I’ve come to the conclusion that there is an epidemic of people losing phones/wallets as evidenced by the number of tracking devices available on the market. I recently received the TrackR by Phone Halo to check out, and my preliminary impression was very positive. Here was something that I could stick in my wallet or hang on a key-chain to help me find them when misplaced. Now all I needed was a Bluetooth 4.0 phone/tablet and I was set to go.
As I didn’t have a Bluetooth 4.0 compatible device, the first thing I did was to order a Nexus 7. I did this in the interest of providing a quality review for The Gadgeteer. (That’s the story I told my wife .) While waiting for delivery, I went over the installation and operation instructions, which took about 5 minutes.
- Cross Platform, works on iOS and Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0
- 2 way ringer
- Item location
- Replaceable batteries, no recharging
- Distance Indicator
- Track up to 10 items
Upon arrival of the Nexus 7, I jumped right in and downloaded the free app from Google Play and attempted to fire up the TrackR. After much frustration and trying some suggestions from the friendly folks at Phone Halo, I discovered that Bluetooth on the Nexus 7 doesn’t work for everyone. I did some searching and found on the Google forums that many people are having problems getting various devices working on the Nexus 7, so I sent the tablet back and purchased an iPad mini.
To begin installation using my newly purchase iPad mini, I downloaded the free TrackR app from the App store and fired it up.
I inserted 2 x CR2016 batteries (not included).
Assuming you follow directions, you will be presented with the main screen. Tapping Sound Alarm will cause the TrackR, if in range, to beep. Tapping Locate, the TrackR app will display the last location where the it was connected on Apple maps.
Conversely, if you’ve misplaced your phone/tablet and it’s in range of the TrackR, pushing the button on the TrackR will cause a tone to be generated on the phone/tablet. It’s hard to see, but the button is just above the blue LED.
The TrackR does fit comfortably in my wallet and I didn’t notice it, even when sitting. By the way, the TrackR can be attached to other devices you lose on occasion, such as keys, purses and assorted bags.
I didn’t lose my wallet over the course of testing, but I did simulate a lost device. When the TrackR is out of range of the phone/tablet, a tone sounds on the phone and the home screen of the app shows the TrackR attempting to reconnect.
You can set the app to notify you, by email or a couple of social networking sites, that you are out of range. Unfortunately, the range is very variable, and in my case, ran between 200 feet outdoors with no obstruction to 100 feet in a supermarket. At my home, the TrackR is always in range.
If you do lose connection you can then ask for the last known location and get an approximate fix. On the map above, it’s indicating that I dropped my wallet in a parking lot. To zero in on the lost item, the app will display signal strength bars over the connected icon on the main screen. This is not a directional finder, but works like the kids game of you’re getting warmer, etc. You can also sound the alarm on the TrackR, when in range, but the volume is so low, I couldn’t hear it when it was tucked between the cushions of my sofa, let alone in a parking lot.
As mentioned, the device can also help find your phone/tablet. This is done by holding down the small button on the TrackR, which then signals the app to produce a tone. Of course, this assumes you are in range.
After several weeks with the TrackR, I have some issues that need to be resolved for me to depend upon it. Firstly, the triggering distance is not adjustable, and for me it’s too long. If I go 100 feet before I get an alarm that my wallet is missing, I’m sure someone has already grabbed it. Now, maybe that person will turn it in, but I’m not counting on it. Also the tone from the TrackR is too low, so I couldn’t use it to find my keys at my house. Most troubling to me is that during this testing random failures occurred, such as: the sound alarm not ringing the TrackR; pushing the button on the TrackR not signaling the iPad; losing connection to the TrackR after the iPad mini went to standby; and once the app stuck in connecting mode. These issues could only be cleared by reloading the app and re-pairing the device.
I like the concept, but I think the TrackR needs some work to make it a reliable product. When that happens, I’ll buy several more to put on our most often misplaced items.