If you tend to misplace things like your keys, wallet or headphones, a Bluetooth tracker may be the answer to your problems. It's a small device that you can attach to just about anything which then syncs to an app via Bluetooth. If you can't find something, all you need to do is get the app and ping the Bluetooth tracker, which will tell you where it is.
We explain how our experts test Bluetooth trackers to find the best models on the market.
Our priority is to test what you'll see in shops or prominently advertised in media, on TV or online. We also test new products released by big-name brands. That means that sometimes we might not cover a product that has only sold a few units in Australia or needs to be imported. However, we may also include a parallel import product if it's readily available online because this is the sort of product you can easily get and may also need to know about.
We check current market figures to see what's selling well and we'll also include models that you've requested – if a lot of members want it, we're going to test it.
We assess the trackers for safety as per the mandatory standards (regulations) for button and coin batteries that came into effect in 2022. All the products contain a button or coin battery, and were bought after these regulations took effect, so they have to comply with them.
The mandatory standards apply to products that contain a button or coin battery, and to button and coin batteries supplied as spares. They specify a range of physical tests to check whether the battery is too easy to access (for a child, for example) and whether the battery becomes accessible after foreseeable use and misuse (simulated rough handling and wear and tear). They also specify warning labels and other information to alert users to the potential safety hazards of these batteries.
The mandatory standards nominate several different product-specific standards that can be used to assess the physical safety of a product. These include toy standards (which we used in our test, as our lab has accreditation in this area), audio/video equipment standards and more.
At least three deaths, and multiple hospitalisations each year, have occurred in Australia due to children ingesting button batteries
Because each of these product-specific standards has different tests and requirements, it's possible for a product to pass one of the nominated standards, but fail another. The product only has to pass one of the nominated standards in order to satisfy the regulations.
For that reason, even if a Bluetooth tracker failed our testing (based on the toy standards), we've accepted legitimate test reports supplied by the manufacturers that demonstrate a pass to one of the other nominated standards, and scored the tracker accordingly.
We regard failing a physical safety test as a serious failure, and that product will get a poor safety score accordingly. Likewise for any product that lacks all the required warning labels. Some failures are regarded as minor, such as having only some of the required warnings, and scores for those products are penalised less.
Button and coin batteries can be dangerous to children if the case isn't secure (or if the tracker itself is small enough to be ingested). If the battery is easy to remove, then your child can swallow it which may result in injury or death. These batteries are also easy to insert into orifices such as the nose or ear which can also lead to hospitalisation or lasting injury for your child. At least three deaths, and multiple hospitalisations each year, have occurred in Australia due to children ingesting button batteries.
Single-use models with batteries that can't be replaced or recharged are safer as the battery can't be removed. However, these introduce their own environmental issues.
On 22 June 2022 mandatory safety standards for button and coin batteries (and products containing them) came into effect in Australia.
While many people would regard these trackers as not for children and therefore not a serious safety hazard, the fact is they can be used on all sorts of items that are often left in reach of young children, such as keys and wallets. The mandatory standards for button and coin batteries were introduced for good reason, and we've emphasised this safety angle accordingly in our scoring.
For the indoor test, an individual tracker is placed at the front of a double brick house where our tester connects it to the app on a smartphone. Then, they slowly move away from the tracker until the signal is lost.
Next, the phone is slowly moved back towards the tracker until the connection is re-established and then the tester attempts to ring the tracker to confirm. If the tracker doesn't ring, then the phone is moved slightly closer and another attempt is made. This is repeated until the tracker rings.
The shortest indoor range we found was about six metres, but most of the trackers managed much better, with many performing at ranges of up to 20 metres.
The same test is also conducted on a sporting field outdoors with no obstructions. The shortest outdoor range we found was only about nine metres, but most of the trackers managed much better, with many performing at ranges of about 80 metres and a few still finding the tracker at distances well over 100 metres.
The measured range of each test is recorded and scored relative to the best performer in the test. These results are combined into a single range score.
Speaker loudness is measured in decibels at a distance of one metre from the tracker, and the duration is recorded in seconds. Though tested and published in our table, these results don't contribute to the overall score.
Ease of use
We assess the steps required to set up the tracker, install the app and then register the tracker. This includes the clarity of the instruction manual and whether the user interface is intuitive. We also test and score how easy it is to use the app when tracking an item. Tracker versatility, which refers to the various ways it can be attached to items, is assessed as well.
We gather claims provided by the manufacturer such as battery life, IP rating, and tracking features in the app.
The CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of:
- safety score (70%)
- range score (15%)
- ease of use score (15%).
We recommend Bluetooth trackers that score 80% or more overall, and at least 80% for safety and 70% for range.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.