Top critical review
Brilliant system, horrible Terms Of Service agreement
7 September 2017
I apologize for the length of this review, I wanted to be thorough and not cut any corners.
I’d like to get something straightened out right up front. This is not a GPS powered device that reports its location to the app on your phone. There seems to be some confusion or misunderstanding where people think they can track their dog or child. Unless the Tile which is attached to either the dog or child is within range of a phone running the app all Tile devices are useless. The Tile does not report location information, that’s done by a phone running the app that has it’s GPS receiver turned on. The app takes the GPS location from the phone where it sees the Tile and sends that to the system servers. The alternative is to attach a Tile and phone to the dog or child with the app running… That said, if the phone doesn’t have it’s location service turned on the Tile app can’t send in any information on where the Tile is.
TL;DR – Great idea that works very well with enough phones around running the app but extremely intrusive and Tile says they will share your demographic info even though you paid for the Tile.
The way all Tile devices operate is to report through ANY phone running the app. The app then transmits the Tile ID, any Tile, along with the phone GPS location information to the servers which then allow you to locate X (purse, keys, back pack). From a technical perspective this is a brilliant idea, the umbrella becomes huge but it’s only deployed wherever there are phones running the app. Without these phones/app combinations the devices are useless pieces of plastic with a battery. You could be in an open field with 400 phones, if none of them have the app installed and running the Tile is useless.
In metropolitan areas where many people use phones with the app running it almost offers blanket coverage. While a Tile will report through someone else’s phone they will not be able to see it. This transaction of your Tile working through their phone works in the background. In this way there is security, other people can’t see your Tile or it’s location.
In rural areas where there are no phones with the app running all Tile devices are useless. Your dog could be 100 feet away from you on the other side of a metal building and your phone can’t communicate with it. This is a simple RF technology limitation. The 200 foot range stated is under the best possible conditions and is reliant on your phones BT transceiver. In my testing I was able to get about 120 feet, in the open, from the Tile and still make it ring. This can be and is compromised, if either the phone or Tile, have or are near things like metal backed phones cases, metal items in a purse, and especially if up against your body. So yes the range is much better than previous versions but still susceptible to the same things that limit range on any device that uses radio signals (Bluetooth is a radio signal device, this is how wireless operation is achieved).
The above is simply an outline of how the Tile system works and its limitations. Once data reaches the Tile service there is good stuff that happens, like being able to locate your lost keys.
Where I have a problem with this set up is the TOS that Tile makes you agree too. Yes all social media tracks your demographic information, but none to the exact extent that Tile does and none of them charge you. The difference here is that you PAY to buy the Tile so you are in effect paying them to access your demographic information and use it anyway they see fit as per the TOS which includes selling it to third parties. Don’t believe me, install the app and then before just clicking through everything, read it from start to finish. They spread things out through the various sections so read the whole thing. There are so many screen shots that they can’t all be posted here. So, when you use Facebook or any social media app you're doing so for free. It could be argued by them that giving access to where you live, work, go to church, walk the dog, eat most frequently, or shop for groceries is payback for you using their services. Tile makes you pay to give them that information.
Their TOS states that they can and will sell your demographic info to third parties. Again the difference here is that they get pin point GPS info on your comings and goings, something that Facebook can be shut out of if you don’t give the app access to your location information. This is the same for all social media apps. The Tile service can give far greater location info. In 3 minutes my BlackBerry with DTEK security detected 89 requests for location info, that’s a lot. With this and a good GPS signal on your phone they could tell which part of your property you spend the most amount of time in.
On the up side:
The app is nice and fluid, easy to set up and use. It’s been well designed and looks good. To locate your phone by using the Tile the app does have to be running in the background which does use up a little more battery power. The Tile Sport itself does ring a lot louder than the other Tiles I have when you go looking for it in the app. It is somewhat thicker than previous versions but it also looks a lot less like a Tile, more of a key fob design, I happen to like the look.
The location information provided is fairly accurate, as accurate as something can be that could theoretically be up to 200 feet from the device marking its location. This means that when you reach the point where your keys should be you will still need to search a good sized area but at least you have a chance to find the keys, kids, back pack, or whatever its attached to.
The Tile will function for about a year on one battery which is great but you can’t replace it. You need to take part of their program when you BUY a replacement albeit for less than a new device.
End result is that this is a brilliant idea that can and has helped many people locate lost items, no doubt saving a lot of money. Anyone who purchases a Tile device has to decide of this service is worth it in regards to giving away all that very personal information.
So before you buy or use the system make sure you understand just how invasive the service is and what can be done with your information.