Tile has dominated the tracker space in recent years, offering a series of small gadgets that you can attach to your keychain, slip in your wallet, or attach to other stuff so you can find it when it inevitably goes missing.

But Tile has always had competitors, and recently Apple and Samsung have gotten in on the game. Now T-Mobile wants in too… but the wireless carrier’s new SyncUp Tracker does things a little differently.

Rather than relying on Bluetooth or WiFi, the SyncUp Tracker works with T-Mobile 4G LTE network which means you can use it to keep track of your things as long as their within range of a T-Mobile cell tower. But there’s a cost… literally.

First up, there’s the cost of the tracker itself. The hardware sells for $60, which makes it one of the pricier options in this space. Then there’s the monthly charge to add the SyncUp Tracker to your cellular plan. T-Mobile charges $5 per month.

That brings the cost of using a SyncUp Tracker to $120 for the first year and $60 for each additional year.

The upside of this system is that if the items attached to your tracker aren’t within range of Bluetooth or WiFi, you won’t need to rely on a network of other people’s devices to ping your device if it happens to be nearby, which is how competing tracker systems work. Just pull up the SyncUp Tracker app on your iOS or Android device and you should be able to find the last known location of your things on a map no matter how far away they are.

You can also set virtual boundaries to receive an alert if your tracker leaves the area, use a light sensor to get a notification if an item is moved from one environment to another (for example if someone takes it out of your bag or locker), or locate a nearby item by making it ring.

The tracker is also IP67 rated for dust and water resistance.

One fairly significant down side though? You’ll need to charge the SyncUp Tracker weekly, if not more often. T-Mobile says its 900 mAh battery “lasts for up to 7 days depending on usage.”

This is the sort of gadget that really seems most useful if it’s there when you need it, but if you rarely have to think about it. Weekly charging seems like a sort of pain.

The SynCup Tracker will be available from T-Mobile stores starting May 7, 2021.

press release

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  1. Aside from cost, battery life is the bane
    of such devices. Reminds one of the early
    days of PDAs/cell phones, which is still the
    case, BTW, as well as the range issue
    (the devices being tracked rely on proximity
    to a compatible network to be recognized).
    Would consider 1 month to be the minimum
    acceptable time for the device to transmit its
    location (think of how much time it’s taken to
    spot the Indonesian submarine, or that plane
    that went down when its sensor froze).

  2. Does it use GPS though ? Cell signal triangulation is an incredibly imprecise way of locating something outside of a city. In fact so imprecise its possible you would never find your item even with the beeper function if it was lost in a meadow / forest etc.

    1. It seems that many, and perhaps even most, cellular modems have GPS built in, so I’d bet on it.

  3. All these tracking device forebode of what I expect to be a growing trend of people, including business and government agents, sticking these things onto the belongings of people they want to track. Make sure to check your backpacks and cars for these things! Fortunately, an SDR with an SDR application that has waterfall plotting can help sniff out ones with a cellular modem. But I have to wonder if there’s some way to determine if there are any tile trackers or airtags near you without having to have an iphone or make any accounts, those things are peskier since they don’t emit that much power.

    1. Some options:
      1. Look at your stuff. Are there new things stuck to it? If not, you’re probably good.
      2. They use Bluetooth low energy. Get a scanner which identifies BLE handshakes and look at nearby ones. Works great if you live in a house. If you live close to others, you’ll have noise to filter as they’ll likely use Bluetooth for something.
      3. Look around. In order to find you, they’ve got to use a device which can identify the presence of such tags. That likely means a phone. Scan the networks to see if an unknown phone is nearby.
      But really, short of cutting a hole in your couch and putting one inside, it’s not easy to put one of these on something without you seeing it. If you find one attached to your clothing, you can quite happily subject it to a hammer.

      1. I wonder about some specifics of how an AirTag works. Does it search for other devices while connected to devices with your apple id ? Or does it only start to do that once its out of reach ? What kinds of sensors does it have ? Im pretty sure it at least has the 6axis gyro so it knows its moving without any other input. Does the find app only let you enter contact info once you set the AirTag as lost ? If so then if you read it as NFC tag before that will it still give you the web adress but there just wont be any info ? What happens if you try to read an active but unpaired AirTag with an android phone ? Can you leave it unpaired but with battery making contact, if so will it go to some kind of sleep mode instead of pairing mode after a while ? Can you unpair an airtag from your apple id and use it with a completely different device and apple id – if you can, does it have to be in pairing range ? in bluetooth range ? Can it even be decoupled without being around you and it will receive the instructions via the apple user bluetooth network ?