Lost-Item Tracker Tile Arrives On Android

When Tile, the square-shaped lost-item tracker that attaches to bags, bikes, key chains and more, announced this fall that it had raised $13 million in funding (a combination of a seed round and Series A investment), the company said it had earmarked some of that money to be put towards hiring more Android engineers. Now that investment has paid off, as Tile today debuts support for Android smartphones, allowing a larger group of users the ability to find missing or stolen items using their mobile device.

Tile, in case you missed it, was one of crowdfunding’s bigger hits, demonstrating both the potential that comes from raising funds directly from an interested consumer user base, but also the drawbacks. Tile initially struggled to meet its expected shipping times, and then had to struggle through a backlog once things were finally up-and-running. That backlog cleared up around Black Friday this year, and now Tile is processing orders as usual.

The company declined to provide an update on sales figures today, however, but as of October the company reported it had sold half a million devices.

However, according to data from tracking firm SimilarWeb, Tile went from a 40 popularity score to a 70 – SimilarWeb’s popularity score is its own metric that’s based on traffic to the app page and store ranking over the past six months in the U.S. Additionally, Tile has been steadily climbing the Lifestyle Category Chart in iTunes and currently sees a lot of external traffic from search to its app store page.

htc_one-androidThe small, Bluetooth device works by pairing with a user’s smartphone, where a mobile app allows you to track the Tile’s location. But instead of only being limited to the range of the Bluetooth connection, Tile’s clever idea – and its potential differentiating factor – is its network. Tile devices set to a “Lost” mode can be picked up by any phone that’s within range. It’s the kind of grand plan that would only really work at scale, but in the U.S., Tile’s home market, the company has already seen a few success stories – like that of a man who lost his keys on an airplane, and eventually tracked them down when the plane landed in Orlando.

Tile has several competitors, including Duet, BiiSafe, Chipolo, Findster, TrackRStick N Find, hipKey, Hone, and others, but Tile is better designed, and has proven to be more reliable, according to reviews. Despite the initial delays, it was worth the wait. Though I haven’t personally had a need to tap into Tile’s network, I’ve used the app several times around my own home to find lost keys, and it has always been useful for this sort of minor challenge.

Until today, the Tile app that allowed for configuring the device pairing and tracking your items was iOS-only. But now, Tile’s app is available on Android.

The app will work on most devices running Android 4.4 or higher and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE 4.0). However, the app has been optimized for the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG Nexus 4, LG Nexus 5, HTC One, and HTC One M8. The company says it’s planning to add support for more Android devices in the future.

While the Android release of a previously available app is not always the most interesting news, in Tile’s case, it could impact the company’s bottom line – without the Android support, Tile was missing the ability to sell to a huge chunk of the smartphone market worldwide. In addition, as more Tile users come on board thanks to the Android expansion, that benefits the current iOS user base as well, as it offers a larger community to call upon when items go missing. (“Mark as Lost” doesn’t currently send push notifications on Android as on iOS, but that’s shipping in a future release).

Tile is currently selling for $25 on the company website and in the Amazon Wearable Technology store.