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I’ll be the first to admit I have a terrible memory. I can put something down, and thirty seconds later will have no idea where I put it.

Because of this, I’ve always loved the idea of Tile. However I was deeply sceptical about their original offerings - these early devices were designed with planned obsolescence as part of their business strategy - they only had a year’s battery life, after which point you’d be offered a discount to buy a new model for the next year. I presume this worked for many people, because once you become reliant on something, you can’t imagine living without it.

But the idea of devices designed for landfill just didn’t sit easily with me.

So when the new 2018 models were announced, they got my attention. Finally these models have replaceable batteries. Sadly not rechargeable, but replaceable is good enough, especially when they still claim a year’s battery life.

So I now have two of these, one keeping track of my keys, and one attached to my bag, so if I stupidly leave it behind somewhere, I should at least be able to track its final location.

All was good for about nine months, until, as fate would have it, I mislaid my keys while out of the house. They weren’t in my coat pocket where I expected to find them, so I checked the Tile app.

This told me that the keys had last been seen two days ago at home, which seemed strange, but I had been working from home, so it was entirely possible they’d sat under something on a side table all that time, and just hadn’t reported a location for a while.

When I got home, I searched everywhere for the keys, but they couldn’t be found. They eventually turned up in the car I had been in, and it quickly became clear that the Tile’s battery had gone flat without warning after nine months, despite the advertised year’s battery life.

I swapped the batteries over between my two Tiles, to confirm that it was just a flat battery, and not a failed device and thankfully the app was happy to announce that my “Lost” keys were found again.

Since this seemed wrong, I got onto Customer Support. Surely the app should’ve warned me that the battery was low, or that the device hadn’t been seen for a while, shouldn’t it? I’m not in the habit of regularly checking the app - I only have need to open it when something is missing.

After a bit of back and forth (their customer service seemed more concerned with figuring out whether I was trying to get a free replacement, rather than reporting a major failing), it turns out, that no, it doesn’t. All the app does is display you a notification after eleven months that you might need a new battery (or if you pay for their expensive subscription service, they’ll post you out a “free” new battery at that time.)

Whilst the old obsolescent devices would apparently chirp like a flat smoke alarm to warn you of their demise, there is absolutely no warning if your 2018 model Tile is about to fail on you.

This puts me in a very awkward position - I love the fact that I can find my keys whenever I need to, but now I have absolutely no confidence that the Tile is doing its job - at any moment the battery could go flat, and if it does, it is of zero use whatsoever. I can even imagine a helpful person finding my keys, noticing the Tile, and installing the app in the hope of alerting me to its found status. Sadly, unless they think to put in a fresh battery, this would be of no help whatsoever.

You basically have to regularly check the App to be sure your tiles are all still there. This stops the Tile being a “fire and forget” type device, and forces the user to obsessively check whether they still have all the things the Tile is supposed to be protecting.

A suggestion

So, my suggestion to Tile is this. All you need to do is add a feature that warns if a particular Tile hasn’t been seen in a user configurable time period (say 24 hours). The user could then chose to mark it as lost, or dismiss the warning if they know where the Tile is. It should also give them instructions on how to test if the device is still functioning (i.e. press the button.)

Oh, and if you’re reading this, Tile, this has to be a core feature, not something to hide behind your subscription paywall.