Alongside the new Galaxy S21 phones and Galaxy Buds Pro, Samsung is announcing a small Bluetooth gadget you can use for locating lost items, just like Tile. It’s called the Galaxy SmartTag, and it will ship beginning on January 29th. It will retail for $29.99, but there’s a decent chance that people who buy a Galaxy S21 phone will end up with some sort of bundled deal that gets it included with purchase.
The Galaxy SmartTag works much like a Tile tracker. It’s a small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) dongle you attach via a key ring. It pairs with a smartphone via Samsung’s SmartThings app, which can show its last known location on a map. When you’re searching for the tag, the SmartThings app can show a proximity indicator depending on the strength of the BLE signal, and you can tap a button to make the tag emit a chime.
One strange decision, though: Samsung tells me the SmartTag will only work with Samsung Galaxy devices. It will not work if you have another Android phone or an iPhone.
Unlike the rumored AirTags from Apple or the rumored next-gen Tile tracker, Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag doesn’t support Ultra Wideband (UWB). One of UWB’s features is helping objects locate each other in space, so you’d get more data than a proximity meter. It’s a weird miss, too, because Samsung has been including UWB in its phones but hasn’t yet done much to take advantage of that radio (and neither, it should be said, has Apple).
Samsung says that a UWB version of the device, called Tag+, will arrive later this year.
The biggest potential loser in all this is Tile, which has already accused Apple of engaging in anti-competitive behavior. With Samsung also making a directly competitive product, it could put even more pressure on the company.
Once upon a time, all Bluetooth headphones worked about the same no matter what phone you used, but lately, both Apple and Samsung have enabled custom features if you buy one of their headphones. It seems possible that the same trend could apply to tracking devices in the not-too-distant future.