Finders & Trackers vs. Phone Reminders
Updated: Feb 27
Trackers and Finder Devices
Trackers (finders) like Apple AirTag, Samsung SmartTag, and Tile are small battery-powered Bluetooth® devices attached to frequently lost items like car keys, TV remotes, bags, or pets. They help you locate the items after you have lost or misplaced them. Determining the last-known finder device location is accomplished by a finder phone application displaying the last-known location the phone was in Bluetooth® communication (range) with the tracker device. If the phone and tracker are near each other (within Bluetooth® range), the phone finder application can cause the tracker to play a sound to help locate the tracker.
If the tracker and attached item have moved, the last-known location might not help you find the tracker. Additionally, if the finder application wasn't running to record the location, the last known location may be severely out-of-date. Other phones running the same finder application can locate your tracker when near it, reporting the tracker location to the finder application running on your phone.
When Apple released the AirTag, the finder application was built into the Apple phone via the Apple's Find My feature. Dramatically increasing the number of phones which could find a lost tracker device to all iPhones finding all Find My compatible tracker devices. Both the built-in finder application and a separately running finder application utilize the phone location services such as GPS, which are very power-intensive.
So now you know how trackers work, regardless of the brand; Apple AirTag, Samsung SmartTag, Tile, Chipolo, Nut, Cube, or SpotyPal. There are numerous competing trackers, each with differentiating features such as direction-finding phone apps (Apple Find My). They all help you locate the item after you have lost it; the tracker device, and the associated item.
Another feature often available or available with a paid subscription with a tracker and its application, are separation alerts. These are reminders your phone and tracker device have separated. Some brands offer two-way separation alerts. If the phone and tracker device is out of Bluetooth® range or is not connected, a separation alert plays on both the phone (application) and tracker; a reminder. AirTag, Tile, Chipolo, and others offer at least a separation alert on the phone you have left the tracker device (and associated item) behind. Some brands even offer an alert on the device when you have left the phone behind or both.
Although good in concept, a tracker which is a locate after being lost type device does not perform as well to remind you before it is lost. The Apple Find My feature can alert you (notification) when you have left an AirTag behind, but it is usually a long time afterward. Other brands trackers can alert you when you leave your phone behind. They are plagued by false alerts and require their application with battery draining location services to be running on the phone. A perusal of tracker reviews on Amazon tells the story of disappointment when people want a reliable phone reminder device to alert them before leaving their phone behind.
Phone Reminder Devices - PRDs
Prox Devices® makes the Phone Reminder Device (Prox PRD®). It is not a tracker and does not require a phone application tracking your location, a subscription, or registration invading your privacy. It simply alerts you before you get too far away from your phone. Although simple in concept, making a reliable phone reminder device (Prox PRD) required thousands of hours of engineering and user testing.
To give you an example, if a traditional tracker is in two-way separation alert mode during a middle-of-the-night OS update, the phone and Bluetooth® are off during part of the update causing the finder to alert in the middle of the night. Even if the tracker was attached to your car keys in another part of your home and you didn't hear it alert, there is still a problem. If you retrieve the car keys with the attached tracker and walk out the door during the time when the phone is not functioning, such as during an update or because of battery dead, you would not receive an alert you are leaving your phone behind.
If instead, you had a Prox PRD, you would not receive a middle-of-the-night alert. Additionally, you would receive an alert when you picked up your keys if the Prox PRD could not find your phone if the phone was in the middle of an OS update, or even if it was off because you forgot to plug the phone into the charger.
It is solving examples like the above which required thousands of hours of engineering and testing to make the first reliable phone reminder device, the Prox PRD®.