Can Bluetooth Trackers Really Make Life Easier?

It’s officially the holidays, and everyone who’s not preparing dinner is on the road to somewhere that is. Travelling can be a headache, but there are two products I was sent this month that promise to help make it a little bit easier.

Tile and Zus are bluetooth trackers that connect to your phone and use proprietary apps to keep track of whatever you attach them to. Tiles come in wallet and keychain sizes, whereas Zus plugs into your car’s lighter socket.

I tried them out for a few weeks to find out how well they work.

Zus Smart Charger by Nonda ($29.99)

zus-smart-car-charger

The Zus smart car charger seems a bit pricey at $30, but not when you understand what it actually does. This is not your average 12V to 5V USB charger in a couple of ways.

First, Zus is a very sturdy USB charger capable of pushing 2.4A simultaneously to two USB charging ports, which is pretty good. It’s also well-lit, so it’s easy to see in the dark (something you’ll want to be aware of if using for stealth tracking, which we’ll discuss in a bit).

zus-charger

Another useful feature of Zus is the USB outlet can be used in any direction, so you save time on putting it in the wrong way the first time. It comes in handy when you’re trying to plug in your phone to charge before it dies and you lose GPS in the middle of nowhere.

Zus can withstand extreme temperatures, so there’s no problems leaving it plugged into your car while parked in the summer or winter, and you’ll want to leave it plugged in because, when used in tangent with the Zus app, it helps track where your car is whenever you park it.

On top of that, it also monitors the battery health to keep you aware of what’s going on. Some cars have this feature built-in, but many don’t. Either way, it’s nice to have.

The Zus app itself is pretty small, taking up a little over 50MB and never even approaching 100MB during regular use over several weeks. I do keep my cache as clean as possible though, so historical data never got too large.

Using Zus on a regular basis requires you to keep the app (and bluetooth) on at all times, which isn’t ideal for many users. However for situations such as a road trip or vacation, it’s a great way to keep track of where your car is in unfamiliar places.

Zus uses your phone’s GPS to track its location and when the engine is turned off, it saves that location for you to find it later. The design is simple and it worked every time I tried it, sending notifications and allowing me to set timers for parking meters, useful in major cities.

While it worked well everywhere I went, I haven’t had a chance yet to take it to Vegas or L.A., where I often find myself parking in garages that don’t allow for decent satellite and tower connections.

Some places actively geofence such things, and I do find myself parking in such places while on the road, but from my local travels, it did work where necessary.

Overall, Zus is a winner and well worth the $30 for a bit of travel insurance.

Tile Mate ($25) and Tile Slim ($30)

tile-bluetooth-tracker

Tile is another take on the bluetooth tracking system, and like Zus, it requires a proprietary app that sticks to the same 50-100MB range after a few weeks of daily usage.

You can actually use a Tile to track where you parked your car if you leave one in there, but it’s not necessarily competing with Zus, but rather supplementing it.

With Tile Mate, you can keep track of your keys as long as you have your phone or your smartphone as long as you have your keys. Pairing keys and a phone is nice because I typically have one or the other on me at all times when not in police custody.

Tile Slim is a bit larger, about the size of a few credit cards, and if fits nicely in most wallets and purses. You can also slip one in a friend’s pocket if their phone is broken to keep track of them.

Again you’ll have to keep bluetooth on at all times, which isn’t ideal for nonstop use, but it’s ok in small doses in different situations.

The more people you travel with, the harder it gets to keep track of everyone and everything, and Tiles are great devices to keep track of people, luggage, and even pets.

Final Thoughts

Both Tile and Zus offer bluetooth tracking, but Zus also acts as a USB charger and battery monitor, packing a few extra features into a simple device at the same cost.

The bluetooth proximity tracking of either device really depends on your phone, but works just as well with both devices, which each require a proprietary app to keep track of. The downside is you need to keep bluetooth open, which can create a few security issues and may not have the app on and tracking when you really need it.

Despite the limitations, both products are useful in temporary situations like keeping track of your stuff while traveling for the holidays.

Final Grade: Zus B+, Tile B 

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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