After the release of Apple AirTags, Google suddenly got interested in the Bluetooth tracker market. The company has already quietly launched what has to be the world’s largest Bluetooth tracking network across Android platforms 3 billion active devicesAnd now, trackers are starting to connect to this network. Google takes an ecosystem approach and allows many companies to connect to its Android Bluetooth tracking network, which goes by the very derivative name “Find My Device”.
While these Bluetooth trackers are great for finding your lost car keys on a messy desk, they can also act as worldwide GPS trackers and locate items far away, even though they don’t have a GPS. Bluetooth device identifiers are public, so Tile started this whole idea for a crowdsourced Bluetooth tracker site, which they call “Tile Network.” Each phone with the Tile app installed scans for Bluetooth devices in the background and, using the phone’s GPS, uploads its last seen location to the cloud. This location data is only available to the person who owns the Tile, but each Tile user scans the environment and loads any Tiles the app can see.
Tile is a decently popular product, but it’s nothing like the size of our favorite smartphone monopolies, Apple and Google. Apple turned the market around when it released AirTags and rolled out a Bluetooth tracking network to most of the 1.8 billion Apple devices out there. While Tile can work reliably in crowded places like airports, you’re likely never more than a few hundred feet from your iPhone at any time, which makes a global tracking network that much more viable.
As usual, Google wants to do something similar December 2022, Google brought crowdsourcing websites to Android’s “Find My Device” network. Previously, you only recorded your devices’ last known location, but this update will enable anyone’s phone to upload your devices location. Android is bad at shipping OS updates, but this wasn’t an OS update; It arrived via Google Play Services, and it’s just an app that arrives via the Play Store. This means that overnight, 3 billion active Android phones received the group tracking network update. The only problem is that it only tracks Android phones, not any Bluetooth tags.
Now, third party bluetooth trackers for Android are starting to arrive. The two companies that announced the products are Chipolo And Pebble, both of which seem to reproduce the line of tile products. Both offer regular keychain track tags and slim credit card shaped track tags. Tile’s worst habits include making products that are completely disposable because batteries can’t be changed, but our clones seem to have mostly avoided that. All Pebblebee’s Find My Device products are rechargeable, which is nice, while the Chipolo keychain tracker has a replaceable CR2032 battery. Chipolo’s wallet tracker can only be thrown away (boo!).
All of these tags will appear in the Find My Device app, along with your Android phones, headphones, and whatever else you have connected to the network. They also have a speaker, as usual, so you can have them ring when you’re near them. Both sets of products are up for pre-order now.
Both of these companies support Google and Apple networks but have to make separate versions of the same product for each network, which is ridiculous. Chipolo is really awkward and has three batches of products: one version that works with the company’s internal apps, one that works with Apple’s Find My Network, and one that works with Google’s Find My Device Network. Can’t we really standardize this? Google and Apple have joined forces to try to combat malicious uses of these trackers with a common standard, can’t they just standardize on hardware support too? It’s just Bluetooth!
The tiles, which the big tech companies eat alive, aren’t connected to any of these networks yet, however Google blog post Tile says it will eventually join Find My Device. Presumably, Google plans to track its own Bluetooth at some point in the future, too.
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