Tile UWB tracker leaks as tag-maker prepares for Apple AirTag and Amazon Sidewalk

Tile is preparing to launch its first ultra wideband (UWB) tracker, with new leaks suggesting the upcoming tag will take on Apple and Samsung as the company broadens its partnerships to maintain its defining position in the category. Tile currently relies on Bluetooth for its range of tracking tags, tapping short-range connections to smartphones, routers, and other devices to help people hunt down misplaced items.

With a Tile tag on your keychain, for example, you can remotely trigger it to sound an alarm while also seeing its rough position in the company's app. Tile also uses a crowd-powered system for broader positioning, where its trackers can rely on other Tile users' smartphones to relay their location.

Ultra wideband, however, is expected to add a new degree of spatial awareness to such products. Upcoming launches like the oft-rumored Apple AirTags are likely to tap UWB in order to better pinpoint the trackers in 3D space. That way, for example, your iPhone could know in which direction you should be facing in order to better find your AirTag-equipped remote control.

Tile, too, is looking to leverage UWB technology in the same way, according to TechCrunch's sources. The company is said to be developing a new, UWB-based tracker and an augmented reality app, with which users would be able to more rapidly and accurately find missing items.

Leaked artwork for the new tracker show a familiar design. A small square, it would support both hanging from a keychain as well as sticking to items via an adhesive pad. The app would show directions to follow in order to relocate the tracker, even if its audible alert was out of earshot. Sales, it's suggested, will begin later in 2021 with versions of the app for both iOS and Android.

While Tile has face competition before, this year is expected to bring two big names in tech to bear on the tracker segment. Along with AirTags, which are believed to be launching imminently, Samsung has its own Galaxy SmartTag device in the pipeline. That leaked earlier this week in regulatory filings.

Tile hasn't been standing idle, mind. Apple opens up its U1 UWB chipset – present in recent devices like the iPhone 12 family of smartphones, among others – for third-party access via iOS APIs, and Tile is likely using that for its new tracker. The company also has partnerships with Intel and Comcast, either integrating locator functionality into third-party products, or turning modems and set-top boxes into Tile hubs to pinpoint trackers even when they're out of Bluetooth range of your phone.

Later this year, meanwhile, arguably Tile's biggest partnership is expected to come online. Amazon Sidewalk is the retail behemoth's push for shared local networks, with positioning a key selling point for the Echo and Ring powered system. Tile is a launch partner with Sidewalk, paving the way for tracking tags that can report in anywhere in the neighborhood where Sidewalk has been enabled.