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Verizon today began selling the $99.99 Verizon Smart Locator, a small device that can be kept with your keys, purse or other items (or pets) you never want to lose. Like the Samsung SmartThings Tracker sold by AT&T, Verizon’s new gadget uses a combination of Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi-based positioning (WPS) and LTE coverage “for pinpoint accuracy wherever your cellular network is present.”
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Unlike Tile, which requires you to be in Bluetooth range to find an item it’s attached to that’s missing, Verizon says the smart locator will work even if you’re not near it. (Tile also has a community-based feature that alerts you if another tile owner passes by your lost item.)
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The companion Smart Locator Hub app for smartphones lets you adjust the frequency of location pings—doing fewer of them will help save battery—and set other options like geofencing (perhaps for a dog in your yard) or add up to 10 trusted contacts who will also be able to check where the locator is if there is a situation where you cannot do so.
A smart locator is not a full-featured LTE device like your smartphone or smartwatch. Instead, it uses LTE-M technology and requires less bandwidth on Verizon’s network. The carrier says it will maintain a signal and be able to report your location in all Verizon LTE coverage areas — but you’ll be out of luck if the locator ends up in roaming territory and won’t help you internationally. (The Bluetooth function is assumed to still work at least in these cases.)
As for battery life, the maximum standby time is estimated at 5 days. But Verizon uses pretty generous settings like “3-hour ping rates and a 12-hour daily sleep setting” to achieve that number. The smart locator can get up to 120 hours of “use time”. But then again, real-time location tracking and frequent pings to see where something is will likely drain the battery quickly.
In contrast, the Tile Pro tracker has a range limit of 300 feet. But it’s also a fraction of the $30 price tag and doesn’t require a recurring service plan. Verizon will give you a free year to track with Smart Locator, but after that you’ll have to pay $3 a month. (AT&T charges $5 a month for its SmartThings Tracker, but also gives buyers a free year.)
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Apple is rumored to be working on a tile-like tracking device that will integrate with the company’s Find My app, which can already determine where you’ve left your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Since iOS 13, the Find My Friends and Find My iPhone apps have been combined into one. The code in the first beta version of Apple’s upcoming iOS update points to an unreleased “Tag” product, which is likely to be the tracking gadget.
Since carriers are so careless about your personal location information, the least they can do is help you find your stuff.
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