Saturday, 26 November 2016

A review of the Tile app

A year ago I was given a set of Tiles as a present, after a couple of episodes of searching frantically for lost things.  In the intervening year it has saved me a bit of time in tracking down keys and wallet put in strange places around our house.  However it has not been so useful in finding a misplaced wallet elsewhere in this wide brown land.  I will go into the reasons for this below.

What has actually caused this post was, out of the blue, getting a message that my tiles will stop working working soon unless I pay another fee.  This came as quite a shock since I thought they had been purchased rather than licenced.  Indeed looking at the website ...
... the words "Buy now" are pretty prominent.

Delving a little further into the website one comes across this:
 .. and, even, further down this
Now that a problemo has arisen I have followed the link to the reTile area.  Even there it isn't clear what is going on.
It talks about "... you can upgrade ...".  One could say that the words about "... designed to run a full year ..." give a hint that it will crap out, but don't say "...after a year it will stop working and you'll have to buy new ones." which seems to be the case.

My suspicion is that in a court of law they could argue that they have been quite clear about what is going on and that the purchaser should expect something to require refurbishment.  However in the court of my opinion - which is what is offered here - the product would never have been purchased knowing what is going to happen.

There are also a couple of operational issues which argue against the device.

Operational issue 1

Had the product been foolproof it would be possible to regard the $25 cost per tile as a reasonable insurance policy for my keys (replacement cost about $800 for two car keys) or my wallet (including a credit card).

However for the system to work "location services" and "Bluetooth" have to be turned on in the phone.  Do this and the whistling sound you hear is the phone battery running down.  My experiments suggests the phone goes from 100% charged to flat in about 5 hours with location services enabled and the phone not connected to a charger of some description.  Thus, when out and about,  I keep this off unless I am using it.  With some apps (eg eBird) you can set so that location services are only active when you are using the app but with Tile it is "on" or "off"all the time.

So the situation is that if you lose your tiled kit more than 100ft from where you are the app won't tell you where it is.  It will tell you where you last logged in to the tile - typically at home where the phone was charging.  If you had location services on, and your phone had enough battery life to operate, it would tell you where you lost contact, which would be a good place t  start looking.  

The fall back is that if you can't find the Tile when looked for, if some other Tile user gets within range you get a message.  On the one occasion I seriously lost my wallet no user went where I'd lost it.  Fortunately I retraced my steps and found it - but the place of loss was quite close to home (~40km away) and a clear site so I was able to spot it.  (In long grass or similar it would be very hard to spot and to retrace my steps within 30 feet.)

I have just realised that if someone nicks your wallet and takes it away on their toes, once they are 100 feet away your only chance of finding it is if you log it lost and another Tile user gets within range.  I'd suggest the chances are not good.

Thus it isn't as good an insurance as hoped for.

Operational issue 2

In recognition of my reaction to OI  #1 my phone has a constant message telling me to enable location services, which I find annoying. Equally annoying are the constant emails extolling the virtue of the device.

When it played a Tile tune, VERY loudly at 2130 to tell me it was going to cease functioning soon I was VERY ANNOYED.  However it has led me to look more closely at how the app works and thence to compose this so not all bad.


This device proves the old adage "If something seems too good to be true it probably is."  

I'm not quite sure how I thought it worked but it was something like the Tiles sending a constant message to a satellite or cell phone network.  In the cold hard light of day that is one of the least practical thoughts I have ever had.  The reality, that if you have really lost something outside your house or car you are reliant on someone - probably not you - walking past with Tile active on their phone, is very unappealing to me.

I will be deactivating the app and blocking their emails in a very short period of time.


Mary Chamie said...

Thanks for the warning.

Flabmeister said...

Glad to be of help Mary.

I am fascinated that since I published this (and withdrew from their email alert system) my browser has started delivering me adverts for a competing product - that I am sure has exactly the same problems! Certainly the competitor's adverts and website are long on rhetoric and short on detail.