Date: Friday, December 19th, 2014, 14:03
Category: Accessory, Bluetooth, Gift Guide, iPhone
Have you ever said “I wish there was a way to call my keys.” I used to say it all the time while scrambling through my couch cushions looking for my car keys (usually making me late to get somewhere.)
Enter the Bluetooth tracking tag. Introduced in 2009, these small Bluetooth ‘fobs’ can be attached to anything from keyrings, to bags, to kids. Once paired with your smartphone you can find them using the Bluetooth feature on your smartphone via an app. They’re undeniably handy.
My favorite tag – in an overcrowded market – is The TrackR bravo ($29, pre-order).
[I’ve been testing a pre-production of The TrackR Bravo design and it has the potential to be the best Bluetooth tracker on the market. If you can’t wait until Bravo ships in January, keep on reading to find out about TrackR’s other tags which are available now.]
TrackR started as Phone Halo in 2009 and introduced its Bluetooth tracker at the Demo conference in spring 2010. The company offers three models, the Sticker and Wallet are shipping now and the super-small Bravo (which raised $1.2M on Indiegogo) and will begin shipping in January 2015.
Read the rest of my review of the TrackR lineup after the jump:
- TrackR sticker ($25) is a coin-sized tracker that’s best for keychains. It’s barely larger than the battery that powers it.
- TrackR wallet ($30) is a thin and low-profile tracker that fits nicely into most wallets. I don’t go anywhere without one of these in my wallet. (My wife has also seen the light.)
- TrackR bravo ($29, pre-order) is the thinnest item tracking solution yet, only 3.5mm high. Starts shipping in January 2015.
Full tech specs are on the TrackR website.
Some of the best TrackR features are:
- Two-way finding (e.g. 1. ring the device to find it or 2. press a button on the device to ring your phone – useful for finding your phone quickly).
- Automatic Mark as Lost. Once the item is disconnected from the app (e.g. it moved out of BT range), it will start to advertise and its GPS coordinates will be updated.
- Track other (non-TrackR) Bluetooth devices. Headset tracking is built into the iOS app today. More on this below.
- The largest Crowd GPS network to date. More on this below.
- Support for up to ten devices.
- Support for both iOS and Android. (Although TrackRs can only be connected to a single phone at one time, currently).
- Separation alerts – Ring my phone when the fob goes out of range.
- Custom alerts.
TrackR on its user counts:
We have over 300,000 people install the app on their phone and have shipped over 350,000 devices to customers. 60% of those users are based in the USA. With our expansion into Best Buy Canada stores and Future Shop stores nationwide in Canada, we expect to see more users sign on from Canada & other parts of the world. Silicon Valley and NYC have the heaviest concentrations of users with the USA. London is definitely our leader outside the US.
TrackR on tracking other Bluetooth devices:
We are working on having our app not just track our device but any tracker device. We’re continuously adding support for more tracker devices because we have many users that have multiple tracker tags all from different brands. We also have our app able to track bluetooth headsets as well. We think being able to enable users to track their already wirelessly enabled items is interesting and something that we are working on.
[A super fun feature I discovered is that TrackR’s app will track my Tile devices, although it’s unofficial and subject to change.]
Life’s not perfect though. For starters, battery life can vary dramatically. TrackR claims that its batteries should last up to one year, but my experience has been less. Some samples I tested chewed through the included batteries in a couple of months. I’m not sure how long they might have been in the supply chain (it could be a shelf life issue) or if the little button on the device is getting pressed accidentally, prematurely wearing down its battery. Plan on keeping a strip of CR2016 3V Lithium coin cell batteries on hand. (You can buy 20 Maxell or Sony button cells for $8 on Amazon.)
My other issue with TrackR’s iOS app (v.2.2). With the current app it’s difficult to tell which TrackR is which (when you have more than one wallet, for example) and there’s no list view. You can use your own picture of a device (which I find convenient), but it took me a while to find this feature (hint: tap on the stock icon). I’ve seen screenshots of the next version of the app (planned to be demo’d at CES in January 2015) which looks like it will address many of my issues.
I’d really like to see location-based app shortcuts in iOS 8 (these are the tiny icons that appear in the lower-left of the iOS 8 lock screen when you’re near a Starbucks, for example). It’s reassuring to see my tracker show up on my iPhone’s lock screen and other trackers (like XYFindIt) are doing this now.
TrackR is my pick because it offers the best feature set, bravo is the smallest, thinnest device which means that I can put it in more places, and its low price point allows me to put them everywhere.