It never fails. I'm rushing out the door late to work and I can't find my keys or my wallet—and sometimes my smartphone. It's as if gremlins hid everything during the dead of night, though it's more likely the work of my kids in the case of my smartphone.
That's where tracking tags come in. All you have to do is adhere a small tracking tag on an item you habitually lose: your phone, the remote, the dog. Then, when it goes MIA, you can use either your smartphone or a locator unit to signal the tag to beep or flash a small LED light to signal its location.
There are two basic types of finders: Radio Frequency (RF) and Bluetooth. RF finders use a dedicated fob for tracking your devices, while Bluetooth finders work through an app on your smartphone. The range is about the same (30-100 feet, depending on the device and conditions), though you get more features with the Bluetooth tags.
Here are our favorite devices for finding all the lost things in our daily lives.
Click 'N Dig! Key Finder
The popular Click ‘N Dig item finder runs on radio frequencies (RF), like a cordless phone, and comes with one finder fob and four tags. Attach the tags to your easily lost items by adhesive backing or key ring. Each tag is color coded and corresponds to a colored button on the finder.
When an item goes missing, you press the colored button on the finder and the tag will flash and beep with a volume of 90-105dB. The signal will go through walls and cushions, but you’ll need to be within at least 60 feet of your lost item.
The Click 'N Dig comes with extra batteries for the fob and tags. A transmitter with just four tags can also be purchased if you don't need 6 receivers.
Price: $22.95 for 1 tracker, 2 key fobs and 2 tags
In addition to your keys beeping and flashing when you press the find button on your tracker, the LOC8TOR Lite will guide you to them with a built-in proximity meter. The LOC8TOR Lite can track up to four devices and comes with two key fobs and two tags (1.4" x 0.77" x 0.33", 0.17 ounces) that can be stuck to your TV remote, laptop or whatever you want to track.
The range on these is up to 400 feet, if you have a clear line of sight, according to the company. Reviewers on Amazon cite distances more in the 100- to 150-foot range and give it an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars. A number of them have successfully used the fob on cat collars. The batteries last up to 7 months and are user replaceable.
Price: $74.95 for 1 tracker, 2 tags and 2 fobs
Bluetooth finder for smartphones
Tile Mate and Tile Pro
Tile Mate, Tile Slim and Tile Pro are great item finders that work with the Bluetooth functionality of your phone. Smaller and thinner than most other tags, these Tile tags don't utilize a transmitter unit but are located via the app. When you get within 100 feet of the Tile Mate and Tile Slim or 200 feet of the Tile Pro, you can ring the Tile-tagged device. There is no flashing light on the Tile but it will play an audible sound. And, if you double press the "e" on the Tile, your phone will ring with the Tile tune—even if you've turned your phone's ringer off.
But what if you are out of range? That's where Tile Mate and Tile Pro really shine. They will use every phone with the Tile app installed to search for your Tile tag. If someone else's phone finds it, you will be notified of its location and your private information is never revealed to the phone owner (it works in the background). It will also remember the last location it received from the Tile tag.
The Tile Pro has a louder ring than the Tile Mate, 98dB versus 88dB, and the Tile Pro is waterproof, able to be submerged in 1.5 meters for up to an hour.
The Tile Slim is just two credit cards thick and fits easily into your wallet.
Find your phone ring when the ringer is off
If you just need to find your phone and the ringer is off, you can log into your Apple or Google account from any web browser (mobile or desktop) to make your phone ring.
For iPhones, go to icloud.com and enter your Apple ID and password. Once you're logged in, select Find iPhone, choose your phone from the devices associated with your Apple ID and click on Play Sound.
For Android phones, go to www.google.com/android/devicemanager and log into the Google account associated with your phone. Once you're logged in, select your phone from the devices associated with your Google account and click on Ring.
Updated on 8/8/2017 with new tracker options and updated pricing.
[Lost keys via Shutterstock, all others via Click n Dig, LOC8TOR, Tile]