KeySmart Pro review: Tile tracking on a great key organizer is invaluable

I can't say that I've ever really lost my keys. I tend to put them in the same place every time I return home. And I keep them in the same spot in my bag when I travel.

Keys, they say, are pretty important.

Having written that, I now fully expect to lose my keys in the coming days.

That brings me to a new version of an old toy. I've long been a fan of KeySmart — sort of a Swiss Army Knife sort of thing for your keys, so you're not stuck with a mangled mess of metal, stabbing you in the pocket when you least expect it. And now KeySmart has gotten even smarter, teaming up with the Tile tracking service. So you can use your phone to find your keys. No extra dongles — it's just all built in.

Let's take a quick look.

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KeySmart Pro

The keys, please — what is KeySmart Pro?

First things first: KeySmart is one of those key organizer things, as opposed to a simple key ring. It takes maybe 5 minutes to unscrew it, plop in your keys and then put it back together. KeySmart has a bunch of weird little accessories, too, including (and most importantly) a bottle opener, a USB flash drive, a golf divot tool — you know, normal, everyday stuff like that.

What's new in the Pro is the integration with Tile. And that's required some changes to the hardware. The KeySmart itself is now plastic instead of metal, and it's about twice as thick. That's the tradeoff you'll have to make to cram electronics inside this thing (radio waves and metal don't play all that nicely together), including a battery, Bluetooth radio, Micro-USB charger, buttons, LED flashlight, and a tiny speaker.

There's a lot going on in this little thing, for sure.

Installing your keys is as easy as it's always been with KeySmart. You unscrew the thing, arrange your keys and spacers and accessories, then screw it all back together.

The Tile tracking part of the equation

What makes this one new, of course, is the ability to find your keys with Tile. The tracking system is built into the KeySmart Pro itself, so you don't need any dongles hanging off.

Setup was simple enough. Load up the Tile app (either from Google Play or from the iOS App Store, log in, and attach the KeySmart Pro to your account. (If you've been anywhere near the Internet the past, oh, decade, you're probably good to go here.)

Organizing your keys is great. Knowing it's much harder to lose them is even better.

If you're new to all this tracking stuff, here's how it works. I like to think of it as short range/long range. Say you just can't find your keys. They're somewhere in the house, but the damn things are just missing. Use the app on your phone to have your keys start playing a little 8-bit tune.

And that works the other way around, too, if your phone's gone missing somewhere nearby. Double press the Tile button on the KeySmart Pro, and your phone will start making noise. Clever.

That's short range. Long range relies on keeping track of your location in real time, and also on the kindness of strangers.

Say you lost your keys... somewhere. The KeySmart Pro also works in conjunction with your phone so that Tile always knows its most recent location. So when someone says "Do you remember where you had them last?" — you'll actually know where you had your keys last.

And should your keys come into range of someone else who uses Tile, it'll piggyback on their phone to let the Tile system know where they are. (That's far less creepy than it sounds, at least in my experience.)

So what's it like to use?

That's also standard stuff when it comes to KeySmart and Tile, though. The question for me is what it's like to use the KeySmart Pro.

And the answer is pretty much "If you've used a KeySmart, you know what you're getting here."

As I mentioned previously, I'm not crazy about switching from metal to plastic. (Though I certainly understand why it was done.) It just doesn't feel as nice — not that I'm all that worried about how nice my key organizer feels. Worse than that, though, is the additional thickness, though that'll vary a little depending on how many keys and accessories you have. (I've got six total; three on each side.)

There's also the asymmetry in the two halves, which definitely bothers me more than it should. And the addition of buttons tells my brain that I'm not using something that's much more complicated in its new iteration than it was previously. (On the other hand, that's a conscious choice I made. So pipe down, brain.)

I'm also not in the habit of losing my keys. So I'm going to consider the Tile integration to be insurance, not something I actively use. But since it's here...

KeySmart Pro and Tile on Android

Tile is super easy to use. You just load up your account on your phone with your device — you'll add KeySmart Pro in the "View all partners" section — and it starts working. It works with your phone to figure out location and where they KeySmart Pro was last. That'll get you in the ballpark.

Hit "find" and the KeySmart Pro starts playing a little tune, the better to find it with. (There are eight options for ringtones.) It's fairly loud, so there's a pretty good chance you can track it down.

KeySmart Pro LED

Then there's the whole Tile Network thing that goes into effect if you've really left your keys somewhere. Assuming your KeySmart Pro still has power, sending out the Mayday will cause anyone else who uses Tile to be able to passively "see" your KeySmart Pro and report back its general location. (And maybe they'll even hear it and turn in your keys somewhere.)

And that's pretty much it. Is it foolproof? Nope. Is it way better than dropping your dumb keys somewhere and hoping your dumb self can find 'em? Absolutely.

One more thing: the LED flashlight. It's a handy little addition. It's far from the brightest thing you'll ever see, and I wouldn't want to go solve mysteries out of the back off a van with a bunch of kids with this thing.

But it'll help you get your key into the lock.

(By the way, if you just want a KeySmart with the flashlight, they now have the KeySmart Bright.)

A word on battery life: First, saying to yourself "I need to charge my keys" is kind of ridiculous. Second, KeySmart Pro charges over Micro-USB, which is a previous standard and really shouldn't be used in any new products. (In other words, grrrrrrrr.)

Third, I don't actually know how long the 40mAh battery (yes, that's four-zero) lasts. Mine's been going strong for a couple weeks now. KeySmart says you should be able to get a couple months of use out of it "if you go easy on it." (I'll update here if I see something wonky.)

The bottom line

KeySmart Pro

Again, there are a couple ways to look at the KeySmart Pro. First is that it's a kick-ass key organizer, albeit not inexpensive at $70 retail. I've been a big fan of the less expensive original for a long time now. (And we're talking about a "my own money" kind of thing here.) And now I have a bottle opener and a flashlight on my keys? Awesome.

Second is that if you lose your keys — like, a lot — this is no-brainer. Pick one up ASAP. Or even if you worry that you might lose your keys. The Tile integration is excellent, and super easy to use.

It kind of makes you wonder why you weren't using this already.

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Phil Nickinson