Chipolo vs. TrackR vs. Tile vs. Wuvo: The ultimate tracking device showdown

Patrick O'Rourke

January 29, 2016 9:00am

I lose things. Often.

Actually, I don’t so much lose things as misplace them, whether under a couch cushion, in a jacket pocket, or deep in a backpack I never venture into. It’s almost daily, the search for car keys, my smartphone, wallet, or a variety of other important items.

This is where devices like Chipolo, TrackR BravoTile and Wuvo come into play. Each small tracking device connects to a smartphone or tablet over low-power Bluetooth, lasting in some cases over a year on the same battery. Their usefulness is derived from being able to put them somewhere — on a keychain, in a wallet or bag — that is tracked through a smartphone app. But all of these products have strengths, weaknesses and, more importantly, problems. Which one is right for you?

TrackR Bravo: Sleak, but flawed

TrackR
The TrackR Bravo is a solid choice if you’re an iPhone user, but offers an underwhelming experience with Android devices. Despite the fact that the device’s feature set says it’s compatible with all Android smartphones, it actually isn’t.

With the TrackR Bravo, unless the lockscreen of the Android device is disabled, repeated requests to setup Bluetooth Smart Connections are sent out. If multiple TrackRs are connected to one smartphone, the number of requests increases considerably. At one point, I woke up with 30 to 40 TrackR Bluetooth notifications sitting in my Nexus 6P’s drop-down menu.

Accepting the Bluetooth Smart Connection doesn’t solve this problem, at least not for me (TrackR suggests you do this in the FAQ on its website). Users of various online forums also claim they have been able to circumvent the issue by simply setting up TrackR Bravo as a trusted Bluetooth connection.

With both my Nexus 6P and HTC M9, this fix didn’t work. Adding more to this issue, the repeated connection requests eventually caused the batteries in my two TrackR Bravo devices to die after just a few days of use, and depleted my Nexus 6P’s power as well.

It’s important to point out, however, that this problem is not only TrackR’s fault, but also Google’s. TrackR claims that it has reached out to Google about the issue, which it says is related to Android, and has reportedly yet to receive a response.

But despite this problem, TrackR Bravo offers some of the top tracking features around when compared to its competitors, especially if you’re an iOS user. During my time using TrackR Bravo with the iPhone 6s Plus, I ran into few issues.

TrackR Bravo is by far the sleekest tracking device I tested out, and is considerably smaller than both the Chipolo and Tile, measuring in at 31mm in diameter and 3.5mm thick. This results in it being easier to slide into smaller spaces, like a wallet, for example. However, unlike its plastic competitors, TrackR Bravo’s aluminum frame is easily dented and bent, especially when sharing the same space as loose change in a pocket. These bends can sometimes cause TrackR’s alarm, which is already quieter than either Tile’s or Chipolo’s, to stop emitting sound at all (this happened to one of my test units).

What TrackR Bravo lacks in build quality, it makes up in features. Since TrackR is arguably the most popular tracking device I tested out, it’s likely at least someone in your area also owns one, especially if you live in a large city. This means that crowdsourced tracking, which updates your device’s GPS location when another TrackR is nearby, is significantly more effective.

TrackR Bravo also supports Separation Alerts, which allows users to set up a notification to sound off when a TrackR is separated from a smartphone. For people who have accidentally left their smartphone at work, or worse, on the bus, this will be a useful feature. Likely due to its smaller Bluetooth antenna, TrackR’s total range measures in at somewhere between 7 and 12 metres, making it considerably shorter than other tracking devices I used.

A three-pack of TrackR Bravos costs $79.99, while a single unit costs $39.99. TrackR sells a waterproof case for the Bravo, as well as the TrackR Sticker, a plastic version of the Bravo, and the TrackR Wallet, a tracking device designed specifically to slide into wallets.

Chipolo: Tracking simplified

Chipolo
Originally funded on Kickstarter, Chipolo, developed in Slovenia by startups Geartronik and Nollie Apps, is the tracking device that surprised me the most, especially since it’s the first product from two unknown new companies. Chipolo’s plastic build quality is on par with Tile’s or TrackR’s, but it also comes in bright colours, making it easy to spot on a keychain or when buried deep in the recesses of a backpack.

What sets Chipolo apart is that it’s exceedingly reliable, as well as its ability to locate the smartphone it’s connected to. If the Chipolo is shaken, the smartphone it’s paired to emits a tone, giving the device a dual purpose (TrackR includes similar functionality, but I found the feature unreliable).

Chipolo offers 60-meter signal strength, which makes it ideal for use both indoors and out. When it is out of range, a notification appears, letting users know the Chipolo and its associated smartphone have separated.

The European-manufactured device does have downsides though. Unlike both TrackR and Tile, Chipolo doesn’t have crowdsourced tracking. This means that only the last known GPS location is available when looking at Chipolo’s in-app map. If you’ve completely lost your smartphone and are unsure the area it’s located in, this limitation renders Chipolo useless.

The startups behind Chipolo reportedly have plans to launch a crowdsourced network similar to TrackR’s, Tile’s, and Wuvo’s, but hasn’t yet revealed a launch date. The sound Chipolo emits when activated is also more audible than either Tile or TrackR.

Chipolo is supported by both iOS and Android and when testing the device out on both operating systems, I didn’t run into any difficulties. Unlike every other tracking device featured in this story, Chipolo also comes with an extra battery.

Chipolo is priced at approximately $40 Canadian (€24).

Tile: Durable, waterproof, but lacking in range

Tile
Tile, another tracking device crowdfunded back in 2013 by thousands of backers, has the most interesting, and useful, design of the four trackers in this story. The unique hole in its plastic body means it fits perfectly onto a keychain or lanyard of any size (Chipolo also has a space, but it’s considerably smaller).

While Tile is a tad thick, like Chipolo it’s very durable. Unlike TrackR, I didn’t worry about it falling apart and being dented when attached to my keychain, or accidentally falling on the ground. In many ways, Tile’s functionality is nearly identical to Chipolo’s, right down to its feature set, though unlike its Slovenian-made brother, Tile features a Community Find feature, that works very similarly to TrackR’s.

If the Tile is out of Bluetooth range, it relies on other Tile users to locate the missing device. Just like TrackR, to make the feature useful, people in the surrounding area need to be using Tile, too. In my experience, similar to TrackR, crowdsourced finding is hit or miss; in some cases I’d easily locate the beacon, and in others, it failed to connect.

However, Tile’s range is roughly 30 metres, half of Chipolo’s range. The sound Tile emits is also loud enough to hear from a distance, just like Chipolo’s.

But here’s where things start to go south. Since Tile is completely waterproof, there’s no way to replace its built-in battery. When the tracking device’s battery dies, which can reportedly take somewhere between eight months and a year, your only option is to purchase a new one.

The company, however, does offer a ‘ReTile’ replacement program that allows users to send in their device for a heavily discounted replacement. All older Tile hardware is then recycled.

Four Tiles cost $89.99 and one Tile is priced at $29.99.

Wuvo: Unique features, but painfully plastic

wuvo
Wuvo is an interesting device because, on paper, it’s nearly identical to Trackr, Chipolo and Tile. The Wuvo is reliable, and emits a tone load enough to hear from a considerable distance. I also ran into few issues when using the Wuvo with both iOS and Android.

Where the Wuvo lags behind the competition is build quality. Unlike the solid construction featured on Chipolo and Tile, Wuvo feels like if enough pressure is applied to its body, its plastic shell might snap. Furthermore, attaching the included key ring is more difficult than other tracking devices featured in this story, because it’s located within an indent on the edge of the Wuvo.

But what makes Wuvo stand out from the pack is the unique ID code printed on its rear. If someone happens to find the item Wuvo is attached to, all they need to do is navigate to found.wuvo.com and fill out a form. The finder’s info is then sent to your device via a notification. While this sounds great in theory, it’s unlikely most Wuvo users will ever get their hands on their lost item again.

Wuvo’s range measures in at 30 metres, and similar to other trackers featured in this story, the device supports crowdsourced discovery, though the feature is dependent on other people in the area also owning Wuvos. It also features removable batteries.

It’s worth noting that Wuvo’s Android app strangely always appears in the smartphone’s notification tray. It can be closed and relaunched when you actually want to use the Wuvo.

One Wuvo Spot is priced at $29.99 USD (about $42 CAD) and three are priced at $84.95 USD ($118 CAD).

So which one should I buy?

chipolo
This is a difficult question to answer, especially given all four tracking devices have similar feature sets. After spending multiple weeks with TrackR, Chipolo, Tile and Wuvo, and testing each device out on both Android and iOS, I’ve come to the conclusion that Chipolo is the best, and my favourite tracking device.

It lacks the crowdsourced tracking capabilities of TrackR, Tile and Wuvo, but in my experience, is the most reliable of the trackers I tested. If I lose a device, it’s likely either at the office or somewhere immediately nearby, making Chipolo’s extended Bluetooth range a valuable feature for me.

Chipolo’s bright, orange, durable body and 60 metre range, make it far more useful than either TrackR, Tile or Wuvo.

  • Peter

    Thanks for this! I haven’t been able to make up my mind on which one to pick, this helps!

  • nonenone22

    Terrible products, all of them.

    • Mo Dabbas

      lol.

      Well, if they were in the 5-10 Bucks range then it’s not bad. But when the cheapest is 30…. ehhh, no thanks.

    • For the amount of tech and research and development that goes into a device like this, I don’t think $5 to $10 is really a reasonable price tag. To me, about $30 seems fair.

    • Mo Dabbas

      I didn’t mean in terms of R&D, if that’s the case you are right.

      But what I meant for my personal need. I (thankfully) have a good habit of keeping my keys and wallet (and my phone when it’s not in my pocket or on my desk) in the same spot. So I rarely get this situation where my keys are somewhere that I don’t know. But I bet if somebody is notorious to loose his/her keys this would be worth the investment. So for me I would be happy to get one (coz I like checking out gadgets), but then I look at the price and I always reconsider.

      Another thing to add to the price is the shipping in case of Chipolo. Tilt and trackR can be found at Canadian retail stores like bestbuy which is good for those who wanna save on shipping.

    • Bubba Jones

      Spelling lose as loose is a very common spelling error; loose means not tight. The correct spelling is lose as in lost, loss, losing, all have one letter o.

    • Sam

      At $30, you buy one or two. At $5, you put them on everything. Everybody would have them on their keychains. They would be built into phone cases. Most importantly, because there would be more items out there, more people would be running the apps necessary to actually make them work in a recovery situation. As is now, do you know anybody who keeps any of these apps up and running on their phones? I don’t.

  • Scott Harkness

    Im not sure how the 60 metre range works on the chipolo, as this exceeds bluetooth le’s range. (which, for the record, is used by each of these). In independant testing, (source to come shortly), tile has actually been found to have the best range out of 4 major brands of trackers, and is also the best at reconnecting. This information, as previously stated, was gleamed from independent testing, but i admit to a personal bias as well, as i own 4 of the 2nd generation tiles. They are used with my LG g4, and what i like most about them is that put simply, they work. Also, it may be apposite to mention that tile offers a trade-in program; The app reminds you after 11 months that it may be time to buy new tiles, at, i might add, a signifigant discount.

    Thank you for the review, but a little more research, and possibly some testing whereby you could make some real world performance measurements would not only be appreciated, but quite honestly, should ve mandatory in a comparison review such as this.

    • vn33

      My main concern with Tile is the battery is not changeable.
      May I ask what kind of discount you get when you trade in the “used” one? How much would I have to pay for it?

    • I actually don’t know. What I was told by Tile is that a new one is “heavily discounted,” but whether that means 50% off or a few dollars off, is unclear.

    • Sam

      $12 USD vs $25 regular price.

    • Alan Waterman

      I bought 8 so they were $16.25 each brand new which means the reTile price is only a small discount.

    • All devices were tested in the ‘real world.’ The tests obviously weren’t scientific, but I think that’s an unreasonable expectation. I know Chipolo’s range might sound difficult to believe, but it really does have the best tracking functionality in my experience.

    • Scott Harkness

      Thanks for the feedback, Patrick. I wouldn’t expect explicitly scientific results as such, but let me clarify; It would be nice to get an idea of at what range the signal falls off, how long it takes to reconnect, etc.

      Regardless, thank you for the article, and please don’t mistake my criticism for malice. You folks do a good job, and I appreciate the work you do. It’s nice to have a uniquely Canadian perspective on these issues, and I love articles like these that focus on some of the tech that’s not so ‘mainstream’. Cheers!

    • Thanks! I’ll definitely keep your suggestions in mind and we always appreciate feedback.

  • simphf

    Do any of these work with Windows?

    • That’s a good question (as far as I know, I don’t think they do).

    • rgl168

      Chipolo has Windows Phone app. I emailed Tile previously and they said they had no interest in supporting Windows Phone.

  • Scott Harkness

    I stand corrected on Bluetooth le range; It can be up to 150m in an open field environment. I suppose technically, under absolutely ideal conditions, the Chipolo could see its stated range.

  • TheShinraCorp .

    Wuvo looks like a cookie… so no. I honestly prefer the Nokia Treasure Tag from years ago to find whatever it’s attached too. It also counts as a remote shutter for taking pictures.

  • Croc Ography

    I have experience with TrackR Bravo… and they suck big time! Who knows, maybe all these products do but I am darn sure that the TrackR Bravo was the worst ever buy I made with my iPhone.

  • Poda

    This would be useful if I can track it anywhere… 50ish m range is useless

  • Thanks for the comparison, very informative. Might wait a little more to see what new products are introduced in the tracking device market.

  • Joe Strandell

    Trackr ftw 🙂

  • o_zzy

    These would be cool if they had 3G/4G connectivity similar to kindle devices. That way I’m not limited by range.

  • WiN6MaN

    I ordered a pack of 3 TrackR Bravo one day before this article has been released… God I wish I would have waited 1 more day…

    These CrapR are definitely one of my worse purchase ever, and they don’t come cheap at 80$/3 !

    I own a Note 3 still running kitkat 4.4.2 and it just disconnect all the time. In an hour it must disconnect 20 to 30 times ! It will drive you crazy if you have an android phone. The only solution to this is to desactivate the separation alert… which completely defeat the purpose of buying it in the first place, well in my case at least.

    I will SO return it and get a chipolo instead.

    Seriously, it may works well with apple products, but avoid it like the plague if you’re using an android phone.

  • LABAPA

    I just received the wuvo’s I sponsored. You’re not wrong about the build quality, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how they intend that keychain to attach. With the first one I tried, eventually it did just pop apart – but now I can’t get it to stay together. Tips are welcome.

    As a product, I think it holds some promise. These community/network features are going to be of limited value until we have networks of sufficient size. Hopefully they’ll eventually settle on a common standard for this sort of thing.

  • Joshua Baynard

    Chipolo now has Crowdsourced finding technology. Not sure how recent it is, but it is listed as a feature on their website.

    • felix

      yeah just saw that. seems like a winner 🙂

  • jlippiner

    Interesting comparison. I wonder if there are any GPS-based solutions that are roughly this size with a similar battery life. That seems to be the missing link

  • Lim Thomas

    Thanks for the feeds. I didn’t try others but the chipolo I have is not ideal. Firstly, the sound is soft and hardly audible if you put in a pouch or in your garments. 2ndly, the range is only good if you are in open field. in house, it is only about 15 meters or less. waste of $$$

  • Claude Gohier

    Any of these can be used as a trusted device on Android to unlock the phone?

  • WIll

    I don’t know why tile can’t charge its batteries just cause it’s waterproof. There is a thing called wireless induction charger nowadays. If they can’t charge their device and have to replace it every time the battery runs out, then they’ve got a bad design.

  • Elefantmann

    I’ll wait for the next generation trackers. Pioneers are the ones with arrows in their backs.