Category Archives: Bluetooth

What’s the best Bluetooth tracker for Android?

Arriving in Spring 2021, Apple’s beautiful AirTags shook the Bluetooth tracker market in a way that only Apple can, by combining great design with large market share to create an almost irresistible product. When every iPad and iPhone is looking out for your AirTag, it’s a fantastic proposition.

For those of us Android users on the other side of the mobile fence, it’s a different situation. Samsung is probably the only OEM which could mount a viable challenge to Apple: it’s top dog worldwide, though Xiaomi and OPPO are snapping at its heels. Both Samsung and Xiaomi do have Bluetooth trackers in their portfolio but I’ve only ever seen the Samsung SmartTags.

The Bluetooth tracker marker is a tough one. I was a big fan of TrackR for years but they shut up shop in 2021. Those with long memories will recall that they were one of the first big Indiegogo successes and were feted at CES back in 2015, though they’d been in operation for longer. I reviewed the Mynt Tracker in 2017: a stylish Red dot-winning product but it too has gone. I would imagine Tile is the longest lasting of these companies, starting out in 2012 and still going, though it’s recently been taken over by Life360. Chipolo is only slightly younger than Tile, going back to 2013.

So today I’m looking at Bluetooth trackers from Tile, Chipolo and Samsung from the perspective of an Android owner. What’s the best for returning my gear when it’s been misplaced? Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Tile has the widest range of the three suppliers on review here with four different trackers. Sticker (£25), for sticking to things such as a laptop or remote control; Slim (£21), for keeping in wallet; Mate (£20) for attaching to key rings or bags and Pro (£30) for long-range tracking. Disappointingly, only the Pro has user-replaceable battery: that’s not the way to go in this age of reducing electronic waste and I can’t find anything about recycling on their website. The previous generation of Mates did have a replaceable battery and that’s the one on test here. Plus points go to Tile for producing plenty of special editions throughout the year in different colours.

Chipolo has four trackers in its product line up, though really they’re variants of only two models, a wallet card and a round tag. Chipolo’s Spot range is designed to work with Apple’s Find My feature and the non-Spot variants of the Chipolo ONE (£22) and Chipolo CARD (£30) work with the Chipolo app, which available for both Android and iOS. Confused? As we’re only talking about Android we don’t have to worry. The Chipolo ONE comes in plenty of colours and has a user replaceable battery. The CARD battery can’t be swapped out but recycling through Chipolo entitles you to replacement at half price.

Samsung has two trackers in the range, the SmartTag and the SmartTag+. The former is your basic Bluetooth tracker whereas the latter is equipped with UWB (ultrawide band) which allows an augmented reality app to direct you straight to the missing tag. A SmartTag costs around £25 but the plus ones are closer to £40, though discounts are available for packs of two or four.  Samsung doesn’t have a card-style tracker for wallets but points in the SmartTags favour are a range of colours and replaceable batteries.

Samsung’s SmartTags integrate with SmartThings and appear as a device with the smart home system. However, this brings me to their biggest failing. The SmartTags only work with Samsung phones and tablets. If you are sporting anything else, you’ll get a message saying, “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” If you are fully invested with Samsung and live where Samsung is popular, these could well be the trackers for you. For anyone with an Apple, OnePlus, Motorola, OPPO or Xiaomi phone these are totally useless. I think this is a big fail from Samsung as I would otherwise be keen personally due to the integration with SmartThings.

However, if you are in the Samsung world, this devices do appear to work well and as will be seen from Test 3 there are enough Samsung phones out there to make tracking lost items a real possibility.

The Tests
I conducted three tests with all three trackers to see how they each perform. Test 1 was a simple loudness test to check the tracker would be heard from down the back of the sofa. All three passed this test with flying colours and no real discernible difference between trackers.

Test 2 was a simple range test: how far away could the tracker be before it lost touch with the phone (or in this case a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6) in free air. Each tracker’s “Find my phone” feature was used to ensure a working connection and I didn’t simply rely on what the app said: the tracker had to be able to ring the tablet.

First place goes to both the Samsung SmartTag and the Tile Mate. Both managed to maintain a connection at 100 m (at which point I ran out of road). Bring up the rear was the Chipolo One. It lost connection at around 50 m which was disappointing as the specs say 60 m.

Test 3 involved putting the tracker into the postal system to see whether a lost tracker was ever picked up by someone else. I wasn’t terribly confident that this test was going to work at all but happily I was proved wrong. Each tracker was put in a padded envelope and dropped in a post box outside of a popular shopping centre. They went in the post box late on Saturday knowing that they wouldn’t get collected until Monday, maximising the chances of the signals being detected by strangers.

The expected path of the trackers in the postal system should have been:

  1. Post box
  2. Collection depot
  3. Sorting office
  4. Delivery hub
  5. Home

The Chipolo One performed the worst. It was only detected by myself in the post box and when it finally arrived home. It was not detected at any time within the postal system. Obviously there aren’t any other Chipolo users in the area.

The Samsung SmartTag easily performed the best. It was detected quickly in every location and sometimes while on the road between the sites. This undoubtedly reflects the large number of Samsung phone users out and about – there’s easily as many Samsung users as Apple users here in Northern Ireland.

The Tile Mate came somewhere in the middle. The Mate was detected in every location but always after the Samsung was picked up and fewer times. It was never detected between the main locations. Frankly, I was surprised at the outcome given that Tile isn’t a phone manufacturer and has to rely on Tile users, not phone owners.

A commanding win by Samsung with a good show by Tile.

To bring the test to a close, here are my recommendations.

  • Forget Chipolo. The range was the shortest and it was never once picked up while in the postal system. There’s not a critical mass of users to make it effective.
  • If you are in the Samsung ecosystem, go with the SmartTags – it’s a no brainer. Range was excellent and the SmartTag was picked up by Samsung Galaxy devices on multiple occasions during its trip through the post. The Tag was detected in at all the locations plus a few times between locations. It’s a real shame that Samsung doesn’t allow its use with other vendors’ phones.
  • Tile is a worthy contender. The range was as good as the SmartTag and the Mate was detected in two locations by others. If you aren’t into Apple or Samsung, this is the one for you but there’s that pesky £30 subscription cost for features that others offer for free. And don’t forget the current Tile Mates don’t have replaceable batteries, so that’s another big cost every few years.

With hindsight, the postal test was going to be an easy win for Samsung. There are loads of people with Samsung phones and my guess is that the tracking features are built-in to the phones – someone doesn’t have to own a SmartTag to contribute to the search effort, they only need a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever and pass by.

In contrast, only people who have Tile trackers will have the Tile software installed, which makes it even more surprising that the Mate was found as often as it was. If you are thinking of going with Tile, the big downside is that Tile charges a subscription fee of nearly £30 to get the most of out of the trackers and the current Tile Mates don’t have user replaceable batteries.

Personally, I’m disappointed with Samsung too. I’m bought into the SmartThings ecosystem and the SmartTags fit into it nicely but I can’t use the Tags with my OnePlus 9 phone which makes them pointless for everyday tracking. It’s actually doubly bad in that I can’t even see the current location of the Tag in SmartThings even when it’s being detected by a different device. You just get a final “SmartTag is only supported on Galaxy devices running Android 8 or higher.” Come on Samsung, do they right thing and setup SmartTags on other phones.

That’s it. Samsung SmartTags competes well with Apple AirTags, and Tile’s available for everyone else.


Dial It Up with the Flic Twist

Flic has featured in GNC a couple of times in the past and for those unfamiliar, Flic is an automation system that focusses on small push buttons to trigger actions. They’re really rather handy. Want to turn on the lights? Push a Flic button. Want to play music from Spotify on your Sonos? Push a Flic button. Personally, I use a Flic button in the bedroom for those times when you get into bed and realise that you’ve forgotten to turn off the overhead light.

Flic 2 hub and four buttonsUnusually, the Flic system uses Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi or Zigbee but it does mean a lower cost of entry as Flic can be used with a smartphone or tablet without the need for a hub (although a hub is available too to avoid the reliance on the phone being in the home). The buttons typically cost around UK£20-£25 depending on how many you buy at a time.

I did a review of their first generation back in 2017, but since then they’ve grown both the hardware and their ecosystem with interfaces to IFTTT, Slack, Microsoft Flow, Philips Hue and Samsung SmartThings, to name a few. The second generation hub can work an IR blaster to control TVs and AV equipment, and the newer buttons are a bit more robust.

The Flic buttons can be programmed with actions triggered from three different behaviours: single press, double press and press & hold. For example, if you had a room with two lights, a single press could turn on one light; a double press could turn on the other; and press & hold could turn on both. It’s also possible to chain actions together – you’re not restricted to only one thing. Unsurprisingly, there’s a Flic app that helps with all the programming.

But that’s all old news as Flic has announced a new controller called the Flic Twist. Simplistically, it’s a central button with an outer dial – press it, rotate it, or press and rotate.

I really like the design of the Twist: while it’s bigger than the Flic buttons, it looks smart and modern. The tactile rotation makes controlling volume or brightness so much easier. It’s a feature that has been missing from the (smart home) market and “how-to-use-it” is somewhat self-evident as we’re familiar with turning dimmer switches.

It’ll be available in two colourways; matte black and frost white, with twelve little LEDs round the button visually showing the rotation. It’s powered by two AAA batteries that should last for two years and the Twist is magnetic which is great for fridges. Finally, while the Twist will be compatible with existing Flic Hubs, there’s a tiny new Flic Hub Mini too – it’s really small!

The Flic Twist and Hub Mini are launching on 2nd November at 1700 GMT / 1800 CET with pre-orders through Kickstarter. The RRP for the Twist is €99, but there will be plenty of early bird deals available which will significantly reduce the price, especially when buying more than one Twist.

Jingle All The Way with a Bluetooth Bauble Speaker

Looking for the final decoration to finish off dressing your O Christmas Tree? Well take a look, or rather a listen, to the Accelerate Holiday Tunes bauble with Bluetooth speaker. Connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth and instead of a Silent Night you’ll be Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. The decoration comes in four different colours – Red, Gold, Green and Silver Bells.

The 200 mAh battery will Jingle Bells for about two hours before needing a charge via the supplied USB cable. There’s a microUSB charging port on the back and it takes a similar amount time recharge. You could go for a Sleigh Ride while you’re waiting.

Avoiding a Blue Christmas is straightforward. Hold down the power button to put the bauble into pairing mode and look for HOLIDAY TUNES in the Bluetooth settings of your smartphone. Once paired up, any music played on the phone from Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes, etc. will come out the Holiday Tunes bauble. It’s not worth Driving Home for Christmas just to hear the music but the sound quality’s better than you’d imagine. There’s a hanging loop for putting the bauble on the tree.

The Holiday Tunes bauble is available from, priced at around GB£12-£15 (the price changes a little). You may find it cheaper in store too – try Home Bargains. It’s kitsch Christmas fun so even if it’s a White Christmas and It’s Cold Outside, you’ll have a Holly Jolly Christmas with your favourite tunes.

More in the YouTube video below. It really is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Disclaimer: This was a personal purchase.

Flic Gets Smarter with Flic Hub at CES 2018

Flic‘s smart Bluetooth buttons will be familiar to GNC readers as I reviewed them back in 2017. To be honest, the buttons aren’t that smart but it’s the clever smartphone software that does all the cool stuff. Consequently, if the Flic button is out of range of the owner’s smartphone, it’s somewhat useless. Fortunately Flic recognised this and announced an Indiegogo campaign for a Flic Hub that would take away the reliance on a nearby smartphone. Todd clicks with Elin to find out what’s new at Flic.

The new Flic Hub removes the need for a nearby smartphone in a home or office environment and lets Flic smart buttons integrate more closely with other automation and process management systems. Flic is looking to grow in the enterprise with customers focusing in the safety and hospitality industries.

The Hub can communicate with more Flic buttons so in theory, there could be hundreds of buttons in a location, and the integrity of the overall system is improved without dependence on the smartphone vendors. This creates a more reliable and dependable platform that enterprise customers are looking for, taking Flic beyond smart buttons.

The Flic Hub is expected to go on-sale shortly.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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Mynt Bluetooth Tracker Review

Going by a recent report in The Guardian people misplace their stuff all too frequently. Bluetooth trackers tap into our forgetfulness and it’s a big market with several popular brands, each with their own particular feature set. On review here we have Mynt tracker from Slightech, aiming for a stylish yet feature-rich device. Let’s take a look.

The Mynt comes in a small transparent box so that as the outer sleeve slips off, you can see the Mynt inside. Opening the box gives access to the tracker, instructions, a keyring and a spare battery (CR2020), which is a nice touch. The tracker itself is a little like a military dog tag, measuring 55 x 25 x 3 mm. That’s about 2 1/4″ x 1″ x 1/8″. The outer surfaces are brushed steel and there’s a black strip on the top surface for a button and a red LED. The battery compartment has a locking mechanism to stop the battery coming out accidentally, but battery holder is a bit flimsy. The design won a prestigious Red Dot Award in 2016 and IF Design Award in 2017.

Getting going with the Mynt involves downloading the software from the relevant app store. I was testing on Android so it’s a 55MB download from Google Play. First thing the app wants you to do is to setup an account – it’s the usual email and password affair. Once that’s done, the Mynt app takes you through adding the Mynt tracker to your account, with some helpful pictures.

Once connected, the app lets you choose a picture for the thing you are tracking, and you can adjust three settings for separation alerts. This is for when you want to keep an eye on something very important and expect to have it nearby all the time. In this instance, when the tracker goes out of Bluetooth range of the smartphone, the alarm goes off alerting you to the situation. The feature can be turned off too if you simply want to know where something is.

The alarm itself is a relatively strong tune: it’s not a blaring alarm but noticeable enough. It’s always difficult to quantify but you can hear the alarm from the Mynt tracker when it’s in a wallet inside a trouser pocket in room where there’s gentle conversation going on. You’re not going to hear it in a noisy bar.

The alarms can be triggered manually too. Pressing an on-screen button in the Mynt app will sound the alarm on the Mynt tracker and pressing the button in the middle of the tracker will do the reverse. Great for finding keys down the back of the sofa.

Of course if you’ve lost the tracker (or more accurately, the thing attached to the tracker), the Mynt app will show the last known position of the tracker on a map. Once you’re in range, the icon changes colour to show a connection and then you can trigger the alarm.

Overall, the tracking and separation features worked as expected but neither the app nor the tracker were the snappiest at responding. Sometimes, the alarm wouldn’t ring the first time, but hit the button or the icon again and it would. Having said that the Mynt genuinely helped me find a lost item. I though it was at home, but the Mynt tracker showed me that the missing thing was in work and I found it there. Good job.

Sadly, I can’t say good things about the Mynt’s remote control features. To summarise, the Mynt can be switched into a remote control mode where the button on the tracker can be used to activate and control apps. For example, it can be used as a camera shutter button or to control music – one press is play, two presses is next track, three presses is back a track. I couldn’t get this feature to work at all. To start with, it appeared that the Mynt had to reboot into remote control mode and once done, had to boot back into tracker mode. Even when in remote control mode, I couldn’t get the button to do anything.

While we’re discussing the bad points of the Mynt tracker, the next is a “two-in-one”. The standard of English in the app could be better as evidenced by “Your account has been logined at others”, which brings us neatly the second part. As this error suggests, you can’t be logged into the Mynt app on two different devices at the same time. Why not? Competing tracking devices don’t have a problem here. And overall, the app’s just a bit clunky and unresponsive in places – I was using the Android version.

Pricing is around GB£20 on, depending on Mynt colour – there’s steel, gold, blue and black variants. US pricing is around $20 too, though there are discounts when buying more than one tracker.

Rounding up, I’m afraid that the Mynt is an also-ran in the Bluetooth tracker race. Yes, it works as expected (remote control excepting) and it looks great, but there are other trackers at a similar price with better apps and features. Look further.

Setup video below.

Thanks to Slightech for providing the Mynt tracker for review.

Hooked by iClever Bluetooth Headphones

With the new BTH20, iClever‘s improved both the fit and audio quality for its next generation of Bluetooth wireless earphones. These headphones are a good match for my ears and the soft silicon rubber hooks keep them in place during the most vigorous exercise, so I like them. Let’s take a look a closer look and see what iClever’s done; we might even listen to them too.

Starting with the fit, the new headphones achieve better comfort by maximising the contact surface. Additionally, by using an offset for the inwards leaning hook, it lines up better with the ear folds. The outer part of the earbud is a small cylinder that is half covered in silicon rubber and fills out the ear a little bit more than usual. The thin hook comes out from the far end of the cylinder and the narrowness lets it get into the folds and creases. In my humble opinion, these are the best earbuds at staying in place but obviously people’s ears vary a good deal so YMMV, as they say.

Both the earbud itself and the ear hook part can be switched for different sizes – the BTH20 comes with three of each, say, small, medium and large, meaning that there are nine possible combinations for the best aural fit. The headphones are very light too at only 13g (says the spec sheet). Fitness fans will be pleased to hear that the ‘phones are sweat resistant. Give them a wipe down after a session but don’t dunk them in the sink.

The left and right earphones are connected via a round cable with an inline control close to the right ear. The three buttons on the control manage volume, music and phone calls, though some of button combinations can be challenging to get right. Additionally, the control houses the microUSB port for charging and there’s a very small status LED which can be orange or white depending on activity. There’s a short tangle-free USB to microUSB cable for charging in the box. Battery life is quoted at 8 hours, which seems about right based on the couple of afternoons I listened on the earphones without recharging.

Pairing the headphones with a smartphone was straightforward (as it should be) and I did notice that the BTH20 were quick to establish a connection when turned on. For telephone calls, callers came through to me clear and I didn’t have any complaints from them about hearing me, which you’d expect with noise-cancelling phones. I still always find it a little disconcerting to hear people in both ears….

Finally, let’s take a listen. It’s time for the summer hits and without a doubt, Despacito is the summer hit of 2017, sitting at #1 in the UK and breaking the YouTube streaming record. And it sounds good on the BTH20, which really suits the big summer hits – there’s plenty of bass without overwhelming the vocals and well-defined treble keeps the hi-hats crisp. The BTH20 really delivers on those by-the-pool numbers – One Dance, Cheerleader, Get Lucky – they all sound fantastic.

Finally, the price. It’s GB£19.99 from and US$19.99 from which I think is very good value. Yes, there are cheaper Bluetooth headphones out there but the combination of fit and sound quality is hard to beat.

Any improvements?….colour other than black would be cool as these deserve to be noticed. Apparently there is a silver version but it’s currently unavailable.

Wrapping up, the iClever BTH20 Bluetooth headphones are currently my favourite headphones for “out and about”. The sound is good, the fit is great (for me) and the price is right. Perfect for the summer holidays! Put them in your bag.

Thanks to iClever for providing the BTH20 for review. Unboxing video below.


Sengled Smart Lights Honored at CES

Sengled has a history of winning awards at CES and this year is no exception with two Honorees in the ‘Best of Innovation’ and ‘Eco-design and Sustainable Technologies’ categories. The former was won by the Sengled Pulse Link, which is an interesting way of improving television audio with the need for wires or expensive  AV amplifiers.

By way of explanation, the Sengled Pulse is a Bluetooth-controlled LED lamp with a built-in speaker, so music can be streamed from a mobile phone or tablet to the Pulse. I’ve reviewed some of these lights and I’m not going to pretend that they’re hi-fi quality audio and just leave it at that. The Pulse Link adds a transmitter into the mix so the (rear surround) audio output from the TV is input to the Pulse Link, which then transmits to a pair of Sengled Pulse lamps. The Pulse lamps can be positioned conveniently near the TV viewer, bringing the soundtrack closer. The Pulse Link Starter Kit is US$199.

The second Honoree is the Sengled Element, which simplistically, is a hub-controlled LED smart bulb. What makes the Element a little bit different is a focus on green credentials and a promise by Sengled to plant a tree for every bulb, making the Element CO2 neutral. The complementary smartphone app shows the energy savings compared with incandescent lighting so owners can see how they’re saving the planet. Price for the Element Classic hasn’t been set, but the Element Plus Kit is $59.99 for hub and bulb. Bulbs are $17.99. The Element Plus bulbs (shown) have white colour-temperature tuning and dimmer switch compatibility.

And purely because I like the idea, I going to mention the Sengled Everbright. This is an LED lamp with a built-in battery providing over 3 hours of lighting in the event of a power cut. Impressively, the lights can tell the difference between normal on/off switching and a power failure. Very clever and perfect if you live with a less-than-stable electricity supply. US$19.99.

Sengled are at CES 2017 at the Sands Expo, Level 2 Hall A #41336.