Until the Tile Pro came along, the Chipolo Plus was one of the loudest trackers we found, and it offers good range and splash resistance. For that, you'll need to use the Chipolo Classic, which isn't as loud as the Plus. We put every key finder we review through a series of tests. To test the volume of the alarm, we bury the key finder in a clothes hamper filled with laundry and see how far we can walk away before the alarm becomes inaudible.
We also check to how long the alarm sounds before shutting off. To test range, we go to a public park and leave the key finder behind.
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We check every 10 feet until we lose the signal or can no longer hear the alarm. We also take note of how quickly the key finder re-establishes a connection with our phone once it's back in range. If a key finder promises a digital leash feature, we walk away, taking note of how long before we receive an out-of-range notification on our phone.
With some key finders now offering ranges beyond feet, we also go to a local football field and check ranges on those trackers. In addition to those tests, we take these factors into consideration when rating key finders.
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We consider the size and shape of each proximity sensor. We also look at the ease of inserting a new battery into those devices with replaceable batteries. We look at the design of the companion app for each key finder, and consider additional features such as two-way finding capabilities. We compare the volume of each key finder's alarm, giving extra consideration to key finders that are louder. We consider how far away we can get from a key finder before it loses its connection with our phone. We also pay attention to how quickly that connection gets re-established once we're back in range.
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We look at how long the batteries powering the devices last, and whether or not you could replace them yourself. Whether or not a key finder features a user-replaceable battery is one way these devices stand out from each other, though Tile is responding to customer demand by adding trackers with replaceable batteries to its product lineup. The Chipolo Plus still lacks a replaceable battery, though, instead offering replacement programs where you can buy a new device at a discounted rate after a year.
Other trackers we review let the user swap out the battery after it dies, which is about six months in most cases. Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. It does have a very cool feature that none of the other reviewed apps have, which is a panic button that allows you to initiate a phone or VOIP call to a designated number, or send a notification in case of emergency. Lookout is an interesting hybrid of finder app and security product. It will locate your phone via GPS, and push a message to your phone.
Lookout also allows you to initiate a call to the phone remotely, or to make a call to a designated list of friends.
You can also set it to sound an alarm, and you can remotely access and manage your phone over the web, which is an impressive feature for a free app. Its more security-oriented features include making a backup of your contact list, sending a notice if someone attempts to jailbreak the phone, if your phone is connected to unsecured WiFi, or if your OS is out of date.
Presumably these notifications are intended for the user of the phone rather than sending an email if a thief tries to perform these actions. Hidden is perhaps the most basic finder app in this list. It will try to locate your device via GPS, WiFi or cell tower triangulation, depending on what functionality is available on your Mac. In most situations, this will just be WiFi. It will try to locate your device via GPS, WiFi or cell tower triangulation, depending on what is available on the device.
The laptop version allows you to take a photo with the webcam, plus screenshot and keylogs to help you identify the thief. Perhaps the most useful feature of the laptop version is that it allows you to send a fake hardware error message that will lock your screen so that the thief will be forced to take your laptop in for repair.
Six apps and trackers to find your lost gadgets
You can then set the message to indicate that the laptop has been stolen. The mobile version is unique in that it does not run in the background and requires that the thief run the application. Undercover also sends data via SSL so that it is encrypted in transit. It also gives you the option of a free version or a Pro version for a monthly subscription price.
The phone-based versions will try to locate your device via GPS, WiFi or cell tower triangulation, and will notify you when the phone makes a significant location change. Like other finder apps, it allows you to take photos with the front-facing camera, push a message to the phone, and activate an alarm. The paid version allows you to receive location notification on demand, take photos, and upgrades the transmission of your data to SSL.
Lost Remote Control Finder.
The laptop version adds a few additional features. Like other laptop finder programs, it also allows you to take screenshots. LoJack for Laptops seems to be the most expensive app for protecting your laptop of the options reviewed, especially relative to its feature set. I include Last Alert Pro , which is only nominally a finder product, because I find it to be kind of a brilliant idea with application well beyond trying to recover lost or stolen devices. Have you ever found yourself wandering around trying to find your phone, only to have it run out of battery before you found it again?
This app simply sounds an alarm just before the battery runs out. Lastly, in case you do lose your gadget with no finder app install, there is one little trick using Dropbox that might help you determine the device's IP so that you can try to locate it.
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Are there any other device locator apps or programs that you really like? Share them in the comments!