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The best gift under $20

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Tile

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Lost keys? Misplaced wallet? Errant bag?

The most brilliant inventions are often the simplest.

Behold Tile, a crowdfunded gadget and software app that helps you track down misplaced items. According to the developer, Tile is “the world’s largest lost and found.”

Here’s how it works:

*Stick or drop your Tile into items you tend to misplace (e.g., keys, wallets) or might go missing (e.g., laptops, guitars, bikes).
*Download the Tile app.
*When something is lost, open the app, select the device you want to find (up to 10 tiles on one account) to search for your item. The range from your phone is 50 – 150 feet, depending on the environment.
*You can activate the Tile to ring so you can find it. According to the developer, “If you can hear it, you can find it.”
*Enlist friends (who also have the Tile app) to help you find missing items.

Tile works with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, and iPod Touch 5th gen. New iOS devices will be supported as they become available, as long as they have Bluetooth 4.0 support. Tile doesn’t yet work with Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry.

The Tile costs $18.95 for one gadget, $56.85 for 3 gadgets plus a bonus (i.e., 4), $113.70 for six gadgets plus 2 bonuses (i.e., 8), and $170.55 for 9 tiles plus 3 bonuses (i.e., 12). The items can be preordered and are expected to ship in winter 2013-14.

While I think it will work wonders for lost and misplaced items like keys (who hasn’t lost them?), I’m not as convinced for stolen items. Though the gadget is small, it’s not so small that it would be inconspicuous when stuck to things like bicycles or laptops. And while its small size makes it perfect for bags, purses, and keys, it’s still too big for a pair of glasses. Another downside is that the Tile’s batteries are not rechargeable or replaceable; each Tile lasts for one year after activation with the Tile app. When a year is almost up, users will get a reminder to order a new Tile. My hope is that future development will work on addressing this shortcoming.

But all and all, this gadget has the potential to save time and frustration - all for less than $20.

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