T-Mobile is hopping on the tracker bandwagon. Today, the carrier announced it’s launching its SyncUP Tracker so you can find lost items. The difference here is unlike Samsung’s SmartTags, Apple’s AirTags, or a Tile tracker, T-Mobile’s version doesn’t use Bluetooth or ultrawide-band. Instead, it leverages a combination of GPS and T-Mobile’s LTE network.
To be fair, an LTE tracker actually has some neat benefits. For starters, you’re not constrained by Bluetooth’s limited range. That means you don’t necessarily need your phone to be in proximity to the SyncUP Tracker for it to work. You also get real-time tracking via a companion app, and virtual boundaries, meaning you can get a notification if the tracker leaves a specific area. It’s also IP67 dust- and water-resistant and compatible with both iOS and Android. A more unique feature is the tracker’s light sensor, which pings you if the tracker is moved from a dark place to a bright one. That could come in handy for valuable items stored in school lockers or suitcases.
OK, sounds cool. Except there’s a big catch with these trackers. Namely, you’ve got to pay $5 per month for data per device if you enable Autopay. Each tracker is also an additional $2.50 on your monthly bill for 24 months, or $60 upfront. Sixty. Freaking. Dollars!! If you were to get a single tracker and finance it over that time, you’d end up spending $180. If you were to get the maximum eight trackers, that’d be a whopping $1,440 over two years.
Conversely, Samsung’s SmartTags are $30 each for the Bluetooth version and $40 for the ultrawideband version. You can also get bundles! The Bluetooth SmartTags go for $50 for two and $85 for a four-pack. The UWB SmartTag also has a $65 two-pack. Apple’s AirTags are similarly priced, costing $29 for one or $99 for four. Tile’s trackers range from $25-$30 each, depending on which bundle you get. So, technically, you could get eight Bluetooth Samsung SmartTags, six AirTags, and a crapton of Tiles for less than the cost of one financed SyncUP tracker with all the extra data fees.
The extra kicker is that the benefit of Bluetooth trackers is you don’t have to charge them. Most last roughly a year, and some let you replace the batteries at that time. T-Mobile’s SyncUP Tracker has an estimated battery life of about a week. Meaning this is yet another device that you have to charge. Plus, you also need to have a Magenta postpaid plan. T-Mobile says it’s working on making these available to Spring, Magenta Prepaid, and Metro by T-Mobile customers in the future, but you won’t be able to get them at launch. And while it is cool that you don’t need to be in range for the SyncUP Trackers to work, you do require a good GPS signal and T-Mobile coverage. Depending on where you live—a GPS dead zone, for example—that could make these devices a nonstarter.
While a SyncUP Tracker might be good for a really valuable item (or two), most people will likely be better served by a more affordable Bluetooth or UWB tracker. If, however, you remain undeterred, these trackers go on sale starting May 7.