AirTags Are the Best Thing to Happen to Tile

On April 20, Apple blew Tile’s business out of the water. The announcement of AirTags presented Tile, founded in 2012, with a direct, if not better, rival for its main product line. Tile’s tiny trackers, which people attach to keys, bags, and bicycles, have been a hit, bringing in $40 million in investment this September and sending revenues soaring by 50 percent in the first half of 2021.

However, when AirTags hit stores in May of this year, Tile CEO CJ Prober hit out at his company’s new, supersized rival. Prober claimed Apple was a “runaway monopoly train,” adding that while Tile “welcomes competition from Apple,” it has to be fair competition.

Tile’s grievances range from how Apple had supposedly restricted Tile’s access to the “Find My” network to the alleged deterioration of its previously close relationship—Tile trackers used to be available to buy on the Apple Store, and now they are not. As far as Prober was concerned, Apple was coming for his lunch. Six months later, Tile released its latest Mate, Pro, Sticker, and Slim trackers. Tile Ultra, its first ultrawideband (UWB) tracker—the same “GPS on the living-room scale” tech inside AirTags—is on its way early next year.

Often Apple’s entrance can legitimize a sector, just as it did with smartwatches. Has this happened with trackers now that it has jumped into that market? According to Prober, business is rosy. “We’ve sold over 40 million Tiles. Revenue was up in the first half of the year. Third-party product activations, a big focus of ours, we’re up over 200 percent year over year. Business is good.”

But disquiet remains. Prober still isn’t happy with Apple and says that Apple’s actions have hit his business in a way that’s hard to take. “We’re seeing really strong business momentum—despite the unfair competition from Apple.” It wasn’t long ago that you could buy Tile’s products on the Apple Store, notes Prober. “And then, very quickly, we got kicked out of their stores. They implemented a number of changes to their platform that deprecated our experience, as they were launching their new Find My experience. Despite all of that, and despite Apple self-preferencing, business is good—but, obviously, it’s better if we are competing fairly.”

Apple AirTags
Photograph: Apple

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/tile-trackers-apple-airtags