigger than that of any other tracker. For reference, in my small town of 30,000 people, there are 260 Tiles near me but only four TrackR devices. That’s important for Tile’s Community Find feature. There’s a much greater chance someone else will find your lost item.
  • Tile is the only tracking device with an Apple Watch app. It’s not a throwaway app; it’s useful for locating the Tile.
  • Tile’s not only making tracking devices, but they’re also building a platform. Bose, Samsonite, and other companies are implementing Tile’s technology directly into their items. Hypothetically, you could locate every item you own inside Tile’s app without buying any Tiles. Bose will implement this with a firmware update for the Bose SoundSport Wireless and Bose 700 headphones.
  • Tile has an optional service called “Tile Premium” for $30/year. It’s not something most people should subscribe to, but here’s what you’d get if you do:
    • You get free batteries for life. Considering the CR2032 batteries are less than $2, it’s not a huge benefit, but it’s nice to know the new batteries will arrive automatically, without requesting them.
    • Smart Alerts (geofencing) will alert you when you leave without your Tile by your side. This feature is still in beta, but in my experience, it didn’t work well because the alerts were ten minutes late.
    • You get a three-year warranty with premium customer support.
    • You can give your friends or family access to your Tile so they can help you find it when it’s missing. It’s a smart idea because it increases your chances of finding it.

Range (C-):

  • TrackR Pixel advertises a 100ft range from your phone, but other reviewers say it’s about 50ft. In my tests (in the real world with walls and cushions), I’ve found you’ll need to be in the same room or maybe one room over for it to work.
  • There’s a good chance TrackR is in your house, but the connection to your phone isn’t strong enough for it to be recognized.
  • Once the connection is lost between TrackR and your phone, it won’t reconnect until it gets within 25ft.

Battery (F):

  • TrackR’s biggest differentiator has been their replaceable batteries, but now that Tile devices have replaceable batteries, what’s TrackR’s pitch?
  • TrackR sends batteries to you for free when you’re running low. But getting the battery out of TrackR Pixel is not easy. I still can’t do it after following their tutorial, and I’m not the only one who struggled based on the number of downvotes on their YouTube videos. Also, you’ll set off the phone locator button when you use their method.
  • The batteries last a couple of months with minimal usage, even less if you use it frequently. What happens if you forget to switch out the batteries? You don’t have a tracker. That creates unnecessary anxiety.
  • The batteries in my TrackR Pixel arrived with no juice. Based on Amazon reviews, this happens to other customers as well.
  • The battery meter in the app isn’t accurate and is always changing.

Sound (B):

  • TrackR Pixel was louder than last year’s Tile Mate (2017), but now it’s the quietest tracker in this post. 
  • You should still be able to hear it from one room away.

Design (B-):

  • If you’re looking for something small and unobtrusive, TrackR is your best best.
  • TrackR Pixel has flashing LED lights. This seems useless but might help in some unusual circumstances.
  • TrackR devices feel cheesy and aren’t well-built and not waterproof.
  • TrackR isn’t a more affordable option if it can’t outlast Tile. This observation is based on calculations rather than real life experience. I’ll update this post once I’ve used TrackR for longer.

Software (D):

  • TrackR has a community feature called Crowd Locate. The problem is its network is small. There are four TrackR users in my town. That could change, but right now the community feature is useless.
  • A “Crowd Locate” notification goes off every time your phone exceeds 50ft from your TrackR. You only want notifications if something is lost. I don’t need alerts every time I leave a room in my house.
  • There are separation alerts with geofencing. You’ll be notified when your phone gets too far away from the tracker. There are “WiFi Safe Zones” so you won’t get a warning when you’re connected to your home’s WiFi. The geofencing and safe zones don’t work well and substantially decrease the battery life, but it’s a smart concept. It’d be a massive breakthrough to flawlessly get warnings when you’ve left a product behind before you even think of it.

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