Samsung Galaxy SmartTag review: The “Where’s my thing?” lifesaverFebruary 5, 2021
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For more than a year, we’ve been hearing rumors about the so-called “Apple AirTags” — small, coin-sized items, that would help iPhone users find anything they attach the tags to. Well, whether the Apple AirTag is coming or not, Samsung beat Apple to the punch and released the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag.It’s kind of bulky — anyone who expected a magic little tag that fits anywhere and stays stealthy might be disappointed. But it does what it says on the tin pretty well, leveraging the whole network of Samsung devices out there in the world to help you find your lost items.
Can the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag help you find your lost keys? Very much yes. Can it help you find your lost dog? Well… it’s possible, but not very easy if your dog is constantly on the move. I dive deeper into how the SmartTag operates further down in the review.
Is the Samsung SmartTag worth paying $30 for? It definitely can bring you a ton of peace of mind and get you out of a rut if you lose a specific valuable item. It’s good if you have a kid that tends to lose things way too often or you yourself are a bit… light-minded with your valuables.
But most people will want to tag a few things — house keys, car keys, dog, wallet, et cetera. In that case, I’d recommend you wait just a bit. At the time of writing this, the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag is listed as “1-pack” on the Samsung website, which leads me to believe that it’ll be sold in bulk packs in a short while. Probably at a slight discount, which would be much better than buying 3 of these at $90 or 5 at $150.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag size, design, fit
I was kind of disappointed to see that the Galaxy SmartTag is kind of big — its footprint is 1.57” x 1.57” (4 cm x 4 cm) or roughly ⅔ an AirPods case, which can definitely add more bulk to an already busy keychain. It’s also not going to hang great on a dog collar if your puppy is small. It’s about 0.4” (1 cm) thick, so it’s hardly a “barely-there” feeling item.
But I get it — it needs to have really robust Bluetooth connectivity and a rather loud speaker. This is the type of item where you should value function over form because when you need it to work, it had better work flawlessly.
It’s also worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag has no water-resistance rating. So, if you are planning to attach it to the collar of a retriever that loves to swim — remember to take it off before every trip to the lake / beach!
The SmartTag uses a user-replaceable CR2032 (coin-sized) battery. Samsung claims that a single battery could last you about a year, so be sure to mark you calendar for battery swaps.
I am no fan of how the battery is replaced, though. There’s a tiny opening at the bottom of the tag, which you need to pick at with a fingernail or a coin. Then, literally force the thing open. It’s held tight by a plastic claw-tunnel design and I am not sure how many battery replacements it will survive.
How does the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag work?
The regular Samsung SmartTag (non-Plus) may be Bluetooth-only, but it can help you find your lost item anywhere in the city by piggy-backing on the signal of other Samsung devices around it. Let’s start from the top.
You connect the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag to your Galaxy phone via the Samsung SmartThings app. Whenever your phone and SmartTag are within range of one another, you can find the Tag by following a “Signal Strength” bar, which fills up on the phone screen. The stronger the signal — the closer you are to the SmartTag.
When you are in the same area, you can tap a “Ring” button in the app, which will prompt the SmartTag to start playing a fairly loud and recognizable sound. So, it’s easy to find your keys under a pile of clothes, in a drawer, pocket, or in a dark ditch.
What if the SmartTag is out of range? Well, here comes the magic of the Samsung ecosystem.
Each Samsung Galaxy SmartTag has its own identifier. Once you register it to your SmartThings app, logged in with your Samsung account, this SmartTag is yours forever (until you delete it from the account).
The Galaxy SmartTag will constantly be “listening” for other Samsung phones around it, using its strong Bluetooth LE antenna. When it catches a glimpse of one, it’ll send a signal, giving the phone its identifier.
Essentially, the SmartTag tells the other Samsung phone “Hey, dude, I am here, please let my owner know!”.
The 3rd party Galaxy phone will then send its coordinates and the identifier to the Samsung network, so when you log into your profile, you will see where your Tag was last “seen”.
This is all automatic, no user input is required. As long as people have Bluetooth enabled on their Samsung phones, you’re bound to get a ping at some point. Inside the Samsung SmartThings app, there’s a toggle that’ll send you a notification as soon as a signal is found — that’s essentially the first thing you should turn on when you realize your SmartTag-equipped thing has been lost.
Once you get a ping, all you need to do is go to the area where your SmartTag was last “seen”. The coordinates are rough, but since the other Galaxy phone was within Bluetooth range, it stands to reason that you should be as well. Just walk around with the SmartThings app open and follow the “signal strength” bar, mentioned above.
So, as long as whatever you are looking for doesn’t move too much — you are good.
Thankfully, Samsung phones are super-popular right now, which is pretty much the reason why this works so well. I got about 4-5 pings in the span of a couple of hours, with the tag locked up outside, in my car.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag vs Tile
You might have heard about Tile — it’s a company that has long been making Bluetooth tracking tags. And it has a bunch of different shapes and sizes to fit every item — from bulky keychain Tiles, to slim, credit-card shaped Tiles for your wallet.
Tile works in a very similar way to the Samsung SmartTag. There’s a Tile network that “listens” for lost Tile devices through the phones of people that have the app installed. And there’s your caveat.
You need to hope that a fellow Tile user happens to walk by your lost item. Now, to give the company credit, it’s gotten very popular over the years, and it has millions of users. So, sure, you have a chance that someone with the Tile app might walk by your item.
But the fact of the matter is that there are tons more Samsung phone users out there. People that have never heard of Tile and people that have never even heard of SmartTags. Yet, their Galaxy phone has just been turned into a smart thing-detector to benefit us all.
So, yeah. Samsung kind of wins from the get-go. I may not be a fan of popularity contests, but the thing we are talking about here very much depends on popularity to work effectively.
Samsung Galaxy SmartTag use cases
- Can I find my lost keys with Samsung SmartTag?
Yes, as long as the Tag stays on the keychain
- Can I find my lost dog with Samsung SmartTag?
Very probably, as long as the Tag stays on the leash and the dog doesn’t move around at a frantic pace. Also, beware lack of water-resistance
- Can I find my car with the Samsung SmartTag?
Yep, keep it in the car
- Can I find my lost suitcase with Samsung SmartTag?
Well, depends on where it was lost and if Bluetooth and connected phones are allowed (a.k.a. airports might be a tough deal)
- Can I find my lost wallet with Samsung SmartTag?
Not really viable. It can barely fit a regular wallet, and it could be taken by someone who believes it might be valuable (but hey, it might help you find that “someone”)
- Can I find my purse with Samsung SmartTag?
Absolutely, as long as it stays in the purse
You get the gist. As long as the SmartTag stays on the thing it’s supposed to track, and there is a traffic of people with active phones around — a Samsung phone is bound to come by and send you a signal.