You don’t consider yourself the forgetful type, yet somehow you can’t seem to find your smartphone on a daily basis.
It’s not unusual to misplace your car keys or reading glasses (which are on your head). And wasn’t your wallet on the kitchen counter a moment ago?
OK, so maybe you’ve had a lot on your mind, these days. After all, we’re still grappling with a global pandemic and not quite out of the woods yet.
The good news, however, is technology can help you find your stuff. From tiny trackers and handy apps to personal assistants that can lend a helping hand, today’s software and hardware might be all you need to locate everything from your car in a crowded mall parking lot to the TV remote stuck between sofa cushions.
And finally, there’s some help out there for finding your lost prescription eyeglasses when you’ve already confirmed they’re not on your head. The bad news: They’re currently sold out as of this writing and they only fit on frames with thick temple arms (think Ray-Ban Wayfarers).
Wouldn’t it be great if you could attach a teeny thingamajig to all your things? If you couldn’t find something, you simply could open an app or use your voice to see where it is.
While Apple just launched its own AirTags, the Tile family of trackers has been around for a few years and is best known. Attach the square Tile Mate ($19 each or $60 for a package of four) onto everyday items such as house keys, a purse, suitcase, briefcase, or wallet.
If you can’t find something, open the app and tap the name of the item, such as “Marc’s keys” or “Kellie’s purse.” The Tile will ring loudly up to 200 feet away and show you the item’s last known location on a map.
On the flip side, if you can’t find your phone, double-press an activated Tile Mate to make your lost phone ring — even if you’ve set it to silent.
Available in several colors, the Tile Pro models ($30 each, $60 for two, or $100 for a 4-pack) also use Bluetooth, are more durable and have a range of up to 400 feet.
The newest members of the family are Tile Sticker ($40 for 2 or $60 for a package of four), which are much smaller, waterproof, adhesive-backed trackers that work up to 150 feet — ideal to affix on the back of a TV remote – while Tile Slim ($25) is a thin credit card-shaped tracker to slip into luggage tags, wallets and other hidden spots. It works up to 200 feet away.
While your odds of finding lost stuff drops considerably if it’s outside the house – as the technology relies on Bluetooth — the network of Tile owners can be leveraged to help. Once an item is marked as lost, if any opt-in member spots the missing item, the owner can be automatically notified with its location.
Apple launched its own tile trackers a couple of weeks ago, offering ultra-wideband support (for added accuracy), voice search through Siri, and integration with the FindMy app.
Similar to Tile, Apple launched its circular AirTags last month ($29 for 1 or $99 for 4). Along with Bluetooth, Apple’s solution also utilizes UWB (ultra-wideband) technology to help find missing items, which operate on higher frequencies and offers better spatial and directional data, for “precision tracking. UWB is available on smartphones including iPhone 11, and iPhone 12. These tags also work with the Find My app, and support Siri voice activation.
As a downside, there is no direct way to attach Apple’s trackers to an item unless you pick up an accessory.
Other trackers, such as the Nutale Focus Smart Tracker ($20) and Samsung’s SmartTag tracker ($30), also use cellular connectivity to locate items outside the home. it’s only compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy phones running Android 8.0 or later.
For pets, you might opt for a GPS-based solution, such as the Findster Duo+ ($149), a real-time dog or cat tracker that shows your distance from your pet. In fact, you can add an invisible “geo-fence” around your home, so you’ll be notified immediately on your smartphone if your pets leave that space. There are no monthly fees.
Endorsed by Cesar Milan, a.k.a. “The Dog Whisperer,” the Halo Collar ($799) is a much more robust solution for medium and large dogs (and with neck sizes 11 inches and bigger). You can create virtual fences wherever you go (for instance, a new dog park) by walking the perimeter with your collar or by using the app. An accompanying Halo plan (from $2.70/month) is required to enable data storage for virtual fences, GPS location services, activity tracking, and (depending upon the plan you choose) premium training content and new premium features (plans go all the way up to $30/month).
Free services such as Apple’s Find My and Find My Device for Android phones and tablets can help you find lost devices.
Should your phone become lost or stolen, you can remotely lock it if you don’t have a passcode on it already; display a message, “Please call me for a reward,” wipe its data clean; or track it on an online map. But you need to set this up ahead of time.
When you realize your phone is missing, you’ll need to log in on another device or web browser on a computer with the same account name and password as your phone.
For the tracking to work, the device will need to be turned on; connected to the internet, either through a cellular carrier or Wi-Fi; and operating with at least some charge remaining in the battery. If all is set up correctly, you should see its last known location.
If your phone was stolen, never try to retrieve it on your own. Instead, contact police with the information, such as the address where your device was last located.
If you’ve ever had trouble remembering where you parked in a busy shopping mall, outside a concert or at an amusement park, free apps can help you retrace the steps back to your vehicle. iPhones allow you to use the built-in Maps app to do the job, but you’ll need to set up the feature ahead of time.
In a nutshell, enable Location Services and Significant Locations: Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations. Next, you’ll want to enable Show Parked Location by going to Settings > Maps > Show Parked Location.
Make sure that your iPhone is paired to your vehicle’s CarPlay or Bluetooth. If you can’t find your car, open the Apple Maps app, tap the Search field, then choose Parked Car from the suggestions list. Tap Directions and choose Drive, Ride, Transit or Walk.
For Android or iPhone users, Google Maps can do the trick. You can save your parking location so you can remember where you left your car.
Can’t remember where you parked? Activate the parking mode on your favorite map app (like Google Maps, pictured here) to help find your vehicle later on.
Open the Google Maps app on your phone or tablet, tap the blue dot that shows your location. Tap “Set as parking location.”
Your parking location will be saved in Google Maps until you remove it. You also can add notes about your parking location by tapping the Label button and typing in the spot number. And if you drop your partner or kid off before parking, you can also share your parking location so they can find their way back to the car.
When you need to find your vehicle, open the Google Maps app, go to the bottom of the screen and tap Saved parking > Show on map.
Do you live in a town where the parking enforcement agents lie in wait for your meter to expire so they can slap a ticket on your windshield? Use the ParkMobile app, which lets you set a timer — and, if you choose, a warning to give you time to feed the meter remotely if you haven’t exhausted the limit for the spot
Smart speakers, too
Finally, you might use your smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Nest (both starting at $30), for playing music, setting kitchen timers or reading the news. But these devices also will remember where you’ve placed important things — if you tell it while the location is fresh in your mind.
Say something like “OK, Google,” or “Alexa,” and then “Remember my passport is in the small drawer in the kitchen.” In the future, ask “Where’s my passport?” and your smart speaker will tell you where it is and on what date you mentioned the reminder.
Even if you didn’t put away your smartphone on purpose — perhaps it slipped out of your pocket when you bent down to untie a pair of shoes — you can ask your personal digital assistant to find it. When you set up your smart speaker via the proper app, it became linked to your phone.
Say, “OK, Google, find my phone,” or “Alexa, Find My Phone,” and listen for that sweet sound. Your phone will ring even if you’re set to Do Not Disturb.