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From Apple’s AirTag to Dog Locators: Digital Trackers to Find Lost Valuables

Even if you’re returning to work or school, you needn’t return to the days when you frantically foraged for your wallet, phone and keys each morning. New digital tracking devices are affordable enough to stick or clip onto those water bottles your kids keep losing, and smart enough to detect if Harriet left hers in the trunk or the back seat.

Think of them as “a technological advancement on classic memory supports,” said Trinity College Dublin psychology professor Annalisa Setti, more effective than, say, hanging your keys on the same hook every day or struggling to retrace your steps.

Not all trackers, however, are created equal. Here, a look at three of the most popular, from Apple’s sleekly designed AirTags to geolocators for your beloved mutt.




For Apple Geeks


Once you tuck this bottle-cap-size device into your wallet, you can use the same Find My app that helps locate a lost iPhone to check whether your credit cards are still at the restaurant or left in a subway. The Bluetooth-enabled AirTag piggybacks onto the connection of Apple devices in its proximity to help triangulate its whereabouts. If your wallet’s stuck between couch cushions, meanwhile, you’ll be able to exploit the app’s close-range Precision Finding feature, converting your newer iPhone into a compass that points you a little to the left, right or upstairs. ($29,

Attach a $29 Apple AirTag to your stuff and you can use your iPhone to locate it when it goes missing. WSJ’s Joanna Stern put the new gadget up against a drug-detection dog and other lost-item trackers, like the Tile Pro, in a series of indoor and outdoor challenges. Photo illustration: Laura Porat for The Wall Street Journal

For the Cost-Conscious

Tile Sticker

The Sticker functions much like the AirTag, using its own Tile app to tell you where you left your luggage, but it’ll play nice with either iOS or Android phones. The battery lasts three years to Apple’s one. (Crucial since you likely won’t know a tracker is dead until you’re trying to locate the item it’s attached to.) And while the Tile’s sticky back will affix to anything, the AirTag, when it can’t be tucked, must be inserted in a sticky case (sold separately) or a case with key ring attached. The cheapest tracker we tested, the Sticker can be affixed more affordably to all your valuables, but it has limitations. Unlike Apple’s device, which can triangulate using any nearby iPhone, the Sticker relies on your tracker being within close proximity of one of the 35 million Tiles in use world-wide: a problem if you dare venture outside a densely packed city. ($40 for two,

Whistle GO



For Anyone With a Dog

Whistle GO Explore

This GPS tracker, which attaches to your pet’s collar and pairs with a companion app, can help you locate Spot anywhere in North America using the same 4G LTE network that powers your phone. The GPS is able to work more quickly and accurately than Bluetooth trackers that rely on other phones, telling you via a dot on the app’s map where your runaway collie is. That access, however, comes with a price of $8 a month. And your teacup chihuahua is out of luck: The GO is rated for dogs over 20 lbs. ($150,


What items do you lose most often? Would a tracker help you locate them? Join the conversation below.

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