3 alternatives to Apple AirTags in the test

If you often misplace your keys, can’t remember where you left something or are otherwise a bit scatterbrained, Bluetooth trackers are ideal. But how good are the models from Apple, Samsung and others?

Tracking tags for keys have been around for a while now. Until now, the market has been dominated by the provider Tile. However, there were also other small providers in this comparatively small segment. Over the summer, movement has come into play: With Apple and Samsung, two big fish are now swimming in the pond and offering suitable Bluetooth trackers. But how do the Galaxy SmartTag and SmartTag+ tracking tags from Samsung, Apple AirTag, Tile Pro and Musegear Finder 2 perform in everyday use? A test over several months provides information.

Partly significant differences in the setup

Apple’s AirTags and the two variants of Samsung’s SmartTags are only supported within their own ecosystem. Users therefore need an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, respectively.

Apple once again shows how easy it can be to set up a gadget in its own ecosystem: Unpack it, remove the protective film, hold it next to the iPhone, tap “Connect”, and you’re done. Samsung’s setup, on the other hand, turns out to be quite tedious. First, two firmware updates had to be performed on the trackers and a plug-in for a smartphone app also had to be installed. The setup of Tile and Musegear Finder 2 was simpler and was done with the installation of the corresponding app.

Bluetooth trackers in everyday use
We tested the Tile Pro tracker (top left), Musegear Finder 2 (bottom left), Apple AirTag (center) and Samsung Galaxy Smart Tags (right). They all cut a good figure when it came to finding them. Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa-tmn

On the lookout, the Bluetooth trackers cut a good figure

The main job of a Bluetooth tracker is done equally well by all test candidates. They all track a misplaced object. They indicate the direction with an acoustic signal.

Apple’s AirTags and the Pro version of Samsung’s SmartTags also support positioning in an augmented reality environment for the last few meters. This uses arrows and distance information on the smartphone display to indicate the direction in which to search. This search option requires a wireless connection via Ultra Wideband (UWB). Tile Pro and Musegear Finder 2 do not support UWB. However, Apple requires at least an iPhone 11 to use the function. Samsung requires a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Z Fold 2, S21 Plus, S21 Ultra or newer.

Using other smartphones to find things

While the AR search is more of a gimmick on the last meters in your own home or office, the UWB technology makes a big difference when you have lost your bunch of keys outside of your own four walls. Far away from Bluetooth range, Tile and Musegear admit defeat. The trackers from Apple and Samsung, on the other hand, can report their position with the countless iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices of other users.

In principle, this method should also work with the Tile Pro, without UWB, but with Bluetooth. The provider promises that a crowd search leads to the target. The prerequisite, however, is that a Tile app is also installed on the smartphones of the people in the vicinity and is allowed to transmit via Bluetooth. However, only a few devices are likely to fulfill this requirement, so that a real smartphone connection for a successful search is probably not possible in most cases.

Bluetooth trackers in everyday use
Bluetooth trackers – such as Apple’s AirTag – help with searching and finding. They can be attached to bags, keys and the like. Photo: Zacharie Scheurer/dpa-tmn

Bluetooth trackers cost between 25 and 35 euros plus extras

The Tile Pro costs 29 euros, the Musegear Finder 2 is available for 25 euros. Samsung and Apple’s devices are more expensive: The Galaxy SmartTag+ costs 37 euros, but the model without UWB only 25 euros. Apple charges 35 Euros for its AirTag.

However, you still need a pendant for this, since Apple did not provide its tracker with an eyelet. If the beautiful Apple pendants, which cost another 35 Euros in a leather version, are too expensive for you, you can use much cheaper versions from other manufacturers.

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Conclusion in the test: Finding with success

In a practical test, an AirTag was placed in an electric car to locate its position. This is extremely practical when several drivers in a family share a car but there is no fixed parking space available.

The UWB-capable trackers from Apple and Samsung attracted the most attention. However, the other two test candidates are not uninteresting either, because they can be used with an iPhone as well as with any Android smartphone.

In addition, the two trackers can do a trick that not even the AirTags can do: You can make your smartphone ring with them at the touch of a button. This also works when the phone is set to silent.

Unlike the predecessor model, the Musegear Finder 2 unfortunately no longer has a remote release function for the smartphone camera. Smartphone owners who particularly value data privacy will welcome the fact that registration is no longer required for the Finder 2. No location data is transmitted either.

The Tile Pro convinced us with its high Bluetooth range of over 130 meters under ideal conditions. It also beeps a bit louder than the trackers from Apple and Samsung.

With material from dpa